Life as an Illegal Immigrant in the United States is something you might not label as glamorous, the constant fear of knowing that your job is not safe, that people can take advantage of you because you don't have any rights, its a hard thing to swallow. In a constant struggle with life you learn to make lemonade out of lemons hoping for that brake, that chance at something bigger or different. Living in Mexico City was a hard thing for my family, coming from a family of 6 children and 2 adults was not an easy task for my father to deal with, but somehow like millions of others he managed. We lived a good life, not full of luxuries but what we needed was always there for us.
My brother was an independent man form the go and he didn't see his life going anywhere living in a country who's government is so corrupted that the normal man can't afford to feed a family with a regular job, only working for the government and or being a corrupted cop is almost the only way to get ahead. He decided to take his life another rout, he left for what many people consider the American Dream, a life full of opportunities and riches far beyond that of his or her country could give. To an extent this is not far from the truth, most people come to this country and find wealth, not millionaire status or mansions but a humble life, working for their needs and wants, such luxuries that one could not achieve in their country.
We followed my brother a few years latter, I was 10 years old and the year was 1993. My mother made a choice, to leave everything she had ever known to try and give her last 2 kids a better more productive life than the one they would have had living in Mexico. It all was a shocker to me, I mean I was fine living in Mexico near my father, and now I was thrust in to a life I didn't know, a language I was not that familiar with, but what could I do? I was 10 years old and therefor my life belonged to my mother, she was my protector and I had to do what she said. School didn't get any easier, as one may know kids are cruel, and there is no way around that, so when they see a flaw on someone they attack, and I had a major flaw, I was a new kid, a “wet back” (funny thing is that we actually flew in to this country legally) someone who did not belong there, I couldn't even speak the language. It was hard on me but I managed, I was placed in a class for language barriers called ESL or English as a Second Language course. To every one's surprise I picked up English in only 3 months.
As life went on I forgot for a moment that I was not a U.S. Citizen until the time came for me to get a job, oh boy that made me remember real quick. My first job was no problem, I worked at a car wash and was payed under the table (you get payed in cash so the government doesn't know you are working at all because no tax information is given) this was at the age of 14. Now, I was already braking the law because the legal age to work in California is 16 with a school permit. When the time came for a new job to come around I began applying everywhere, and the dreaded application process was one I didn't look forward to. Every field was ok to fill but there it was staring at me from a far, Social Security Number...... what do I do? What do I write in there? These were just a few of the many questions that came flying to my mind, I didn't know what to do so I would walk away or take my application to go.
As I got older I got wiser, I bought a fake Social Security card with a fake number that for all I knew belonged to someone else. Again I was braking the law but what could I do? I needed a job to provide for myself, to help around the home with bills. I know what most people think, why don't you just become a legal citizen? why don't you fix your status? well if it was that easy don't you think that so many Illegal Immigrants would have become legal by now? trust me I did my homework, allot of times I asked myself, why can't I just apply for citizenship? I should so I called INS and found out what I needed to become a legal U.S. resident, I needed to either be sponsored by a family member.... Strike one. Be sponsored by work, but they had to prove that you were the only one that could do that job and working at McDonald's or Wendy's was not a hard task.... Strike two. Get married and have your spouse sponsor you, well here is a scenario I knew one day would happen but I was not about to ruin some poor girls life just for my benefit so that was out of the question.... Strike three Your OUT!
For many years I had a secret that none of my close friends knew about, none of my girlfriends knew about, I was like a superhero with a double identity but without the super powers to fix my problem. I eventually moved to Utah and left California behind, after many jobs lost because of my social not matching my name and or age, how embarrassing is that? "Yes we see here that your social isn't matching your records, its no problem just go to the social security office and get proof that this is your number and you can keep your job" I mean what do you say to that? "Ah yeah no problem, I'm not sure why this happened. I will get it fixed at once!.... ah by the way when can I get my check?" and like so many people I would walk away from a good job because I didn't have the right to be employed in the land of opportunity. But you develop thick skin because after a while loosing a good job becomes par of the routine that is life without rights.
To my story there is a happy ending I eventually met the woman of my dreams and got married, she embraced my secret identity and so did her family, full on. Within our first year of marriage we got my paper work done and today I can proudly say that I have rights, I have a voice, I'm no longer a ghost with no identity, I exist, but I am one out of a Million people with broken dreams, of struggles, of hardships, of wondering when their brake comes when they can have a voice, the right to say, I need more money!, the right to say You don't pay me enough! without being worried that the next time you see a big green truck with the acronym INS on the side will be your last step taken in a country that was built by Immigrants.