Friday, June 17, 2011

Mexican Illegal Immigrants

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Imagine increasing your income seven to ten times by making a dangerous illegal journey to another land. Would the trip be worth it? Should family be taken along? What means of transportation would be best? How could a job be found once the journey is complete? These are common opportunities and challenges faced by Mexican Illegal Immigrants coming into the United States. Why they come, how they come, and what they do once they arrive are common issues these immigrants must deal with in order to reap the rewards of what they believe to be a better life.

The main reason Mexicans choose to enter the United States is for money and job opportunities. From the time Mexicans are very young, they discover that the United States means money. This often occurs because the Mexicans have elders who have crossed the border and sent money from their new job back to Mexico for their family. People working in the United States can earn up to ten times as much as they do in Mexico. Further, Mexicans often make in a day in the United States what it takes a week or more to earn in Mexico. Once Mexicans have decided to make more money, they must cross the border to work in the United States. They must decide whether or not to take people with them, how to get there, and exactly what they will do once they arrive. Sometimes Mexicans will cross the border alone. Other times they will take one person with them, or their entire family, no matter how young some of the members of the family may be. Families will often have the goal of settling in the United States and eventually gaining citizenship.

Another, more uncommon, reason Mexicans wish to cross the border into the United States is for school. Often times these people work and go to school at the same time when living in the United States. A large reason why people go to school, even if it’s for a short amount of time, is to learn to speak, read, and write in English. This way while they are working and living in the United States they will seem less like an illegal immigrant, plus it would make everyday living situations there a lot easier to handle. If a person is born in the United States, but their parents are Mexican citizens, it is possible for the child to live in Mexico and commute across the border each day to go to school. This will go on until they are eighteen then they can make a decision which country they wish to live in.

A man by the name of Miguel Torres was born in Mexico. When he was 15 years old, he went to Mexico City with family where he worked in a big parking lot. He only got paid in tips, and barely made enough to support himself, let alone other members of his family. He wished, as many Mexicans do, to travel to the United States to make more money. He claims at the time it was not possible to get papers to come over to cross the border legally. Therefore, he chose to do so illegally, as many Mexicans often do. In order to do this, he hires a Coyote. A Coyote is a person who hides Mexicans wishing to smuggle into the United States. They drive them across the border and eventually drop the smugglers off somewhere in the United States. Coyotes will charge $100-$1,000 to take their clients across. Although this may seem like a somewhat efficient way of crossing the border illegally, it can be very dangerous. The drive from Mexico to the southern United States can be a very hot one. Coyotes will sometimes hide their clients under many thick blankets, or in the trunk of their car, sometimes leading to suffocation and death. However, dangerous as it may be, many Mexicans continue to choose this option to cross the border. This is just one of the many ways Mexican illegal immigrants cross the border.

There are many other ways to cross the border. Another example is stowing away in boxcars, empty tank cars, and flat cars loaded with steal. Often times illegal immigrants hire someone to help them smuggle onto the boxcars, flat cars, etc. The people willing to help smuggle the immigrants are usually called “runners”. Runners are almost always available and usually are found working in their own established territories. An example of a runner is a fourteen year old boy named Carlito who lives in Mexico near the border. His territory is by the train tracks. Carlito knows the train schedules to the exact second, most importantly exactly when the doors close. Usually at night, he will lead his client over the fence, along a dirt road, past patrol officers, down a steep embankment, into a street, and up to the train doors just as they are closing. The people he leads are taking a risk in smuggling over, because of the possibility that the authorities will check the train, or catch them running out once it has stopped in America. Carlito also takes a risk in running across the border so often. However, he is underage (under eighteen) so if he is caught he is simply returned back to the border to the Mexican authorities and eventually ends up back to his home and leads more people across the border as he had done before. If Mexicans trying to cross the border, who are not underage, are caught in the act, they too are usually sent back to Mexican authorities. However, about ten percent of the caught illegal immigrants are led to a court case. This does not happen commonly because it requires a large amount of paperwork and money.

Other ways Mexicans cross the boarder is simply by walking across. This often includes crossing the Rio Grande, which is on the South Eastern tip of Texas. Some parts of the Rio Grande are very treacherous and almost impossible to swim across. On some parts of the river, there are tall, strong shouldered men waiting by the river. Immigrants pay the men to take them on their shoulders across the river. The men wade across the water and drop their client off on the other side of the river, once there, usually receiving a small amount of money.

