This is a hard story to tell. There are so many bits and pieces that are essential to understanding how things came to be. The bits and pieces are pertinent to the understanding, in our house, of the current immigration crisis. I’m not sure where to start and all my facts came to me in no particular order.
Before we moved to Georgia in 2004, we lived in central Illinois among farm fields of corn, soybeans, winter wheat and alfalfa hay. We weren’t particularly living in a diverse culture, but we were and still are, thoughtful and compassionate people.
When we settled in Georgia and John found his dream job as equipment manager for a private golf club, his workers were a blend of American and Mexicano, mostly Mexicano. Most spoke little English and John spoke nothing but “Midwestern farm boy”. His personality and non-judgmental ways melded both nationalities into a working team. They liked him and he liked most of them. Like people everywhere, a few bad apples get sorted from the crop of genuine keepers. As he worked daily with them, their stories emerged; how they came to the USA, how they got to his golf course, who was left behind, a tapestry of illegal life with, for them, American abundance.
I met them and his favorites became my favorites. It’s hard to admit, but early on they were all one. Since I didn’t work with them and saw them only periodically, they seemed to pretty much look the same. They wore the same work clothes, had the same swarthy dark tan, mostly black hair and of course, they sounded the same, either speaking Spanish dialects or attempted English.
Some facts: Most of them weren’t interested in speaking English fluently; they learned enough to get by or used a buddy who was better at English as their personal interpreter. We have never met a single illegal who wanted to become a US citizen and become American. They simply wanted to earn their pay to send home for family or their future when they could return home. If they do want to stay in America, it’s because they have a child born here that they wouldn’t want to leave behind. They don’t mind that their child is American, but it doesn’t entice them to become American for themselves.
Most have family in Mexico – wives, children and / or parents, family they haven’t seen in years. The phone is their lifeline home along with their wire transfers on paydays.
Their underground system in the US allows them to buy vehicles, secure license plates and produce documents when necessary. If they are stopped by the police for a traffic violation, fines are high at $750 for a minor infraction. They have a network of connections to pool cash, pay up and be released. One of our acquaintances was sentenced to community service hours. So as not to lose his job, he hired a friend to work his service hours. Either our police knew and didn’t care or they weren’t efficient, to say the least.
One of our friends told about his first impression of the United States. He thought all our trees had died and that it was a very desolate country compared to his home in Mexico – he had arrived in winter.
His brother came a few years later with a 15 year old girlfriend. This brother wasn’t the hard worker of the two. When his girlfriend became pregnant, he shipped her off to her mother in Pennsylvania [how that came to be, I have no idea]. After the baby was born and a few months old, she returned to him in our area and we met his ‘family’. The father was most impressed that ‘all babies in America are given a Snap card with money deposited every month”. We explained, probably to deaf ears, that most babies in America are taken care of monetarily by their Mothers/Fathers, NOT by the government. [How many people in Mexico believe by word of mouth, that America pays for all new babies – milk n honey – tell the world?]
John sold one of his co-workers a 1994 Chevy pickup. John had taken great care of the truck, it had high miles, but several years later this amigo got his truck and himself back home to Mexico to stay. He is still driving the same truck today.
To say that our immigration system is broken is so understated – fact is we have a broken government system and the hope for repair is beyond expectations.
The gentleman who bought the truck had a wife and family in Mexico. One of his children followed in his father’s path, paying a coyote to get into the states…..at 15 years old. [We don’t have a dozen 15 year old males anywhere that I can fathom who could traverse thousands of miles alone – I am amazed at their courage]
Somehow this boy made his way to South Dakota [what a dramatic change from Mexico]. In South Dakota, he was picked up by the police as an illegal…..but somehow [remember we are talking government here] they learned his father was in Georgia and so they sent him by bus to his father. [I find this so governmental – illegal means illegal, probably son AND father. On a bus….like they expect him to just STAY on the bus for the duration? When they could have sent him home? Question after question?] How was he picked up in South Dakota? He was sitting in a parked car, in a driveway, at his girlfriend’s house, trying to fix the car radio? And this warranted an arrest? Who knows!
Anyway this boy arrived in Georgia and went to work at John’s golf course. He went to night school to learn English. He worked hard and he and John [the Mechanico] become good friends. He learned a lot from John and we learned from him. His Father returned [with his truck] to Mexico and Marcial stayed here and along came his cousin, Alonzo, to work at the club also. His girlfriend, Maria from South Dakota, moved to Georgia too.
