The Wall between Us

Evette Gallardo, Editor

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The woman pulls her coat closer to her as she takes a step out the door. It’s Monday and she’s taking her kids to school. Her trembling hands pull open the car door as she tries to wipe away any fear, evident on her face. She’s afraid to say the least. “L.A. father detained by I.C.E after dropping off daughter at school”, runs circles around her mind.

Emma Perez (who’s name has been changed) is an undocumented immigrant. So was he, the man who prays everytime he walks out of the house that he’s not taken away from his family.

This is how it feels to live in today’s America.

“It’s so scary and it prevents me from doing things or going places because I’m  scared that immigration might be there. Sometimes I prefer not to go out, and just stay at home. Once I heard on the news that a parent got taken away while dropping his kids off at school and sometimes I get scared that even that can happen. I never thought that a simple thing like taking your kids to school can lead to that. It’s very scary,” Emma Perez said.

Close your eyes and imagine your in a box, and in this box with you is a candle. Now say that, that candle were to start a fire and there’s no way out of the box. And you’re in there, tears cascading your cheeks like the rolling tides and you’re trying and trying to get out; but you can’t. YOU’RE TRAPPED. There’s no way out. But, there are people who come along and they try to help you and get you out of this box, but they still can’t. They fight and they fight, but nothing gets done. You’re left to fend for yourself. That’s what it’s like to be an immigrant living in today’s America; our America.

“I’m still afraid but, there’s nothing I can do but deal with it,”Roberto Jimenez (who’s name has also been change) said.

According to the Migration Policy Institute, ‘Data on the nativity of the U.S. population were first collected in 1850. That year, there were 2.2 million immigrants in the United States, nearly 10 percent of the total population. Between 1860 and 1920, the immigrant share of the total population fluctuated between 13 and nearly 15 percent, peaking at 14.8 percent in 1890, mainly due to high levels of European immigration. Restrictive immigration legislation in 1921 and 1924, coupled with the Great Depression and World War II, led to a sharp drop in new arrivals. As a result, the foreign-born share steadily declined between the 1930s and 1970s, reaching a record low of approximately 5 percent in 1970 (9.6 million, see Table 1). Since 1970, the share and number of immigrants have increased rapidly, mainly as a result of large-scale immigration from Latin America and Asia made possible by Congress’ abolishment of national-origin admission quotas in 1965. Since 1970, the number of U.S. immigrants more than quadrupled, rising from 9.6 million in 1970 to 42.4 million in 2014.’

“I come from a family of ten, it was actually twelve but two died. From what I remember it was good, we lived on a ranch. Life was simple; we didn’t have running water, electricity, and had to hunt/grow our food. My dad died when I was five and my mom thought it would be better if we came over here. She left before us; raising money to bring us over here. I was twelve when I came with a coyote (smuggler)  and his family; posing as his kid. We used his son’s birth certificate. I was scared even though I was young. They tried to teach me a couple of english words, but they told me to act like I was asleep. So, after we crossed then we met my mom in a parking lot at a store and exchanged me for money; I think she paid 700 dollars. I was supposed to come with my two older brothers walking through the desert but, the coyote said I was ‘too young’. It would have been cheaper if I went through the desert but my mom paid anyway.”

Much like Roberto, Emma had came the exact same way, “…I was only twelve years old and I was very stressed…” She said. Her father also paid a coyote to bring her over, Emma went on to say that her family did not have a good life economically. Emma’s father believed there were more opportunities for the family in the US.

Sometimes coming over here is the only resource they have. It is the only way out of the mouse trap they called life back where they came from. This is their home. The place they’ve grown to love and strive in. Immigrants are like tiny little seeds and America is the sun and water they need to thrive, grow, and just sprout beautiful leaves of life. “…If I go back I feel like I wouldn’t be able to feel at home there, my home is here. Everything I love is here,” said Emma. It’s ironic because they advocate to us everyday that this is ‘one nation under God indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.’ Who are we to push away a whole nation of diversity, when the pledge says it itself: LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL. “…but there’s nothing we can do about it,” Roberto said.

As the now weeping woman starts up the car she looks in the mirror; hoping to god her kids don’t see her crying. She’s supposed to be strong for them. But how can you be strong when everyone’s telling you that you don’t belong? The man puts a smile on his face and makes sure he has everything, taking one last glance at his home before he steps out into the world. They both can only hope that the fire doesn’t burn and hurt too much today. Emma Perez and Roberto Jimenez may be undocumented immigrants, but they are also human.