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Face of a Shadow

March 5, 2009

We met Pedro in the early part of 2006.

A call came in through the network that a man had hurt his back and had been lying at home in agony for three days. He was afraid to seek medical attention because he did not want to risk being deported. Deportation would mean he could not provide for his wife and children back in Mexico.

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We got him to a hospital where he was treated, and arraignments were made to pay the medical bill. Several days later, he went back to work, at a new job. Another worker had already filled his old job position.

Pedro lives here in Virginia, sharing an apartment with some other guys. He doesn’t  really like the living arraingements, as some of the other men are single and a bit wild for his tastes, but he has learned to be tolerant. Pedro believes it is more important to cut expenses than to be comfortable.

 

 
 

Time went on, and we became friends. On occaision, he would come to our home to visit.  On one of these visits, I asked him why he had come to the United States. 

It was the usual answer. Life had become very difficult in his home town for lack of work; and as there is no unemployment compensation, or food stamp program, or any of the other protections that we as Americans enjoy when one of us falls upon difficult times, he had to go to where the work is, in order to feed his family. So he kissed his wife and four children goodbye, and came to the United States.  He quickly got an ITIN number, so he could land a decent job. 

One particular Christmas, Pedro had come to spend the holiday with our family, and we  enjoyed an opportunity to speak with his family in Mexico. He was so proud. We listened afterwards while he told us stories of his children. We tried to comfort him when he spoke of his son who had drowned. And then we listened some more while he played the guitar and and sang songs of his Homeland for us. 

 Pedro told us of his dream to be able to send enough money home  for his family to not only eat and live, but also for his son to go to school to become an auto mechanic.  His son will then be able to move to a Mexican city and get a “good job” and have a better life. 

 
  Pedro had hoped to be able to return to Mexico for a brief visit before his children grew up, but nowadays, any hope of returning to Mexico for a visit is gone.  A vigilante group known as the “Minuteman”  is currently monitoring our Southern border, making the chances of being caught and detained during a border crossing much more real.  Additionally, in response to political pressure, the federal government has joined in and begun work to seal the border. Due to these factors, the cost of paying a ‘coyote” to guide Pedro across the desert has become prohibitive. Pedro, like so many others, is stuck here in the United States, unable to cross the border.

So Pedro is here. He works hard, pays his taxes, and sends money home. Of course his wife and children miss him, but they won’t miss him forever. Extended absence does not  really make the heart grow fonder. No. It makes the heart grow weary and forgetful. His children will never really know him.

 
In the United States, it is estimated that some 10-14 million people live in our country without proper documentation. Many of these people spend their days working long hours in unskilled jobs, for what most of us would consider low wages. 

 They are called the “Shadow People” because they spend every day, year after year, trying to keep “out of sight, out of mind”.  Typically, ICE  (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) does not seek these people out, as it is the job of Congress to decide what will ultimitely happen to these people. But still they live in fear, every day, knowing that a citizen could turn them in at any time.  If someone does, the federal authorities must investigate. 

Foreign Nationals caught lacking proper documentation are  typically held in  jail for many months, unable to earn wages for their families, until they are finally deported. Once deported, if the individual returns to the United States within five years, the individual risks criminal prosecution. (Under our current system of law, it is not a crime to cross the U.S. border without proper documentation. If caught, you could however, become subject to being detained and deported. If you are deported, you must not return to the United States for a perod of five years.)

NAFTA  (North American Free Trade Alliance)was supposed to be a great treaty, under which jobs would be created  for the multitudes in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. In many cases, NAFTA has worked very well. In the case of the poor farmers and small townspeople of Central America, NAFTA has made, for many, an already difficult life unbearable, as the giant Agrifarmers take the work that belonged to the people.

 Is it right for someone from another country to come here and compete for our jobs? Probably not. But people will do what they must in order to survive. Perhaps someday, we as a people will once again understand that.

 I only hope that if  it ever happened to me and my family, I would have the courage to do the same thing.

 

 © All rights reserved                                            Daniel Curran

next post   Jesus Went to Georgia will be up Monday, March 9, 2009

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