United States (GREED) – This is not a salute to my husband. I am not here to brag about how amazing he is (he’s super amazing), or how much he does for me and our family (everything he does, is for us). I am here to tell his story because I feel it’s an important story to tell, especially now.
My husband was not born here in the United States. He was born in the town of Irapuato, a Mexican town found at the foot of the Arandas Hill, in the state of Guanajuato. It’s famous for its strawberries and luxurious gardens. My husband was born poor; he did not have a luxurious garden. While we consider expensive shoes a luxury, he and his family considered shoes a luxury. He did not have the ridiculous amount of toys that our children have. He did not have the closet full of clothes that they have either. His family was large, with lots of mouths to feed. One thing that was very abundant in his family was love.
When he talks about his life as a child in Mexico, I find myself wishing that the light that fills his eyes would stay there always. His mother came to the United States several years before he did. She came for what most Mexican immigrants come for, a better life. She worked hard once she got here, steadily sending money back to Mexico to help her parents raise her son and take care of the rest of her siblings and family. When my husband was 8, his mother sent for him. She had obtained legal residency, and was ready to bring him here and obtain his.
When a parent sends for her undocumented child from Mexico, she does not meet a trusted family member at the border with a welcome sign. She does not grin from ear to ear, while border patrol guides her baby through the traffic at the border. When a Mexican mother sends for her undocumented child, she puts her child’s life in the hands of a Coyote. She pays someone a ridiculous amount of money, because she is an easy target for exploitation, and she prays that her child will arrive safely to her. Her child does not take a fun bus, plane, or train ride to meet his mother.
No one holds his hand and makes sure he feels safe and has a snack for the ride. Her child is handed to someone who does not care for him at all. Her child is handed to someone who will leave him to fend for himself, in the middle of the desert, if he can’t keep up. Her child is not fed or provided with fresh water, even though the journey can take several days. Her child may be robbed, beaten, raped, starved… left for dead. This is what a mother risks when she sends for her baby. This is what she risks for a better life for him.
Thankfully, my husband survived his journey across the border, although he won’t talk about it much. So here he was, an 8 year old in an entirely foreign country. He couldn’t speak any English and he didn’t know anyone but his mother and step-father. But this was home now. After spending some time living in California, he was moved to Illinois. His mother had obtained legal residency for him, making them both permanent residents here. He went into the Chicago Public School system and learned how to speak English. His teen years were rough. He often found himself in bad company, which led to trouble. He’s lucky to have survived homelessness, gangs, and all the other daily struggles of a young Latino man in Chicago’s Northside. He became a father 3 days after he turned 17, and his daughter changed his life.
We can fast forward a bit now.
I was a fresh 21 year old when I met him. It was at a Latin nightclub I’d gone to with a girlfriend of mine. We danced and exchanged phone numbers, I had no idea he’d be the man I’d marry. He was living in a tiny attic apartment, that turned into an oven in the summer. He had 2 young daughters that were the center of his world. He worked hard and tried to stay out of trouble. I was hooked almost immediately and we were pregnant 8 months later.
Life between then and now, was not always easy. In fact, it was more difficult than not. His past has haunted him well into his adult life, making some days better than others. But he’s grown so much over the past 14 years, he’s almost unrecognizable to some. Today, he is a hard working man with a retirement plan. He’s a homeowner with 6 incredibly smart and talented children. He pays his taxes and lives by the laws of this country and the state of Michigan. He’s come a very long way from the brave little boy who survived crossing the border. He is living the American dream.
His story is not as unique as one might think. In 2015/2016, the United States Border Patrol reported that a total of 10,105 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the Southwest border between the United States and Mexico. These are infants to 17 years old, who traveled all alone or with siblings, and did not make it across. In 2015/2016, the United States Border Patrol also reported that 573 people died while trying to cross the border; how many of those were children is not reported.
The promise of a better life is what draws immigrants, from all over the world, to this country. The journey is never easy for them and the stakes are always high. The current political climate would have us turn these people away. It would have us seek out those who’ve made it, those who survived that journey, and send them back with no regard for the lives they’ve built here. It would have us tear apart families that risked everything to be together. It would have families continue to live in fear and poverty, while being treated in inhumane ways because they are easy targets for exploitation, all in an attempt to avoid deportation… Simply because they long to live the American dream.
I can’t imagine a life without my husband, and I’m thankful everyday for him and his success in this country. I’m even more thankful that his mother risked everything to get him here and make it legal, so that we don’t have to live in fear of him being deported. Without her courage and determination, my family simply would not be. So you see, this isn’t a salute to my husband at all. This is a salute to his mother.