By Chelsea B., Montgomery College, Maryland
“I stand at the center of a world that needs to understand the struggle of immigrants.”
Last year in my high school English class, I read a book called, “Tell Me How It Ends” by Valeria Luiselli. Luiselli writes about her experience working as an interpreter for immigrant children. Part of her work requires her to interpret the answers the asylum seekers give on the questionnaire drawn up by immigration attorneys. This inspired me to come up with my own questions to learn more about my parents’ immigration story…
This inspired me to come up with my own questions to learn more about my parents’ immigration story, to bring awareness as to how difficult the process can be, and how it still affects them 20 years later.
I will be translating most of the answers since my parents are most comfortable speaking in Spanish. I conducted this interview on a somewhat late night when both my parents and I had free time. My mom was already in bed but not sleeping. My dad was still in the living room hanging out with one of our dogs while watching TV. Key: C = Chelsea, V=Veronica, M = Manuel.
Mother/Daughter interview: Veronica and Chelsea
C: When and how did you get to the U.S?
V: In 1999 by land. I came with Gloria (childhood friend).
C: How old were you?
V: I was 19.
C: And why did you come here?
V: There were more opportunities for work, Douglas was here (her brother).
C: Did you have family here (in the U.S.) to support you?
V: Yeah, my brother (Douglas) was here.
C: What was you first job and how did you get it?
V: My first job was cleaning services for different buildings. Gloria got me the job.
C: Was this somewhere else besides Maryland?
V: No, I worked in different buildings around D.C., Maryland, and Virginia
C: How did you meet dad?
V: Through a part time.
C: Your first job?
V: No, a different one
C: Do you regret coming here? Do you wish you can go back (to El Salvador)? Or done something different?
V: No, I don’t regret it. How could I regret you? I do wish to go back and see my mom. Something different? Not really. Oh, I do wish to study to learn English, but I never got the time.
C: After more than 15 years, is there something still making it difficult to live here?
V: Yeah, the language ha-ha
Father/Daughter Interview: Marlon and Chelsea
C: When and how did you come to the U.S?
M: July 2019.
M: OH, I meant 1999. I came with my dad, my best friend, Freddy, and a couple of other guys from back there.
C: How old were you?
V: I was 24, I believe.
C: How did you get here?
M: We started a month before.
C: So, June
M: Yeah. We came through Guatemala and Mexico. Walking mainly. Sometimes we rode a bus or a train. We were robbed once and attacked by monkeys! We were going through a thick, what’s it called?
M: Yeah, forest and there were monkeys dropping dead branches onto us and peeing on us!
C: They really wanted you out of there!
M: Yeah, they really did. The state of Chiapas Mexico was the toughest part because it was where we did the most walking. It was for about 15 days. It was hell.
C: Did you have a plan before coming here?
M: We did have a plan. There was an earthquake in El Salvador, and it killed many people. The mudslide was what killed a lot. There was a program in the US where we had to go through process to give us temporary protection so we can continue our journey up to there. Legally. So that was the plan. And you know, find a job, and provide for family back in El Salvador.
C: Did you have family here to take you in?
M: Yes, I had my Tia, my aunt. When I was little, we were very close. We visit her and play with my nephews (I believe he meant cousins), and she was – even though she didn’t know (hear) for a long time from me or my dad, she decided to help us and give us a place to stay until we could find a place. And she got us a job, she got me a job, my cousin.
C: Yeah, that was my next question, what was your first job and how did you get it?
M: My first job was… it was the carwash!
C: The carwash? Aquí (here)? Ha-ha
(We still go to that carwash from time to time. My dad is always talking to the workers there and sometimes he’d go, “This is your/my cousin/uncle/.” And I would say hi even though I’ve never seen them before, but they’ve been working there ever since my dad was working there. I knew he used to work there but I didn’t know it was his first job.)
M: Mhm. [both chuckle] I think two weeks after – I think two weeks after I came, I think I went to work at the carwash with my cousin. She was working there as a cashier. And she got me a job there. She said they needed people and I went there. That was my first job making five… I think 5.75 an hour. 1999, 5.75 an hour.
C: How did you meet mom?
M: By work. At the time I was working a part time, I had my day job, and I had a part time too, and I had a cousin who used to work in another building. I was in the need of a helper where I was working in the building and that cousin knew someone who knew her, and he contacted that lady, and that lady brought my wife to work with us. And that’s how we met.
C: Do you regret coming here? Do you wish you could go back? Or wish you could’ve done something differently?
M: No, I don’t. I do not regret come here. Do something differently? I don’t think so. I would like to go a see my mom and the rest of the family. But no regrets.
C: Is there something – even though you been in more than 15 years, is there something that still makes it difficult for you to live here?
M: [silence] Uh, no. I don’t think there is anything.
C: What about the worry of getting deported?
M: Yeah… Well yeah. The difficult part is that even if you have good job here that pays better than my country – the same way you make money, same way you spend money to live here so to pay for it, you gotta keep working, working, working and there (El Salvador) I mean like if you don’t work one day, you’re not gonna – you’re still gonna survive. That’s how we do it, but some stuffs are cheaper there than here.
I knew bits and pieces from my parents’ stories but not in chronological order and I learned new things from them. It gave me a deeper insight of their struggles from the 3 years before I was born. I do wish my mom gave longer and more detailed answers but reflecting on this essay made me want to hear more from her and I will definitely be chasing after her stories.
A Strong Institution that Can Make a Difference ~ American Immigration Council
The American Immigration Council believes in fairness and justice for immigrants and envisions an America that values that. Immigrants are an important part of our nation, bringing energy and abilities that benefit all Americans. The American Immigration Council exists to bring fairness and justice through litigation, research, legislative and administrative advocacy, and communications.
“The Council is highly respected for its willingness and ability to bring cutting-edge lawsuits that hold the government accountable for unlawful conduct and restrictive interpretations and implementation of the law.”
I love how this organization takes its nonprofit to a political level. I feel like they’re starting from the roots of the problem.
“Through research and analysis, the Council promotes the development of fair and rational immigration policies that reflect fundamental American values.”
The American Immigration Council challenges myths and misinformation that are frequently taking over the political and public debates over immigration. This nonprofit organization is strong and sustainable. It provides the public with their annual financial statements and 990’s since 2004. They also have their 2019 annual report available. The American Immigration Council supports my topic because they help out immigrants and envision a fair and just America.