Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Immigrants face wall even before election day

Names+of+Rio+Hondo+faculty+and+staff+who+proudly+advocate+a+safe+and+respectful+environment+for+every+member+of+the+Rio+Hondo+community.
Names of Rio Hondo faculty and staff who proudly advocate a safe and respectful environment for every member of the Rio Hondo community.

Names of Rio Hondo faculty and staff who proudly advocate a safe and respectful environment for every member of the Rio Hondo community.

Illustration by Julio Flores and Noah Garcia

Illustration by Julio Flores and Noah Garcia

Names of Rio Hondo faculty and staff who proudly advocate a safe and respectful environment for every member of the Rio Hondo community.

"Paco", Guest Writer

Rio Hondo College sophomore, Paco, 26, experienced life changing events when his mother made the choice to move from Mexico to the United States. It was 1999, and Paco was nine years old.

On a hot summer day 17 years ago, Paco’s mother, Rosa, and his uncle Gerardo packed their bags, handed Paco a backpack with clothes and important legal paperwork, and they got into a cab. When they arrived at the Aguascalientes, Mexico’s Jesús Teran Peredo International Airport, with tears running down their face, they hugged their family and friends and said goodbye. Paco, along with his mother and uncle, then boarded an airplane. Paco was excited to be flying over the clouds for the first time ever, thinking he was heading over to the promise land, Disneyland, because why does anyone travel to the United States except to visit Disneyland. In reality, things were far different because Paco was heading over to Tijuana International Airport unaware of what was to come.

Rosa wanted to give young Paco a better life and future. A life that was promised by friends that were living in Los Ángeles. A life of love, success and glamour so reminiscent of many of Hollywood’s blockbusters. The Journey from Mexico to California, however, was not easy, let alone safe. Paco and his mother encountered the same risky dangers that all individuals trying to cross into the U.S. border every year face. After arriving in Tijuana, Baja California, Paco, his mother, and uncle did not hang around for long. They bought bus tickets and traveled to Mexicali, the capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California. In the middle of the humid Mexicali night, they stepped out of the bus with many people following behind, and Paco and his mother were greeted by coyotes, a group of human smugglers crossing migrants into the the side of the U.S. border at a motel where Paco, Rosa and Gerardo, along with other, men, women and children, waited a couple of hours to make the first attempt at crossing.

“The memory of that night is unclear, so I cannot accurately explain how things unfolded. My mother can give precise details of what actually occurred, said Paco when interviewed about his life.” “I do remember wearing cowboy boots with dark-washed jeans, and a small dressing shirt with wild horses on it.”  The coyotes directed Paco, his mother and uncle with other people to a hole that was cut through the tall metal fence that separates Mexico from United States. The fence had been cut through by a welding torch. The coyotes told everyone to follow along and run as fast as Usain Bolt doing the 100 freestyle race, heading towards a flickering light in the distance, which was what the coyotes called “the safe zone” meaning that everyone would be free of border patrol. “The road was dark, scary, and confusing, almost like as if the entire trail was nothing but a blur, a dream, not real, stated Paco. “I held onto my mother’s hand with my uncle by my other side, and I ran as fast as I was able to, so my mother and uncle would not lose sight of me.” They ran through bushes, trees, muddy ground, rocks and grass, afraid of falling into a hole or being bitten by a snake or other wild animals. “Maybe the coyotes would’ve left us all there, robbed or killed us. Time seemed to stand still, the skies would not lit up, and the flickering light in the distance was never reached,” added Paco.

To their surprise, a border patrol van was following behind. The coyotes made everyone duck down, but border patrol carried infrared equipment that picked up everyone’s heat signal, leading border patrol to the exact whereabouts of Paco and all others. The border patrol officer had backup and then proceeded to place Paco his mother, uncle, the coyotes, and the others inside the vans. “We were taken to a holding facility where the adults were processed by fingerprinting, but everyone gave a false name. Then we were given cookies and bottles of water, admitted Paco. “That night mom and I and my uncle, slept in a small cell, on hard bedding, and a dirty floor, crowded with the other men, women and children.” The cells had no toilet paper and the smell was unbearable for Paco. Next morning, everyone was released back into Mexico in the sweltering heat. Border patrol warned them to avoid crossing over again or face possible arrest. Paco, along with his mother and uncle, headed back to the hotel to clean up and change out of their stinky, muddy clothes, and that same day the coyotes moved them over to a different location to avoid that Mexican police scouted their hotel.

