These testimonies were provided by the C-U Immigration Forum, a local organization made up of immigrants, students, clergy, service providers, labor union representatives, residents and community organizations that are concerned with the plight of immigrants in Champaign County.
It took me about two months to get here. Maybe more. I was traveling with a coyote but then he gave me to a different one and then he gave me to a different one and some more.
There are no jobs in Guatemala. We (my family) didn’t have good jobs and we didn’t have a house. I started working when I was 12. I couldn’t go to school because I had to work. I worked in ‘la siembra’ picking up beans, corn, and coffee. I worked very hard but hardly got any money.
If I can stay here I’m going to work very hard and fight to have and be something good in life. I want to study more. I like my school. It is my favorite place because there are people here who care about me, my teachers ask me how I am doing and help me if I need help. I eat breakfast and lunch here. I don’t think I would have anything to eat if I didn’t come to school.
My husband came to the U.S. first. It took me two years to decide to come here to join him. I didn’t want to leave my house and my family. My mother cried for two days when I told her I was leaving. I don’t remember if I cried. Maybe I did but I don’t remember. I was really scared.
Before coming here we really tried to make things work in Mexico. We worked very hard but we hardly had enough money to feed our kids. It was painful to see my kids hungry and not have anything to give them.
My husband paid someone to bring us across the border. When we got to the river I was trying to hold on to my two kids but the water kept going up as we walked through. One of the men in the group offered to help and sat my son in his shoulders. I was holding my daughter very tight. The water was freezing and the only light was from the moon. I could feel my daughter trembling or maybe it was my own body trembling… I don’t know. The current was strong and I felt like it was trying to pull my daughter away from me. I walked one step and the water pushed me back. I started to think that we were all going to drown there.
Life here has been good. It’s been 18 years since that day when I cross the border with my kids. We have a small business, we have a home, and my kids are safe and happy.
We are good people but it seems like under the immigration laws we are still not good enough.
We recently bought a house. It is a small house but it will be ours eventually. I had always wanted a house for my family but I was afraid. Living here without documents is very scary. I am always afraid that immigration is going to find us. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about that. We don’t talk about it but we are always afraid. However, recently I decided to buy the house. My younger kids are citizens. If I ever get deported they will stay here and I want to make sure they have a place to live. If I get deported I will be thinking about them playing in the yard in this house I bought for them. I’ll be in Mexico but I’ll try to be happy because at least I gave them a place to grow, be safe, and happy.
Edgar (12 years old)
There was a loud knock at the door. I was getting ready for school. One of my brothers opened the door and two men got inside the house yelling. I was in the kitchen and didn’t know what to do. I thought they were robbing us. My mom screamed. One of them asked my mom about my dad. She didn’t say anything and the men asked her if she spoke English. The man turned to us and asked us if Miguel was in the house. None of us said anything.
The men asked us to sit in the floor and be quiet. They went inside calling my dad’s name. I would never forget my dad’s face when they walked him outside. My mom was crying asking them what they were doing. She kept talking to them but they didn’t even look at her. I thought maybe they were not paying attention because she was speaking Spanish. My brother asked them why they were in our house and they just asked him to be quiet.
My dad asked them if he could say goodbye. His hands were tied in his back. We were all crying. My mom looked desperate. I couldn’t speak. I grabbed my little sister and hugged her because she looked really afraid. There were other men in the car where they put my dad. We didn’t go to school that day. I asked my mom why they took my dad. She said it was immigration.
I spent many days on top of the train in Mexico. It is very hard to get on the train when it is moving so I didn’t want to get down. I was really scared. My hands hurt so much because I was always trying to hold tight. I always felt alone. There were a lot of people on the train but not a lot of women so I felt very alone and scared.
It took me six weeks to travel from Honduras to the US border. I did most of the travel on top of the train. I had to hold on so tight on the train that I had deep cuts in my hands and fingers. The day I got to the border I went to see the Rio Bravo at night. Everyone said it was better to cross the river at night. It was so dark that I couldn’t see my hands. The moonlight was shining in the water and it looked beautiful and peaceful.