Today, if you're like the average American, life as you know it probably consists of waking up, taking a nice hot shower, waking your kids up to take them to school, stopping by Starbucks to pick up a $4.00+ cup of coffee, and maybe some breakfast to go with it... then you head to work an 8 hour shift making something between $10 and $20 an hour, or more, depending on your occupation. You'll work an average of 40 hours per week, Monday through Friday and enjoy a nice 2-day weekend. You'll spend time with your family, you'll go grocery shopping for lots of stuff to fit in your nice big refrigerator in your nice and cozy home. Maybe you'll take a trip to Disneyland, go clothes shopping, and you'll even flush your toilet countless times. All without thinking about it twice. Let's face it. There are so many things that you do day-to-day that you take for granted.
Here is my question for you. What if it was all taken away? What would you do if you had to wake up before 4:00am every day to be at work by 8? What if there was no hot water to take a shower? What if there wasn't even RUNNING water? What if you didn't have electricity? What if you can't stop for coffee because you can't afford it? What if your children's clothes don't fit? They're growing so fast and you can't afford to buy anything new? What if you couldn't afford a bed for them to sleep on? What if the only jobs available required you to work 10+ hours a day, for 6 days, at no more than $2 an hour? This would mean working 60+ hours and bringing home a total of no more than $120.00 a week, for a grand total of 240 hours a month, earning $480.00. And I haven't even deducted taxes.
In the first senario you were working 160 hours a month, earning $1600 to $3200 a month. Quite a difference, right? Well, consider all of the bills that one incurs each month. With this new life that you're living, how would your life be if you only had $480 for the entire month? How would you pay rent? Forget about having a car payment. You'd either have to take the bus or walk. What about electricity and food? No cell phones, not even a home phone, no internet, and no eating out. What if your home didn't have gas lines? What if you had to use a propane tank? What if you couldn't even afford that?
Let's lay out your new daily life: you wake up and may or may not be able to take a "shower". If you do, the water may be cold, and it may only consist of you bathing out of a bucket because only the better houses actually have running water. Your toilet can't be flushed, because it's just a hole in the ground. The walls that make up your home are nothing but pieces of wood that you've accumulated over time. You have no carpet. You share the ground you walk on with countless bugs because, afterall, this was their home before you decided to build a make-shift home here. You probably don't have electricity. If you do, you might be stealing it by running an extension cord from someone else's property to yours. If you don't, you might just use candles or a lantern, if you can even afford those. Your clothes and your children's clothes are ill-fitting. You don't have many clothes either, so what you do have needs to be washed, by hand, more frequently. Clothing in your area costs more than anywhere else and is of cheaper quality. Food for the day: how do you cook with no electricity? You may have grown accustomed to not eating very much, but what about your children? They need to eat. Who will watch your children as you go off to work your 10+ hour day? Maybe you have a spouse to do that. But if you have a spouse, they're probably going off to work, too. Maybe you have it all worked out to where you work opposite shifts. But this means that you rarely get to see your spouse, and you rarely get to spend time as a whole family. This is a tough life to imagine, isn't it? What if there was a new and better life somewhere else that you might be able to live? This place is a whole new country: a promise land. A place where you can work less and get paid more. A place with homes that have running (and hot!) water and electricity. A country with less corruption than the country you're from. A country where you could stay home with your children and your spouse can go to work and there is still plenty of money to go around and time spent together. A country in which your children will be able to live an unbelieveably better life. However, this country is tough to get into. The approval process and waiting lists are long. The rejection rate is high. It could take years to happen, if it even happens at all. In the meantime, you're starving, your children are starving. You hear that there are other ways to get into this new and exciting country, but you run the risk of getting caught. Would you risk what little you have to try and get so much more? Many would and many do every single day.
I am humbled every single day. After living in Mexico and seeing the poverty, corruption and suffering that I have seen, I can honestly say that I have asked myself what I would do if I were in their shoes. Would I risk it to go to the United States to try for a better life? Most likely, yes. If times were hard enough, I would do anything to provide for my family and I'm sure that almost anyone would. I don't recommend doing it the 'sneaky' way, and I would never personally cross someone because I refuse to go to prison, but after living amongst people who deal with such a rough life, I can now understand why so many people choose to attempt to live an undocumented life in the US. They have nothing to lose and so much to gain. Even if they have to live a life of constantly looking over their shoulder. To me, this seems like a better option than starving to death or working for the drug cartel.
