Immigrant Stories

Cruz Ramirez-Sosof

July 30, 2017

Good morning, 8th Day.  It has been a long time since I’ve shared my thoughts with you. I would like to talk about some problems that have been going on for long time.  I would like to share a few stories with you because these stories are devastating for me.  Some of these stories I have witnessed and learned about through my life experience.  Some are stories I have learned about by reading, watching Spanish channels and other documentaries.  Some of them have happy ends, some have sad ends, and some feel neutral.  

Today there are three Central American countries that share borders and share many of the same problems.  Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala suffer from poverty, drug trafficking and gangs.

Poverty is probably the root of the problem, but all three are related to each other.  Because of poverty people may choose to cooperate with drug traffickers or lend their small pieces of lands to be used by drug producers.  Or they may gather together in gangs.  Drug traffickers and dealers and gangs generate violence and fear in these three countries.  Both look for profit, and they become threatening to the entire population (except for a small upper-class population. When these problems become great enough, people chose to flee the country. 

No one is free from these problems; everyone is a victim.  There is no discrimination by age or sex; children, adults, men and women all are victims.   Adults cannot work peacefully because whatever job they find, they have to pay “tax” to extortionists.  Street vendors, small stores and people who own buses, vans, trucks and boats all have pay the “tax” to gangs.  If they don’t pay with money, they will pay with their own lives or the lives their loved ones.  Bus owners—from both the cities and the suburbs—hire drivers and drivers’ assistants. Some of the vehicle owners get tired of paying the tax and simply stop paying.  However, the tax collectors don’t go to the owners because it is easier to get to drivers and their assistants, stopping them in the streets and highways to execute them.  So many bus drivers and their assistants have been killed and sometimes passengers are murdered as well.

Children have no choice except to join gang groups.  The only choice they have is to which group they want to belong.  Some of the children refuse to join a group.  Whether for religious reasons or just because they don’t want to be involved in the violence, they refuse … but they pay with their lives too.  The other choice to escape from these problems is to flee, but it is not so easy.  Everyone would like to leave their countries to have a safe place and a different life.  Since there is no choice, they take the risk to flee to the USA.  They are aware that fleeing is dangerous; they don’t know what they will find during their journey.

Women who would like to give better lives to their children also flee.  Women know that that there is a great possibility to be raped on their way to the USA, so those who have access to sources start to prepare themselves before leaving their countries.  They start to take birth control pills days or weeks before fleeing to prevent pregnancy.  Even worse, some women fall into the hands of criminals who convince them that they have a secure job waiting for them, such as baby sitting, cleaning houses, working hotels, etc., but the intention of these criminals is to bring them into the USA and force them into  prostitution. 

Sometimes smugglers who lead the group rape women with whom they are traveling.  Univsion and Telemundo are two Spanish channels that publish and investigate some cases.   News and Aquí y Ahora, (Here and Now) are program that interview people who have had these experiences.   One day, this program interviewed a woman who was lucky; she found good Samaritans who saved her from a rapist.  When the group arrived to the frontier of Mexico and the USA, the group of immigrants ran unto a group of criminals.  The immigrant group was robbed; the robbers separated male from female.  A male robber started to take a woman clothes off to rape her.  While this was taking place, a man from the immigrants group yelled to the rapist, “What you are doing?  She is my wife and she is pregnant.”  The rapist looked the woman and asked her if she was pregnant; the woman said yes.  The rapist let her go.  It turns out that the man and woman didn’t know each other.  The man was just trying to help the woman and it worked.  Perhaps this is a “neutral story” because they haven’t arrived to their destination yet. 

Another story unfortunately didn’t have a good end.   A Mayan man flew from a small community in Guatemala.  This community was very isolated, and it was difficult for vehicles to enter there, especially during the rainy season.  This man decided to start on his way to come to The United States, looking for a better life for his family.  He sold everything he had including the small house where his family lived because no one had told him that you cannot make lots money like you see in movies and soap operas or fake stories you hear down there.  He thought that he would recover everything when he arrived in the USA.  He left his family renting a small room from his brother.  Getting to the USA he had to cross Guatemala and Mexico.  In Mexico he rode a train called la bestia (the beast).  It is not a train where you pay your fare and you have a seat in it and take a nap.  You have to climb to the roof of this train when it stops or while the train is moving slowly, hanging between wagons or on the back of the train. 

People fall asleep easily on the roof because they have walked for long distances or it would be night time.  This poor man was so tired he fell asleep.  While the train was moving, he fall and lost his left arm and left leg.  He was close to the border of the USA but not in the USA yet, so he was taken to a nearest hospital in Mexico.  Then he recovered a little and sent to Mexico City.  Then from Mexico City he was sent to his town in Guatemala. 

