It is my privilege to tutor in the Adult Literacy Program here in Redlands, sponsored by our city library and grants it has received. Each year learners are invited to write something, an essay or a letter or a poem. Then a little booklet is published. Today the 2018 booklet “Our Stories” came out. My learner had a little essay in it about a friend of hers. But another essay in the booklet was by “anonymous.” Here it is, with a few lines left out to shorten it — the story of an undocumented asylum seeker in our literacy program.
Submitted by Mary Garascia, CPPS
I lost my father when I was 19 years old. He got murdered right in front of my house on August 20, 2014. I would say that was the worst feeling that I ever had. I was devastated. I couldn’t imagine living without one of the most important people in my life. My father was the most humble, loving and selfless person I knew. It started when he wanted to run for president of his community … He wanted to help people and do the right things. Crime and corruption in Mexico did not allow him to.
August 27, 2014 was the day that my family and I decided to move to California. To be honest, I didn’t want to leave my country. Because of my family and friends, I’ve never been interested in moving to the United States but the circumstances make that decision.
We got here without any legal papers and asked for something called political asylum. Emotionally it was too much for my mom, brothers and me, but it was the only way to be safe. My experience was totally different to what I had heard or seen about the United States … I soon saw how hard it is to be in a country that doesn’t speak your language and where you’ll
never have the opportunity as an immigrant of being in a better job or studying for the career that you want …
My family and I got to the border in San Isidro … at 1 pm. At the moment we … asked the immigration officer for asylum, he handcuffed us right away. The officer separated me from my family. He took me to a separate room with all the women. My two brothers were together in another room with the men and my mom and my little sister were in another room full of babies and moms-to-be.
He placed me in a room that was really cold. Others called it “the freezer.” It was full of people, I’m not going to lie, there was over a hundred women inside. It was so small and I had to sleep sitting on the floor with no blanket or anything else. I was in that room for 7 days without a shower and not knowing anything about my family. They left you there until the officer decided to transfer you to an immigration facility.
After those 7 days they took me to a jail in Los Angeles to process me. I slept there with two more people in another cold room. I couldn’t sleep that night. I swear, I thought I was going to die. The color of my skin was purple because of the cold. I actually knocked on the door and asked the officer for a blanket that I had in my suitcase but he did not give it to me. I was praying. Not because of what I was going through but because I did not want my mom or my sister to suffer the same as I was.
The next day they took me to a facility in Irvine, California, called “James A. Musick.” When I got there, everything seemed better. I could take a shower whenever I wanted. I got a uniform and my own small bed but I still had to be there during the process. I didn’t know how long it would take. I was kind of calm during the day but at night I was afraid to sleep because I couldn’t. I got scared. My mom tried to visit me but the officers didn’t let her because they said she didn’t have a California ID.
I was there for two months. It made me think about how valuable freedom is and that how, without committing any crime, I could be there locked up just for asking for help. I couldn’t understand … I was trying to think positively all the time but there were days that I could no longer. The depression of losing my father plus being in that place was making me crazy … I know that the president or whoever makes those rules in the United States for people like me don’t know what the people go through. I always think that my father and God helped me … People who have no faith could not endure something like that …
But here I am, trying to do my best to make my father proud of me. I always ask myself what life would be like if I didn’t come to the United States. Would I be alive? I believe in God and that everything has a purpose in our lives. Not because my mom or society is telling me that, but because I lived it … My father and my family never wanted any of this. I always think he sacrificed himself to give us a better life and I’m not going to waste it.