My son is very lucky. He was born in Mexico and entered this country as an infant. Both he and his mother had no papers or visa.
I'm going to tell you a few things about "undocumented workers" I have known and loved. Right off the bat, I admit to having broke/stretched more than a few U.S. laws over the last three decades in trying to protect people from Mexico that were here without papers. I guess I also broke/stretched a few Mexican laws along the way. It is not always easy to know what to do when friends and family are faced with hardship and prejudice.
My son was born in Mexico, as was his mother. As I was told I would have to wait a minimum of six months in order to bring them here legally, I opted for a different solution. I simply carried my son across the border in my own arms & bluffed my way through. It was a solution personally reminiscent to the one undertaken by the side of my family that landed in Dorchester, Mass. in the 1630s-even though this time it didn't involve the theft of other peoples' lands and life. While my son was not the first or the last "undocumented" Mexican I've helped, he was the smallest.
The story of how my son & his mother came to this country bereft of documentation is somewhat different from the story of the average undocumented worker. I first worked with undocumented workers here several decades ago. I lived "over there" in a pueblo for over a year and saw repeatedly how the process of becoming an undocumented worker in the US begins.
Decades ago I worked in a retail business that turned out to be hiring undocumented workers. I learned Spanish mostly from my coworkers. Somehow I ended up acting as a paralegal for a large community of people that turned out be from 4 inter-connected pueblos deep down south in Mexico. Over decades visiting and living there I've seen hundreds of people begin there mostly temporary sojourns in the U.S.
How "they" get here-
Myths to the contrary, lone Mexican ronin looking for work don't cross the border haphazardly without planning & foresight. I've sat around enough kitchen tables in Mexico while the daunting enterprise was debated amongst family members.
You begin in a pueblo in Mexico. You are living with your family. You do not want to go someplace that is far away and become in in effect, a hunted fugitive. You are a citizen in your own country. You can walk down the streets as a free individual. If no one in your family has more than the bare essentials to live, you likely cannot even dream of going to the U.S. Without money you will not be able to go, unless someone sponsors you. The trip to the US border is a long one, & crossing can cost $3,000 paid to a coyote to guide you across. Even if you have the $3,000 needed to cross, you cannot go without having an unofficial sponsor that can house and feed you until you are employed.
Before you leave your pueblo your route and destination are already largely worked out.
After arriving at la frontera, you begin the process by contracting with a coyote. After the coyote is paid on the other side & family or friends have picked you up, you begin the process of finding employ. The family or friends who have informally sponsored you are constant reminders that you must make good here. You're here to work: not party or hang around in hospital waiting rooms (lol). Every day you're unemployed is filled with the silent or vocal recriminations of the family/friends of whom you are guests of: "No luck again? Try so & so restaurant. Go hang out on such & such corner with others looking for day work. My friend in such & such city 65 miles away says there is work up there...."
Hanging around in an apartment with 5 or 6 employed people while personally not-employed & non-contributing isn't an option. It is either get work, go to another city or go home in failure. Whatever the job, whatever the hazards of it or the low pay, you've got to take it.
You know a guy that knows a guy that knows a guy that sells fake Social Security cards for $100. For the persistent (& extremely rare) employer, you may need also to purchase the more expensive ersatz green card. With those cards in your pocket you can now get work as a janitor or dishwasher. The $ taken out of your bi-weekly check for Social Security will just sit in the system: lost to you. It is not your number & you can't claim any benefits from it: now or forever. You may work as a janitor for 15 years, with payroll taxes constantly being taken out, but none of the taxes you pay will be remitted to you: that is a gift to a financially strapped government.
On the flip side,
Before my son was born I was once upon a time an "illegal alien" in Mexico. Everyone in the pueblo knew my papers had expired. Their reaction was to give me a job teaching in the local school under an alias. Perhaps they were happy to see me no longer doing my poor impersonation of a farm hand. No one tried to deport me. No one tried to blackmail me. No one threatened me. The local constabulary couldn't have cared less. I wasn't a political hot potato.
Have you hugged your papers today?
With the news from Arizona nowadays I find myself thinking about another time in Mexico's & our history. At the same time that Benito Juarez was fighting back against a European installed Hapsburg on the throne of Mexico, Arizona was coming into its own as a Confderate territory.
After receiving a request for talks from Mangas Colorado, Baylor issued a very special order to his men:Arizona-fied school pix
"The Congress of the Confederate States has passed a law declaring extermination to all hostile Indians. You will therefore use all means to persuade the Apaches or any tribe to come in for the purpose of making peace, and when you get them together kill all the grown Indians and take the children prisoners and sell them."
My son is lucky. He is off roller-blading today. When he left, I didn't have to tell him, "Remember to take your papers with you." He does have papers now-thankfully. We don't live in Arizona-that is a whole state away. Even if his dark skin gives a hint of his place of birth, he doesn't have to worry about being scooped up or molested by a modern day Baylor or Paddyrollers because he seems too "foreign." He's very lucky he doesn't live in Arizona. Several of my compadres and comadres aren't so lucky. They're demasiado cerca de pinche Arpaio.