In a different scenario, there are people who live in the United States as undocumented immigrants and have been in the US since they were babies. They don't know any other life than an American life. Occassionally, these immigrants are detained and subsequently deported after failing to provide the proper documentation required to stay in the US. These immigrants are then sent back to the countries that they were born in and are met by a sea of strangers. Faces they've never seen, people they've never known. Family and friends are non-existant. They are forced to live in this new place. Whether they will be able to survive here is unknown. What happens to the families that these deported immigrants leave behind? After living for so long in the US, they are bound to have found and fallen in love with someone and maybe even have started a family. These loving families are torn apart daily because of deportation and our immigration "system" (if you can even call it that). Spouses are torn from their better half. Children separated from their mother or father. In some instances, the spouse who was left in the US leaves the country, kids in tow, to be with the deported loved one. They then attempt to keep their family together in this new world that they are living in. Relying on one another for survival comes to play. Bonds are strengthened. However, at the same time, other bonds are broken or are hanging by a thread. As you know, families extend beyond our spouses and our children. There are grandparents, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, and other loved ones that experience the heartbreak that comes with deportation. Deportation is not fair to anyone involved. Some may say that these immigrants shouldn't start families because they can't afford them, etc. But, how would you feel if someone said YOU shouldn't have a family? Every one deserves to love and be loved. Now that I am a parent myself, I can say that it is the most amazing feeling in the world. I wouldn't deny anyone that same feeling, EVER.
In most cases, undocumented immigrants take on jobs that no one else wants or will do. They're underpaid but are the hardest workers that you will ever meet. They are extremely motivated and humbled by where they've come from. They wish no harm on anyone, but they are greeted with nothing but rejection and hate. They're singled out. They're racially profiled. Sure, there are exceptions and people that take advantage, but that doesn't mean that each and every immigrant needs to be thrown into the same basket as the others. Say your boss gave you and your co-workers each an assigned project. You're not to work together. You must work on your own. So, you work extremely hard on your project and pay attention to each and every single little detail so that it comes out perfect. All the while, your co-workers have been "working" on their respective projects and have not only had a 'ho-hum' attitude about the whole thing, but the lack of effort really shows in their so-called completed project. How would you feel if your boss took one look at all of the projects and because he was dissappointed with what he saw as a whole, he decided that you were all fired. He didn't take into consideration what each person did on their own. He lumped you in with the slack-offs and got rid of you. It isn't fair, is it? It's not fair, at all, to assume that because one person is a bad seed that they all are. Same thing with immigration. Not all immigrants are the same. In fact, no two immigrants are even the same. Each and every immigrant has a history... his or her own story. Each story needs to be heard. Some have lived "perfect" lives. Some have made mistakes and learned from them. These mistakes all play into a person's story. If they're constantly doing bad things and show no end in sight, then yes, maybe deportation is the only answer. But one or two mistakes should be forgiven. Fines paid, time served, but then they should be allowed to stay with their families. People shouldn't be separated from their loved ones their whole lives because of a mistake. Children shouldn't have to suffer for their parent's bad choice(s).
And let's not forget about the families that aren't allowed into the deportee's country. A friend of mine isn't allowed to join her husband to live out life in the country he was deported to. Their kids aren't allowed to go and live with their father. Their family is deemed too large in relation to income, so they keep being denied entry. He is denied entry into the US. This family is being separated by force. Where is the middle ground? How can this even be happening? What makes matters worse is knowing that my friend and her husband have hearts of gold. They are madly in love and are an amazing family. It breaks my heart to know the suffering that they go through. It seems like no one else understands the situation. No one will listen.
My family has a whole host of immigration and life stories. I will do anything to be with my family, even if it means living in another country, but I don't think it should be like this. My husband and our daughter deserve the best. They are both well-to-do human beings. I won't let anyone tell me that they aren't worth a fight. So I'll keep fighting, and I will never leave their side.
Changes need to be made to our immigration system. American citizens and their children deserve to have their loved ones with them in a country that offers so much more. You have your life story and you're still playing the story out. Wouldn't it feel good to help the families dealing with immigration horror-stories? Wouldn't it feel good to make a difference in this world and give children the happiness that they so incredibly deserve? Listen to the stories of immigrants. Stop judging. Put yourself in their shoes. What would you do if you were faced with the same obstacles as them? I believe that if you open your heart you will expand your mind and make a difference in this one life that you've been given. Start now.