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Immigrant Stories

January 8, 2007

Since this week is the National Migration Week of the Catholic Church in the US, we will be posting stories of immigrants in the US, Church documents on migration, and facts/myths of illegal immigration in the US in order to raise awareness on the humane aspect of such controversial issue in the minds, and more importantly in the hearts, of Catholic lay men and women.

Immigrant Plans and Dreams Turn into Tragedy
from Casa Juan Diego

Noe:

“A very large debt that we took upon ourselves, with the dream of buying our own taxi in order to make a living, was what obliged my wife and myself to make the decision that I would come to the United States with the hope of getting out of debt. Upon my return home, we hoped to begin a new life.

It was thus that with five friends on the 27th of October of 1997 I left Mexico City on the way to Matamoros. We arrived in Matamoros at a hotel, but decided to cross the river that same night. Two of my companions did not know how to swim, but we managed to cross. We arrived at the train station and managed to get on. This time only one of us got through. Immigration deported the rest of us to Matamoros.

There, without money, we had to work, I, washing cars and my friends in construction. On the third day, when we had gotten together a little money, we tried again. We crossed the river again and slept outside in the country. It was very dark and without realizing it, I lay down next to ant hill. The ants bit me all over my body. After this, we did the same operation as the last time. This time four more of us got through and they deported me again. Now I was alone and without any money and I had to sleep in the street.

The next day I met a young man who had a guitar. Since I knew how to play, I asked him to trust me. He lent me his guitar and I started to play in restaurants. In this way I got together enough money to try again, thinking that if I didn’t make it, I would return to my family.

This time I discovered that I could hide in the train on the wheels and thus get through. But later on the train stopped for two days. I slept there in the brush without water or food. That night a big rat scratched my body. I have never felt so much fear as that day. I began to pray and God gave me the serenity and strength that I needed.

With several more obstacles and with the help of God I arrived in Houston. I arrived at Casa Juan Diego because I didn’t know anyone here. They helped me and I stayed here ten days. Then I rented an apartment with other men and found work, but only earned enough for my basic expenses. I opted to combine my work with my music. I sent all that I earned to my wife so that she could be paying on the debt little by little.

All was going well. I had been here for a year and only had two months left before I would return home when, unfortunately, one morning on my way to work on my bicycle, a car came out suddenly and hit me. The wheel of the car ran over my chest. The woman got out of her car, pulled me by the arm to drag me out from under her car and fled like a coward.

When I was in the hospital the doctor told me that my spinal column was fractured and that I would never walk again or use my arms. I heard these words and thought and said, ‘Doctors can do what they can do, but God has the last word.’

My wife and child were in Mexico and heard the sad news.”

Yolanda:

“When they gave me the terrible news, I felt that the floor moved under my feet. I could not believe it, since Noe had planned to return in two months. So I began to try to find a way to come to Houston. My husband needed me more than ever. I had to be with him to give him courage and help him in this terrible time of testing. Another hard blow was the separation from my seven-year-old daughter, because I could not bring her. I needed to be at the hospital and I didn’t have anyone to leave her with. I didn’t know anybody in Houston.

Then I went to take out a passport. I was denied a visa because I didn’t have money in the bank. So with a paper they sent me from the hospital I went to the embassy to ask for the visa, because my husband was gravely ill-he needed surgery right away. But they denied me permission because he was not in danger of death.

I decided to come to the border with my passport and the FAX they had sent me from the hospital. Again I was denied permission; I was not allowed to cross the border. I waited all day, until 11:00 p.m. and since I was unable to cross, I had to return to Nuevo Laredo, because it was already night. I was very tired and hadn’t eaten a thing. A man took me to a small clinic where I could spend the night, but I was so exhausted and so many wounded people arrived there that I couldn’t stay after seeing so much blood. I went out with some women who were in the clinic. They took me to a very unlucky hotel where all types of people came in. I was very afraid, but had no other alternative.

The following morning I returned to the border. There I was told that I could not cross because they hadn’t been able to speak to the doctor. It was the weekend and he was off duty; no one could locate him. I finally found a way to cross at 1:00 p.m. At 7:00 p.m., thanks be to God, I was already at the hospital.

With much sorrow I saw my husband in the hospital bed, very ill. The person who hit him does not realize in any way the great suffering she caused, not only to my husband, but also to me and to my daughter.

It is hard and very sad when we call our daughter on the phone and, weeping, she asks us when we are going to be with her again. At her young age she is suffering from being so far from us.
Noe came to Casa Juan Diego straight from the hospital. The people of Casa Juan Diego have helped us very much and supported us, too. We are very grateful; they are kind and noble people.

After the therapy, which still continues, my husband can already use his arms, even though the doctors had never held out hope for this. The therapists have given him a simple metal piece to attach to his thumb which helps him (until he has more strength and movmement in his fingers) to eat alone. He is in a wheel chair and we have the hope that someday he will be able to have an electric wheel chair so that he can become independent.

Now it just remains for us to ask God to give us the strength to bear this very heavy cross. We have much faith in Him and we know that He will give us a little more opportunity, since my husband gets a little bit better each day.”

Source: Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XIX, No. 3, May-June 1999.

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