Juan is Mexican; he tells me he has lived in the United States for over 20 years. I got to know him having done business with him over the years. Like most Mexican Immigrants in the city of Poughkeepsie, he is hard-working, a dedicated family man. Then suddenly I did not see him for a while, in situations where people come and go it’s hard to say how long he was gone before I realized he was no longer around. Even then I though he may have just moved away. Then one day a few weeks ago he reappeared, I was delighted to see him .
He tells me he has driven without a licence for years because despite being in the United States for over 20 years he is classified as an Illegal Alien. he related his story to me with deep melancholy in his voice. He choked up at times ,not wanting to display emotions ,he would stop for a minute before continuing to relate his story. I have a family , my wife and kids , all I want to do is to provide for them, my kids were born here. He gave me horrifying accounts of driving his car and a police cruiser coming up behind him , he tells me sometimes he is afraid to breathe , knowing if he is pulled over he will be arrested, his car confiscated jail time as punishment. In fact he says, that is exactly what happens to him on several occasions. He would be hit with a hefty fine for driving without a licence.He would then pay a licensed driver to remove his car from the pound, pay the fine and towing fees and start the process all over again. He tells me the last time he faced a judge the judge was tempted to send him to prison, he was terrified at the prospect of going to prison leaving his wife and kids without any means of support , the judge told him he would be doing a year in jail. He said he told the judge “you can send me to jail and my family will starve, or you can fine me and I will find a way to pay”. The judge relented and imposed a fine.
The last time he was arrested (ICE Immigration and Customs Enforcement came, they took him to a detention center in New Jersey, then to Louisiana. He related the treatment meted out to him and other detainees whilst on the flight from New Jersey to Louisana even while they were shackled and bound. Crew members tossed sugar-buns and bottles of unrefrigerated waters at them most of which fell on the floor of the plane. When they complained about being treated that way they were told they were lucky to receive anything at all. The detention center was just as bad Juan laments, most of the guards were Latinos, yet they were treated like dirt. Frustrated and bewildered he asked one guard “how can you treat your own people this way” . The guard retorted “if you came over the fence illegally you are a criminal“.
He was eventually sent back to his native Oaxaca where he immediately undertook the perilous journey back, braving desert thirst, Unscrupulous Coyotes, hard-nosed border-Agents and a whole list of other challenges. All so he could come back to the country he has called home for over two decades to see his family. He knows the next time he is pulled over, the next time the police runs his ID, the nightmare begins anew . He tells me resignedly , I will just have to come back, I love my family. Juan’s Employer is taking a chance hiring him, he tried to regularize Juan’s status in the United States. The Government refused his petition. The Obama Administration deported a record 1.5 million people in his first term.