What is next for this man?  His siblings would like to help him but they can barely support their own families.  His church also tried to help him but there was only so much.  It was sad end

Some people come up with a dream but the dream don’t come true.  Another story also was reported by Univision.  This story was named el Venado, el Cordero y el Coyote.  (The Deer, the Sheep and the Wolf). A Salvadorian woman left her young son with her parents thinking, that she would eventually bring him up North, but it didn’t work out. Time went by, and the child grew up, but the woman didn’t make enough money to both support herself and bring her child here.

The child told his mother that the gang wanted to recruit him.  She decided to save some money and planned to take with her back to El Salvador.  She returned to El Salvador with the $3000 she had saved.  The boy turned 14. The woman had family here, but the family couldn’t help her.  When she arrived in El Salvador, she looked for a smuggler to bring her child to the USA.  The smuggler agreed to bring the child to meet with his family here for $3,000.  So the child started on his way.  While he was traveling, he found another Honduran boy the same age traveling without a smuggler.  They started to talk and the Salvadorian asked the Honduran boy if he had smuggler.  The Honduran said no.  They become friends anyways and the Salvadoran told his friend to stay together and see what the smuggler would say. 

The Salvadorian boy was friendly and ran quick, so the group called him el Venado (“the deer”) because he was fast.  The Honduran boy was quiet so he was called el Cordero (“the sheep”) and “el coyote” was the smuggler.  They were together until they arrived at the USA border.  When they crossed the border, the coyote met with another man and talked and the man gave money to the smuggler who brought the 14-year-old from El Salvador.  Then the coyote and the other man approached the youth.  The original smuggler told both children that from there another man would take care both of them to get to their destination.  However, he children were taken to an isolated house.  Then they were separated.  The man asked to the Venado if he had a phone.  The child had a cellphone.  The new smuggler called the child’s mother.  The mother was so happy to see that her son was calling, but when she answered the phone, it was not her son’s voice.  It was a man saying that he had her son and if she wanted her son to arrive at his destination, she had to pay $2,000.00 to free him.  The youth didn’t realize that they had been sold to another smuggler.  The mother didn’t know what to do; she didn’t have money.  No one could lend the woman money.  Her parents would like to have helped her but they didn’t have anything either.  The only thing the parent possessed was their house.  They went to the bank with their house documents to borrow $2,000.  Then the woman had the money and sent it to the man who had her son, then the Venado was released and found his family here. However, what happened to el Cordero (the Lamb)?  No one knew about him because he didn’t have a phone and the Salvadorian boy couldn’t communicate with him anymore. 

About six months later the Cordero appeared.  He was free and living with family and the family was in process to adopt him.  The child narrated that the men who had captured him were distracted one day and they left the back door open.  Suddenly they heard the sound of a siren approaching the place.  The kidnappers thought that police were coming for them.  They ran away.  The child escaped and asked for help.  People helped him to find a place to stay.  This, I think, is a good end although they went through this difficult experience. 

These are three examples of what people go through on the journey to the USA.  Some of them can make it and some of cannot make it for many reason.  Even worse, there is the story of a Mexican man who was in coma in a hospital in Texas.  He had had no documents on him when he was brought the hospital so there was no way the hospital or other authorities could communicate with his family, except to put his picture on TV.  Finally, one day his family claimed him and he was taken back to Mexico.  This a sad end.

What happens to those people who arrive to the USA and are then deported?  The immigration authorities usually don’t believe the stories of people who are in danger.  A young man from Honduras arrived here.  He was working, but one day he was stopped by immigration police.  Since he didn’t have legal documents, he was taken to the detention center.  He told the officials of a threat against his life, but he was deported back to his country, anyway. 

When he returned, his father had two vans to transport people from place to place.  The father gave him a van to start his life again in Honduras, but a few days later he was stopped in the road between communities and shot.  The threat had been serious. 

Authorities in these countries don’t protect their citizens.  Drug traffickers and gangs threaten police or pay them not to protect their victims.  Sometimes the police cooperate with these criminal group.  It is very sad.  Last month the president of Guatemala—whose family had been accused of being corrupt—said that corruption is common in Guatemala.  To justify his family he said corruption is common.  If a president says that the corruption is common, it means the government accepts it.  Therefore there is no security in these countries.

Unfortunately in this country the current administration does not support these victims, either. However, some immigrants who have come from the same countries support this administration, but they understand the consequence of their support.  There was an unfortunate story about a woman who voted for Trump.  Her husband didn’t have legal documents and was in danger of deportation.  After her candidate won the elections and started massive deportation, she was begging and praying for her husband to remain here.  I have a Guatemalan friend who supports Trump and says that Obama made a great mistake in giving temporary documents to Dreamers because most of them are gang members.  Not all who have gone through the same experience support one another.

However, we should not give up we have to continue supporting immigrants who come and denouncing these atrocities when we have opportunity.