Saturday, September 19, 2009

Illegal Immigrants -- A Story

Sophie's Saturday companion Mirtha is an amazing woman. She is short and curvy with long, black ringlety hair. She has helped me with Sophie for over five years. She is, in some respects, Sophie's best friend. She is in her mid-thirties and the mother to a fourteen year old boy and a four year old boy. While they are not married, she has lived for many years with the father of the four year old, and they work at four jobs between the two of them. Her "husband," let's call him George, has lived in the United States for seven years but is an illegal immigrant from Guatemala. Mirtha works and lives legally here but does not have a green card. She lost thousands of dollars a while back to an unscrupulous lawyer who was helping her to get a green card.

George left his job washing cars two weeks ago and was driving home to his family when he was randomly pulled by the Los Angeles Police. When the policeman asked for his license, George didn't have one, so the policeman walked back to his car and called Immigration. George was then taken to the local jail and waited a couple of days before being transported to immigration's jail. Mirtha told all of this to me last Saturday, four days after it had happened. She cried a bit but said that everyone in her church was going to try to raise money to get George a lawyer. She told me that it would probably cost between $5000-$7000. She told me that her older son was very upset about losing George, his stepfather, and couldn't stop crying. She told me that her little boy kept asking where Daddy was and when was he coming home?

I didn't know what to say. I have no money to give to her and words seemed a paltry consolation. I told her that she should bring her boys with her when she worked on Saturdays with Sophie, and she seemed grateful for that. She came this morning with her little boy who is much loved by my two big boys. I asked her how George was doing and she told me that he has been moved to immigration in Houston. He will be flown to Guatemala on Monday morning in the tee-shirt, shorts and sneakers that he was wearing the afternoon he left his job at the car wash and headed home to be with his family. He was not allowed to see his family or to take anything that he might own here back to Guatemala.

Mirtha is alone, now, a single mother with two American sons. She must work her two jobs and do without the money that her husband brought in from his two jobs. She will move out of her two bedroom apartment into something smaller that she can afford. She will hopefully find some help with her little boy so that she can continue to work to support her sons. The older boy is angry, now, unable to understand how this could happen. The little boy thinks his father has gone away to work.

George will arrive in Guatemala and begin to look for work so that he can raise the money to pay someone to get him to the United States again. He wants to be with and take care of his family. He does not want his boys to grow up without a man in the house, and he loves his wife.


  1. Have you read The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle? Your story reminds me of this very powerful book which should be taught in our schools, I think. We should be so grateful to the people who have braved so much to come here and do the jobs that no one else wants to do. With such grace.

  2. Ms. Moon - Yes, I've read that book. Very powerful. When I moved here, I read it and thought, "what the hell is going on here?"

  3. It is, as you rightly asserted, a very powerful story and unfortunately a tale told by and about so many immigrants around the world. All I can add is that I wish Mirtha the best of luck. Many thanks for your heartfelt post.

    Greetings from London.

  4. Oh that is just heartbreaking Elizabeth. I wish I had the money to help them!!
    I know a woman who constantly rants about immigrants..I choose to ignore her. I have lived in LA, Phoenix and in Raleigh..all large populations of immigrants, legal and not. Here we have the folks who follow the seasonal harvest. They are warm, wonderful people. So glad she has you to turn for comfort at least!!!
    Thanks for popping into the Quilting Bee hon! I meant every word. Thank you both so very much for what you offer up here! You are amazing hon!! You are!!
    Hugs, Sarah

  5. Ay, Elizabeth. I cried when I read this last night. I don't know, impotence, anger, frustration. These people are working for crying out loud, they are not robbing others of work they may be dying to do.

    I said to a friend not long ago if these people stopped working for a week, didn't show up to work at the restaurants, the hotels, the fields, the greenhouses, just stopped, let's see if those who rejoice when one of them is sent to the despair that their country represents at this time would gladly take over their jobs. Or send their children to pick in the killing heat or the freezing cold the food that otherwise would rot on the vines.

    Shame on us as a country for allowing those who are forcing their autocratic beliefs in our lives. I am so sick of being told that helping others is wrong that I wonder where do these people truly come from. Sorry about the rant dear, this subject whether it is about Mexicans, Guatemalans, or any other nationality makes me both furious and incredibly sad.

  6. It's a crime. And a waste. We ought to put the lawmakers in jail.

  7. This is so sad and unfortunately such an international item.
    It is so in Holland and I see it now in Germany. And every time it makes me mad! We drove through former East Germany a few weeks ago and you could see poster everywhere with the slogan ´Foreigners out´. Sickening really....
    I came here for your Corner View but instead you have me thinking about Mirtha and her family. What a terrible situation.
    It may not give her any comfort but please tell we feel for her.
    In posts like these I feel how my English is not good enough to express what I really want.
    ♥ Jeannette

  8. Hi Elizabeth,

    I found you!

    Mirtha, what a great name. I will say a prayer for her man's safe return and that she and the children find their way alright till then.

    I haven't read the book you and Ms Moon mentioned, but I did see The Visitor. It enrages me and saddens me that we are still treating each other this way.


  9. I saw this post earlier and knew I needed to come back and read it... I can't tell you how much this pisses me off!! I don't know if I want to scream or cry right now. My brother and sister-in-law are missionaries living in Cuidad Juarez, the most dangerous city in Mexico. They live in the ghetto of ghettos there. Living, loving and learning. Our hearts have grown so much for the people of Mexico and especially those who have come to the US in hopes of a better life for themselves and their family only to have those hopes cut into a million pieces on the razor wire that separates us from them. Shame on America for the way they have and are treating people from other countries like this. Its disgusting, to say the least.

    Please tell Mirtha and her boys we are truly sorry. She can count on our prayers for all of them. I mean that.

    Please keep us posted on this if you are able.

  10. I'm interested to know what the jobs are that they had between them - washing cars, Sophie's companion, and what else? Certainly they are jobs few, if any, "white" people would do. It makes me sick. We are sick.

    I only hope the older boy's anger doesn't ruin his life with bitterness ..... these are devastations that form lives and create paths .... esp for a teenager



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