Illegals have a great comrade system, pooling resources to conserve money and look out for each other. Marcial, Maria, and Alonzo shared a small apartment. She worked, the boys both worked and probably like clockwork, they all called home each week to stay in touch with loved ones.
When John’s golf club was in the throes of being sold, he took on another private club looking for his talents and he, in turn, took Marcial and Alonzo along to work at this next golf course. We are sort of always looking out for them all; John, as the father figure, working with them every day. He diagnoses truck troubles with them and offers advice and teaching moments.
Marcial and Alonzo had plans to return to Mexico at some point, but only just plans. One evening in 2012 a torrential rain came as everyone was driving home from work. The boys, who rode to work together, in Marcial’s truck [which was in Maria’s name – she being a US citizen] lost control on a mountain curve and ditched the truck. Someone stopped to check on them and routinely called 911. When the police arrived the boys identified the driver as Alonzo [NOT] and he was promptly ICED away. Alonzo wasn’t on the police radar up to this point, as Marcial was when they sent him to Georgia.
ICE planned for Alonzo to be returned to Mexico within days. No opportunity to collect his belongings, no chance to say goodbye – just gone. He could have visitors while in ICE detention, but probably better not be another illegal seeing him off!
This put Marcial and Maria in a bind immediately as they couldn’t afford their rent on two incomes. Marcial came to John with his dilemma. John came to me and we agreed they should come and stay with us. We had spare rooms, extra bath and Marcial could ride to work with John, keeping him off the roads with no license.
We certainly enjoyed having them. Maria hardly ever spoke except to answer any question we put to her. We invited them to join us for meals and they did, rarely! They had a private bedroom and bath, use of the kitchen and laundry – it was like having kids again and we loved having them. They came and went in their free time, and we were happy to know they were safe and looked after. We also knew that Marcial really belonged back home with his family and we encouraged his plans to return.
I don’t think Maria ever planned to go with him. We didn’t ask. It was a private thing for them to determine. They were a sweet young couple, devoted to each other, making monumental life decisions. What could we possibly know to offer advice to youngsters who had defied huge obstacles and faced the same again?
As months evolved, Marcial set a date in November to reach Laredo, TX. Their network of information allowed him to know where, when and who in Laredo to secure the documentation required to pass across the border to Mexico. He just had to get there. Maria’s mother was coming from South Dakota to take her back home. That left Marcial with the task of getting his [her] truck to Laredo without getting stopped by police for any reason. Another local amigo had signed on to travel with Marcial back to Mexico. Driving the truck to Laredo was going to be dicey. Should they be stopped for any infraction, there would be two Mexicanos with no official id in a truck licensed to a girl in S. Dakota…..not good, not good, not good.
John decided the best plan was to drive them himself. He had Maria sign and notarize a note authorizing John to use her truck. He would drive the boys to Laredo and fly back to Georgia. It was a working plan to safeguard them as best we could.
The morning arrived when Maria’s Mom drove in to pick her up. Our hearts were seized with the enormity of their loss, their irrevocable plan of parting as it played without any cover of privacy. We could only watch and sob and hurt for them as the break was wrenched from their hearts. [I cry again just remembering]. I so wanted her to go with him and I so knew she belonged where she was heading. Such a grievous weight for all our hearts to endure.
After packing and repacking the truck a number of times, all of Marcial’s American life was secured and the travelers left under the care of Marcial’s Mechanico for their last trek in America. He had been gone from home 15 years. I cried for his leaving and cried for his Mother’s reunion – pain and joy of immense proportions.
John arrived at the Laredo airport around 6AM making Georgia late afternoon. As it turned out, it took the boys longer than that to cross the border even with all their ‘official’ paperwork. They had to empty the truck entirely for inspection and the red tape to pass back was daunting. The hardest part was Marcial’s unfamiliarity with the Mexican side of things after 15 years in America – the driving, the signage, trusting the right authorities, recalling the dialects etc. etc. They had some questionable obstacles before arriving home safely.
As it turned out, he was probably adjusting for a good year or more to his native life. Maria must have suffered the same anguish for months and months herself. Was he safe? How was he fairing? Did his heart hurt like hers? Phone calls were probably reassuring and heart rending.
We see their lives have recovered and progressed. We see photos on FB and we instant message from time to time. Each has family. Each has married and welcomed babies. We know they both have a secure place in their hearts for each other.
Each is missed dearly in Georgia every day. We were so blessed to be part of their life journey. We will love them always.