“On the second attempt my mother and I separated from my uncle. I remember a few days later my uncle telling me that he climbed the tall metal fence, and he showed me the evidence, his bloody, boiled hands that were burn marks left by the hot metal do to the 100 plus heat,” said Paco. “My uncle had made his way through into the U.S., meanwhile, my mother and I were escorted to another hole in the tall metal fence, and were to walk into a supermarket by the coyotes, and in that market, mom and I would then meet with an insider, helping people reach the safehouse, completely avoiding immigration. To their Paco’s surprise, border patrol recognized him and his mother from the night before and as Paco said, “the tall, pale, blue-eyed, uniformed border patrol man sent my mother and I back to Mexicali, and we exited the fence, with a grin on his face, he said, ‘buena suerte para la proxima,’ assuming that mom and I would not give up on trying to cross over.” Once for Paco his dreams of a promised Disney were brought down, and for the coyotes, there was no sign of them anywhere, so Paco and his mother were forced to head back to the hotel to try to communicate with Gerardo and let the coyotes know that they had been caught yet again.

Paco admitted that his mother then panicked and became worried because not only were they caught again, but now Paco and his mother were alone without uncle Gerardo tagging along. Further, Paco stated that at this point his mother also had said that they would attempt crossing one last time or flight back to Aguascalientes with the little money left that Rosa carried with her. On the third day of their stay in Mexicali, in the middle of the scorching afternoon with temperatures reaching triple digits, the coyotes moved Paco and his mother Rosa to another location in the tall metal fence. This time around, Paco and Rosa went in through the fence alone, jumped over walls surrounding peoples’ homes on the U.S. side of the border. Border patrol spotted Paco and his mother, and the coyotes went missing. All hope seemed lost for Paco and Rosa, but a man with his wife and children quietly opened the door of their home, while Paco and Rosa were hiding from border patrol in the surrounding houses. These total strangers made things possible for Paco and his mother to escape border patrol. Then the man of the house spoke spanish, and he offered Rosa and Paco water, and then he called a taxi to come and pick them up. “I was scared, mom was scared. We did not know if this man was going to call the police and have them escort us out again. We didn’t know if we would see my uncle Gerardo again or if we would reach the safehouse,” said Paco. “But this man had his wife and children with him, so he seemed trustworthy to my mother, after all, he did let us into his home to get away from immigration.” Paco and Rosa were taken to the safehouse where they were reunited with Gerardo, who was waiting to hear any news from them. “Mom and I were relieved to see uncle Gerardo again. The insiders provided food and new clothes for us, and later that same night, my mother, my uncle and myself were driven all the way to Los Angeles without any trouble, and then we arrived to meet with our family,” said Paco.

It has been 17 years since, and Paco has now lived through the fifth grade, middle school and high school, but that is another story of its own. Now Paco is his last semester of his second year of  community college, and he is preparing to transfer out to the University of Cal-State Dominguez where he plans to get his Bachelor’s Degree in Digital Media Arts. “After high school in 2008, my life was headed to Nowheresville. I wasted four years of my time trying to find any work that was available, and In 2012 the Obama administration passed an executive order Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the immigration policy that allowed certain undocumented individuals like myself that met certain requirements like having entered the country before my 16 birthday and before June 2007 to receive a renewable two-year work permit and exemption from deportation,” expressed Paco. “I took full advantage of this huge opportunity because my mother and I got informed in time and gathered and filed all the necessary paperwork. Now I live the dreams that my mother envisioned when she made the choice to cross into the United States of America. I have a job and a car, a driver’s license and social security number. I have an identity, and I don’t have to hide. I have now have what I desperately needed, not what I wanted.”

There are 11 million plus undocumented immigrants in United States. Each of a different country with a unique story and reasons for being here. They’re not always who people think they are. Some take any job they can like picking produce on the fields or caring for children. Some are in elementary, high school, college, or in the workforce. Paco voiced, “This is my home. I grew up here. My friends are here. My life is here. I think of myself as an American, and my country is beginning to recognize me as one of its own. I have come a long way, made lots of sacrifices and I am convinced that by working harder, I will achieve my mother’s plans because she too made the ultimate sacrifice and that is  to not think about herself and what can I do to make my son’s life better than I can ever have. My mother made extremely hard and dangerous choices so that I can succeed in this world because back in Aguascalientes there was nothing for me. Life does not offer opportunities to for people like us. Mom and I needed surrender time and distance away from our loved to have a chance. A chance at what? A chance at beating the proverbial life of never accomplishing anything, staying poor and hungry, and no access to healthcare or well-being.” There is much ground ahead for Paco to cover, but he is no longer kept in shadows. And like all immigrants coming to United States, Paco appreciates that there is a way out of poverty, misery, but it takes great risk, but the rewards can be becoming an engineer, a teacher, a politician, a businessman or man, and this great country offers that liberty. Paco made his wish a reality when he finally got the opportunity to visit Disneyland, and he believes that the happiest place on earth encompasses everything that we want out of life. “Unfortunately, I am one of the fortuitous people that gets to enjoy my childhood dream. Some never get to make those dreams a reality, so I am grateful for what I have and who I am today.”

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Rio Hondo College Newspaper
Immigrants face wall even before election day