AL CAMINO O MUERTE
I am not a criminal.
I am a human being that yearns to be free!
In the shadows of the growing hate and immigrant bashing that is engulfing the United States I quietly celebrated my 40th birthday this week. I, like many of my immigrant brothers and sisters, live in constant dread and panic, fearing that today in this current black-hearted hole that we call America our day will come and we will be caught, arrested, jailed and eventually deported to some God forsaken part of Mexico or Central America that we fear will lead to a death that few will mourn. So in this week of my 40th birthday I thank La Virgen de Guadalupe for watching over me, guiding and protecting me. This week I am still free and alive.
I am a ghost without a home, I am an undocumented immigrant. In today’s Trump America, make no mistake; I am a criminal, an illegal alien that must be hunted down and caged. I have lived in the cold and heartless shadows of this country for over 33 years. Here, as Father Gregory Boyle reminds, is a place that is “on the periphery of humanity, where the pain, suffering and need is the greatest.” The United States, then, has been my purgatory, a place that I desperately want to call home, but at every turn I am denied.
I was smuggled into this country when I was about 7 years old, a child, guilty only of being born to a single mother in desperate need to find a way of keeping her family from starvation and daily horrific violence in her native Mexico. Like so many of the children that were/are initially smuggled into this country as we grow into adulthood, we lost most of our connection to Mexico. This country then pulverizes and mongrelizes us into subhuman status. We all become rapists, terrorists, whores, gang bangers, leeches. All the while this nation reminds us every second of our miserable existence that in this hostile country we are not American and never will be. We can never go home, because Mexico was never our home; we were just unfortunates to be born in a geographical/political warzone, at the mercy of everyone. We have no real home, and the semi-invisible ghost-like life that we lead in this country is criminalized at every turn.
I have survived 33 years in a country that has denied me the human right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. I can’t get a job legally, I can’t get into college legally, I can’t vote, I can’t call the cops. I am easily reduced by politicians and fear mongers to a statistical anomaly, a political talking point, a savage criminal, a pathetic scapegoat. Periodically I am hunted, rounded up, arrested and thrown into cages, made a prisoner of a society that I have served faithfully all my adulthood.
In this schizophrenic and hypocritical land of laws (for some) I must have legal “papers” to breathe freedom openly. Perversely, in order to have legal “papers,” I must somehow wipe away all of my 33 years of illegal existence in this country and return to a foreign and foreboding Mexico and pray for celestial intervention that I live long enough to complete the impossibly arduous process of legal immigration and re-entry into the United States, my estranged home of 33 years. How surreal is that?
Today worldwide there are millions of migrants (I am one of them) traversing the globe seeking out a country that will provide peace, compassion, love and refuge from the violence, starvation, war, hatred and persecution that we are all desperately trying to escape. The journey that each and every one of us migrants takes is when all other options have been exhausted and there is no other choice, “al camino o muerte!” the road or death. That is what my mother did, that is why she smuggled me into this country 33 years ago, and that is why I am alive today, this week to celebrate my 40th birthday. One day before I die I hope that this country, my home, my country, will see the tragic error of its current inhumane immigration policies and transform itself back to the world’s beacon and a refuge for those persecuted and huddled migrant masses that yearn to be free.
~ ADELITA DE LOS MILAGROS
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