About the Author: Nadia is from Tucson, Arizona. She did her undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University (where she was Lauren’s roommate) and completed her Master’s at the University of Arizona in Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural Studies. She is newly married and is currently working on her Ph.D. in the same field.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to step into another’s shoes? Not just to imagine it, but REALLY live someone else’s life? I know I think about it, and the more I do, the more grateful I am for my life and my surroundings. I don’t mean to get too political, but I want to share a few experiences I have witnessed living here so close to the Arizona/Mexico border.
First, let me start off by noting that I am of Mexican heritage, but have never lived in Mexico. Nearly all of my family has migrated here to the U.S., so even all of my family ties are here on this side of the border. My father faced many challenges as he (and his twelve brothers and sisters) immigrated to the U.S. that I will never have to face. From start to finish, it took ten years for him to cross legally.
I would like to address a common misconception regarding illegal immigrants. Many people think that they come here because they are dying to make their way into America–the land of the free. However, life here is anything but free for them. Many or most illegal immigrants are forced here for economic reasons. The fact of the matter is–Mexico’s economy cannot support many families, and they are forced to come to the United States in search of a better life. Most of the time, they are leaving their families, their homes, and a country they love. The transition is difficult, but in difficult times, difficult decisions must be made.
While even just crossing the border can be extremely dangerous and even life-threatening, once illegal immigrants get here, no sanctuary is found. Their days are spent living in fear. Jobs are hard to come by because of lack of proper documentation. Adults are forced to work grueling jobs doing work that many Americans would not touch with a twelve foot pole. For the children, school is a huge challenge as their language, culture, and often identity as Mexicans is slowly wiped from them. They, after all, didn’t choose this life, either. They also live in constant fear. A routine trip to Walmart can end in disaster for them; they are forced to live a life where they are constantly looking over their shoulders. So many undocumented immigrants would love to go back to Mexico, to the familiar, and to their home, but can’t because of economic hardships that cannot be overcome there.
Not too long ago, a Facebook friend of mine had a status that read something along these lines: “I am so upset that my husband, A TAXPAYING UNITED STATES CITIZEN has to pay $1,000 to fix his broken foot when illegals don’t have to pay a cent! UNITED STATES, SERVE YOUR OWN!” It is misinformation of this sort that truly saddens me.
Not long ago a lady belonging to my church was trying to go to Mexico to visit her children, whom she had to leave behind in order to find work here in the U.S. On her way back into the U.S., she was in a horrible accident trying to get onto a train. The train ran over her leg, and she was left in incredible pain. She was left to treat herself–having no way to pay for care and afraid of being discovered and sent home if she went to the hospital. I saw her some weeks after the accident and was horrified by her bloody bandages, but she insisted she was doing just fine.
In the week after SB1070 passed in Arizona, it is my understanding that nearly 70% of hispanic children in one Tucson school just stopped coming. There were similar figures across schools and school districts in the greater Tucson area. The students’ parents were simply too afraid to send them to school. Anything (be it legislation or whatever) that forces children out of school, in my opinion, has to be flawed.
“U.S. SERVE YOUR OWN.” The person who wrote this is not a heartless person, this person is simply misinformed. Misinformed about the REAL LIVES of illegal immigrants; about their real day-to day struggles.
I simply ask that you be aware of the real lives of real people. And imagine, just for one second, what it would be like to step into another’s shoes.