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‘You Have to Change Things from the Root’: Interview With a Young Immigrant

Left Voice interviewed a 23-year-old immigrant, factory worker, and student, who told us about his experience crossing the border from Mexico to the U.S. and about the life of Latin American youth in the United States.

Left Voice

April 5, 2024
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Photo: Julio César Aguilar/AFP

Immigration laws in the United States are discriminatory and racist. Right now in Texas they want to pass SB4 which makes it a second-degree felony with a penalty of two to 20 years in prison to cross into the state from a foreign country at any place other than a legal port of entry. While moving forward with this right-wing legislation, since March 2021, under the Biden administration, several tactics have been implemented, including sending state police and National Guard to different parts of the state’s 1,200-mile border with Mexico; arresting immigrants and charging them with breaking and entering. A complete militarization. While the Republicans with Trump continue with their anti-immigration rhetoric. Democrats and Republicans want to create an internal enemy: the immigrant. Entire families are escaping poverty, poverty generated by the foreign debts that these countries have with the United States and international organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank.

This interview is to give a voice to immigrants in the United States to begin to unite and fight for equal rights between natives and foreigners.

….

I decided to travel to the United States on March 21, 2021, after the pandemic.

The economy of Ecuador was bad. I did not see much future. The United States was a good option to look for a new opportunity. I wanted to go to college.

It was not because I wanted to or because it was my dream to go to the United States. It was necessity.

I was driven by the desire to help my family, to be able to help my mother and my brothers and sisters.

Crossing the border was a seven-day journey, where I was afraid for my life. I left the international airport in Guayaquil. I made two stopovers in Panama and Mexico. I arrived at two o’clock in the afternoon. When I left, I was intercepted by two “coyotes” [migrant smugglers]. At 6 p.m. that same day, I went from Mexico City to Monterrey and then to Piedras Negras. The whole trip was by bus. From there I arrived at a motel in Piedras Negras, and the next day I went to a bodega.

I arrived on Monday at this bodega, where there were seven men plus three coyotes or guards to watch over the people.

As you see in the movies, there are drugs and weapons. I saw the same thing in these warehouses.

The wineries are old houses, and we slept on an old sofa. I remember we were near some railroad tracks.

I crossed the border on a Thursday night at 9 p.m.. The crossing was three hours. I crossed the Rio Bravo, a good area to hide, because there is a river, scenery, reeds. We were still on foot.

It took us about five minutes to cross the river. I had to take off all my clothes (I was only in my boxers), and we put my clothes in a plastic bag.

After crossing the river, there was a chain of five people in the desert along with three coyotes. The coyotes told us that we had to separate in order to cross the border.

We started to crawl across the desert floor while dodging the military and the police. Every five minutes there was movement, and we had to be alert to be able to cross.

We waited 30 minutes in the dark. We went all the way around and climbed a mountain of dirt. Every 10 minutes the border police passed by with dogs. We begged not to be discovered. We had a lot of nerves.

It was my first attempt to cross the border, and I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. We started to run and run, without looking back.

At the end of the run, we found an old factory, and there was a tractor. We hid behind the tractor. We waited until dawn.

We were able to cross the border at 1 a.m. We were filthy and scared. We were waiting for other people who didn’t answer our phone calls to tell us if they were coming to pick us up or not. They didn’t answer us while the minutes were ticking away. It was five o’clock in the morning, and the sun was rising. We decided to move to another mountain to continue escaping from the immigration police.

Finally, the coyote answered our calls and told us they would pick us up. We were able to get to a new bodega. In that place I met with other people from my country.

But the journey was not over.

The coyote told us we had to cross the desert, drive three hours, and go around a checkpoint. With the GPS of the cell phone and a few bottles of water, we had to go back out into the desert and pray not to be discovered. The cell phones had to be disconnected, turned off, and used only when necessary.

I was 22 years old at the time.

We went out into the desert, I started to run, I did not see what I was leaving behind. I heard noises, which I guess were animals. I left at 2 a.m. and crossed into the desert. I spent three hours walking and running. At one point I fell, and I felt like I was going to die, but I got up and kept running. I thought at that moment, “You are running and fighting for what you want.” I felt short of breath. Willpower and desire and love and passion are what counts. I couldn’t breathe, but I said to myself, “I don’t want to stay here.”

We had to avoid the patrols hiding in the bushes.
The coyote knew exactly where each patrol was.

I had to take an alternative route so that the police would not find us.

We arrived in Houston at 5 a.m. It was the happiest day of my life when I arrived. The nightmare of the desert was over. Because nothing happened to me, I was able to survive.

I knew many people who wanted to cross the border who were discovered, mistreated, and persecuted by the immigration police. And others who lost their lives. I know of rapes and human trafficking, of Latin American women who are kidnapped for prostitution in the United States. I know of families that are separated, of children that you never see again. I know of people imprisoned only for seeking a better future that they cannot find in their country.

The cost is very high. You don’t know if you are going to die. I and many fellow Latin Americans were willing to lose everything.

I know friends who crossed the border through Ciudad Juárez, and I know that if you turn yourself over to the coyotes, those coyotes have a relationship with the border police and they hand over immigrants to the U.S. state. It is a clear collaboration of the big business of immigration, since there is a transfer of a lot of money for each immigrant delivered, not to mention what I said before about the trafficking of women and minors for sex and slave work.

I am now 23 years old. And I am living in New York. I see that the United States functions thanks to the Latin American labor force, because it is a less expensive labor force for the companies. That is why the United States does not feel the impact of the lack of labor.

I now work in a factory. I am a young worker, and like me, there are hundreds of Latin Americans willing to sell their labor in the United States. The capitalist knows that this labor force is there, and with that he tries to divide us, saying that Latin Americans steal work from the natives, or generating divisions between immigrants and natives. When we do the same tasks, but we do not have the same salaries or the same rights, we do not have the same rights.

In this country they don’t tell you, “Oh, welcome, and look, you have this job, how much do you want to get paid?” You are always going to be exploited, you are always going to be marginalized. Here, you have no rights, no voice. Because we make a big effort to move this country. We are workers.

The problem is the governments. We see it all over Latin America, governments that are not for the working people. In Ecuador, Peru, and Argentina, etc. We are always dominated by the social class of the rich and the capitalists.

The working people have no rights. We will be given leftovers to make us happy, and the capitalist social class will keep most of the wealth.

The life of an immigrant is very hard in the United States because we have fewer rights, a high cost of living, rent, transportation, health, and education. We have no benefits, and the vast majority of us do not have work permits or work insurance. Hopefully, none of us will have any accidents, because we have no rights, not even to heal. And we have no voice and no vote. Our salary is just enough to live on and nothing more.

We workers need to unite, and not sell out or betray any fellow worker. I would like to know something different.

You have to change things from the root. If your laws are not right, you have to change them. You cannot have discriminatory and anti-worker laws. But they exist. We have to change them.

This is my story. I am Marco, Ecuadorian, 23 years old. I work in a factory, and I am a student. And I want my reality to be known as the majority of immigrants in the United States.

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Left Voice

Militant journalism, revolutionary politics.

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