This interviewee decided to remain anonymous, and his name has been changed to protect his identity, due to the recent ICE [Immigration Customs and Enforcement] raids near his home. During the interview there were some happy moments. He smiled when speaking of his family. His smile happiness converted into great sadness and dispare when faced with the reality of living day to day in the shadows of anonymity. The fear of being separated from his family at any point forces him to become educated and be up to par socially, economically, and fit in to the rest of the community to not draw any extra attention to himself. This is his story.
We conducted the interview in Mauricio’s home office. The office was inside his warehouse from where he does his weekly shipping of products that he sells. Once inside the office I noticed that he had earned various degrees. I saw a degree from The University of Tennessee and a Pastoral License.
Mauricio spoke about the opportunities he believes the United States has to offer.
“I believe that that [success in the United States] is one of the things this country blesses us with. Give us the opportunity to prepare [educate] yourself. I have heard that our president or people in government offices that they want educated people. I believe this country gives us the opportunity to prosper in life.”
He then began to explain the means of which he was able to come to the United States. He came to the United States without inspection. Which means that he came to the United States undocumented.
“In my case I didn’t have the desire to come here [The United States]. But, from one day to the next through some [conversation with] friends I made the decision to come here [The United States]. The thing is that after you make the decision the voyage is not easy. It is very painful and long. I am from Honduras, so I come further [than Mexico].”
We wanted to understand why, coming all the way from Honduras, he would have decided to settle in Western North Carolina. In his case, he just happened to come here.
“I think that once you endure the voyage and you make it to this place after, the suffering one decides to just stay. We make plans. In my case, I originally had wanted to stay for 2 years. I have been here for 26. My original plan was to be here [Western North Carolina] and then move to California. Once you have roots established here it is difficult to leave.”
During the week of the interview ICE [Immigration Customs and Enforcement] was going to trailer parks, grocery stores, doctor’s offices, work places and, public places looking for ‘suspects’. While on the lookout they asked all the people in the area if they knew the person and if they, themselves, could show them their legal documents. When the person could not provide that information, they were detained and put into the deportation proceedings under the false pretense of being considered a criminal. We wanted to know his thoughts about this notion that created a correlation between, the act of entering the United States without an inspection [EWI] being considered a crime and the person in turn being considered an ‘illegal’.
“Well it makes us feel rejected. I think it should not matter if you are African American, White, dark skinned or, Brown, like they call us. We all come from different lands and the fact that some may have been born [In the United States]. My children consider themselves American – they were born in America. However, they are still from another country. So, when they call us those names [illegals], we feel bad because we are still human beings and have feelings. The problem is that they forget about their roots and they try to adopt roots form other cultures.”
Through our conversation we expanded the notion of being ‘illegal’ to also being considered a ‘criminal’. There is a notion that EWI is a Federal crime and therefore, these undocumented people are criminals. This notion of being considered as a criminal was something that he did not understand. He has associated a criminal with committing a serious felony. However, he does recognize he broke the law by EWI but, he does not consider himself a criminal.
“If someone has drank too much alcohol, which can lead you to commit a serious crime, then I believe that that is a criminal. Those are the people that are being picked up [deported].”
Is what he said was one of the only reason a deportation should be ‘okay’. However, he did realize that there were,
“people that had not done anything bad that were being picked up in the raids.”
After hearing this and knowing he was aware that he too could be deported – what was his plan? In the event of a deportation, would he come back? His answer surprised us and left us pondering the thought of living, knowing that at any moment you can be separated from your family.
“Like the head of the household, it would affect my family. Some of my children are older than 18 so, they have told me that they would stay here. We would be dividing the family. That would not be healthy. Families that are together have a good future. When families are divided, it is more difficult to survive….I, personally, would not come back. However, for my family, I would. I have to be where my family is.”
If he were to tell just one thing to the leaders of the United States he would say,
“We all have a family. Every person loves their families and their families are the most important thing to every father. Before, the people that want to do this harm [of separating families] first, I would like them to evaluate themselves. If you were in the same situation, what would you do? I would anything for my family. I know they would too. The thing is that they are on the other side they aren’t on our side.”