A strange mix of feelings runs through my body whenever I think about immigration. It’s difficult for me to process the large number of thoughts and images that come to mind, as well as the many stories I’ve heard since childhood. Throughout my life time there seems to have been a never ending stream of people who have left behind what was most important – their families, their homes, their Mexico – in hopes of a better life.
Years ago, when I was still a student, a group of my friends came to me with news that someone offered them employment in the United States. It was legal work in a carpet factory that offered a high salary for the average Mexican. It was for a period of 6 months with an option for another 6, and offered both food and lodging.
I listened in amazement at their enthusiasm, as many of my friends were educated, professional people with stable lives. I felt my goals were here in Mexico and so I passed. Regardless of my personal take on the matter, many of my friends and colleagues were intrigued. Soon enough, more than 25 of them decided to take the job offer.
I remember a couple of friends sold all their possessions, even their own beds, to cover the cost of making the move north to America. When the big day arrived, they made their way to the airport to leave for the United States, everything they owned packed into a suitcase.
The man who had supposedly hired them all and processed their visas for a fee however, never arrived. They waited for hours, and eventually discovered no one was coming. No tickets were issued in their name, no contracts ever existed. All been conned out of what little money they had. With broken dreams they returned to the city, many having lost their life savings, along with their faith in most anything at all. Some even found themselves homeless.
There’s no doubt, it’s difficult to find good work in Mexico. Not everyone has the luck or the opportunities. Sometimes people with college degrees, work under the command of people who haven’t studied past high school.
I studied pharmaceutical chemistry in university, but to this day I haven’t been able to utilize my degree. The chemistry sector is saturated in Mexico. These days I run a small business and work for the government part-time.
Years ago, one of my best friends decided to try his luck in Canada. He called and told me I should come as well, as there were many jobs available and the overall standard of life was high. I discussed it with my family and eventually, the anguish of being unable to obtain a decent job furled my decision to go. This in spite of the suffering my children would have to endure.
I sent my documents and after a time was approved to legally work there. Not long before going, my mother suffered a stroke. It was our original plan for my mother to join us, but now she couldn’t and I no longer had the support of my mother to care for my children. I never went to Canada and today I’m still in Mexico.
The lack of jobs and further still the high quantity of low paying jobs, are the main factors in that lead many to choose migration as a solution to hardship. This choice then triggers a series of consequences.
What it does is in fact create a greater sense of desperation in the economic sector and worse still, a false dream of America; one that does not import all the risks and dangers involved in a “jump to the other side.”
Among the many of consequences is the disintegration of entire families. Before it was only the men, brave, despereate and adventurous, but now many women go alone. More often than not, it’s done for the love of family. Children stay behind under the care of an immediate family member, but who can replace the figure of a father or mother? Absolutely no one.
Another result of the nearby border is many young Mexicans simply choosing, from day one, not to study or build a life in their own country. In leaving Mexico behind, many lose a sense of identity, do not have U.S. citizenship, and are often not even recognized as Mexicans.
In the end, Mexican immgrants are often exposed to unscrupulous people who pack them away in trains and trucks, leaving them without food or water. When they reach the other side of the border extortion, discrimination, beatings, sexual violence, abductions and even murders are often waiting for them. Few manage to achieve the American dream, and those who manage to do so lose some of their roots.
Through all of this, the one question I keep asking myself is, “Why are we doing this to ourselves?”
We were created to be free and equal, and our dedication to making things better for ourselves and our families is what makes us human. But why do we suffer for wanting a better life in a country other than our own, instead of making our lives better here at home? We can do it, each and every one of us. I know we can…. all we have to do is try.