Once the Mexicans choose to enter the United States, the next dilemma they must face is what to do after they arrive. Most immigrants act on what they had set out to do in the first place, make money. Sometimes the Mexicans have relatives with available jobs. These immigrants will take work doing the same job as their relatives. Jobs taken by Mexicans are often low-paying, hard labor jobs. Some jobs consist of working in factories, cleaning houses, or working in the fields picking crops. Although the jobs are low-paying, Mexicans still receive much more money than they can in Mexico. With the money received from these jobs, Mexicans will send money back to their family in Mexico and pay for living space, food, and clothing. Unfortunately, Mexicans often find very hard work, crowded living conditions, loneliness, and sometimes prejudice.

I women named Isabella was born in Mexico in 1971. When she was born, her father smuggled into the United States in order to make enough money for his family. Once Isabella was four months old, she too smuggled into the United States with her Mother and her Aunt. From Texas they traveled to Chicago where they discovered Isabella’s father had died from a flu epidemic. At this time Isabella’s mother began cleaning houses, but they still needed more money and searched for jobs in California. Once in California, Isabella and her mother worked in the fields, moving from farm to farm, picking different types of crop. Isabella was only twelve years old when she began working in the field. At the time there were no laws against child labor to protect the welfare of the children. Isabella and her mother would work an average of twelve hours a day, six days a week, with no place to live and would resort to sleeping in their car on the side of the road or outside. Luckily, Isabella did go to school for four months and learned how to speak English. This task was fairly difficult, considering the fact that her teacher did not speak Spanish. Eventually, Isabella met a young man who was in a similar situation and married him. Soon after Isabella and her husband gained their citizenship, her husband found a job in the canning business while she continued to work in the fields and with their salary combined, were able to make enough money to rent an apartment and raise three children. Isabella’s story is an example of the hardships and difficulties Mexican immigrants must go through once they arrive in the United States. Unfortunately, some Mexicans are not as lucky as Isabella.

Some Mexican Immigrants experience prejudice and hostility, specifically in the southwest. Sometimes Mexicans are kicked out of restaurants and stores or shopkeepers will sell clothes to Mexicans for twice the regular price. Some Mexicans experience such great amounts of unhappiness, prejudice, and loneliness that they choose to leave the United States and cross the border back to their homeland. Other Mexican immigrants return back to Mexico because they are forced to by law enforcers who have caught them living illegally in the United States. Mexican immigrants that are sent back will usually attempt crossing the border soon after they are sent back.

The journey of Mexican illegal immigrants can be dangerous, challenging, and unpredictable. Although this is true, they still continue to constantly cross the border, aware of the risks they are taking, but also aware of the better future that may lay ahead.


What This Means to Me

After researching a great amount on Mexican Illegal Immigration, it was possible not only to learn the facts about the topic, but also the personal stories and challenges individual immigrants face in their endeavors to cross the border. Reading the stories gave me the opportunity to put myself in their view point. This has given me a different view on illegal immigration in general. People living in the United States have varied opinions about if other people immigrating illegally into this country. Those who disagree with illegal immigration often feel that they are taking jobs from American citizens, causing more poverty to the citizens of America. However, there is an argument that many Americans can benefit more from welfare and food stamps than if they were to take the jobs that immigrants take.

There is also the personal aspect of the argument. If going to the United States to make more money were not an option to immigrants, the consequences to those immigrants would probably be full of poverty and discomfort. The United States has also made somewhat of an effort to create the image of our country to be a promise land that’s new and free of hardships. This image would be shattered if the country were to close the door on all immigrants with hope of finding a better life for themselves and their families. There is no right or wrong answer to the debate on whether or not immigrants should be allowed to enter the country in search of better lives. However, after researching on the topic of illegal immigrants in hope of new opportunities, it is easy to lean towards the idea that immigrants have the right to have the same opportunity as an American citizen. After all, our own ancestors came here in quest of the same promised dreams. It is still possible to understand the other side of the argument as well. Researching the topic made it an even more difficult issue to decide on, and I still remain somewhat torn between the two sides.



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