Crossing the Border: Their Journey is My Journey
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids that began in early January, targeting undocumented Central Americans that came to the U.S. fleeing violence from their native countries, have made me think about my identity and my parents' identities: I am the daughter of two Mexican undocumented immigrants, and to them, my future is the manifestation of the sacrifices they made by crossing the border.
My parents came to the United States during the late ‘70s looking for a better life for themselves and for their families back home. I remember when my mom would recount the many attempts she made crossing the border, teary-eyed she would tell me, “La migra laughed at us every time we got caught, they would jokingly say, ‘better luck next time’ or ‘see you next week.’” My mother and my aunt crossed together and – in total attempted crossing the border 4 times before they were successful. Even when they crossed, ICE in San Diego, California, apprehended them and sent them back to Mexico. They never gave up.
Next time, my mom and my aunt didn’t dare to cross the border on their own and instead opted for what many people call a “coyote,” which is an individual that people pay in order to help them securely cross the border. However, even when people manage to find a coyote, the journey continues to be treacherous; the desert is unforgiving, dangerous and oftentimes lethal.
For women crossing the border, the road can be even more perilous: according to an investigation conducted by Fusion, 80 percent of women and girls crossing into the U.S. by Mexico are raped, either by coyotes, criminal gangs and even government officials. Sex can also become the price to pay when they don’t have money for bribes or “protection” fees.
Making it across the border is only the first step for many; their struggles to survive continue once established in the U.S. My mother and aunt walked for days through sewage pipes, the desert, and crawled on their knees until their limbs bled. They lived in fear because the threat of being caught by ICE or la migra was a daily reality. Even when they found a steady job they still lived in constant fear of being exploited by their employers or being deported.
Immigration is done out of necessity. It is the choice that some people have to make between staying in their home countries – knowing there are no opportunities because of political and civil violence or simply because their loved ones are hungry and in need – or striving for a new chance, regardless of how rocky and steep might be the road. Immigration is sacrifice; the physical sacrifice of the body, personhood and identity.
If it weren’t for my parents’ sacrifices I wouldn’t be here today, fighting for reproductive freedom with the Latinx community. I do so because every human being has a right to live in a safe environment and to take ownership of their bodies, which is threatened every day by anti-immigration rhetoric and physical separation of families. This is why we must (and will) continue fighting together for immigration reform, reproductive freedom – and beyond.