My dad came in 1999, and his plan was to come and work and make some money and then go back to Mexico and start a business. He was trying to save up money so that he could go to college.
He would call me and tell me stories about working at construction sites alongside people who had graduated college in Mexico. He said he was working with a pilot, a teacher and an engineer and that they were all doing the same thing. It was his way of telling me that even if you go to college there, it was very hard to find opportunities.
Sending back money wouldn’t solve the problem he was trying to solve. He decided he didn’t want to be alone anymore. He sent money back so that my mom and I could join him in Tulsa. My dad had a friend who could get us across. I was 14 at the time, so I don’t really know how that worked. My mom and I crossed the border somewhere in Arizona.
We crossed the border with 12 other people we didn’t know. My mom and I were the only ones who knew each other. The people were from all over Mexico and Central America and were of all different ages.
We walked an entire night. We started walking when the sun went down, and we got to our destination when the sun came up. It was a night full of running and crawling, trying to avoid border patrol and crossing fences. I remember the first fence and thinking “we made it.” We kept crossing fences over and over again.
One of the people we traveled with didn’t make it to his destination and had to turn back. One of the older guys cut his eye crossing one of the barbed wire fences, We hope he found border patrol and that they took him back. I was fortunate enough not to run into any dead bodies, especially based on some of the stories I’ve heard in the past. I hope that guy wasn’t one of those people who ended up like that.
The initial journey ended at a trailer in a small Arizona town. Now it’s clear to me that they were criminals. Upon arrival, there was this big, tall guy with a gun in his desk. He said to the group that we knew what was going to happen to us if we told anyone how we got across.
My dad paid a guy to take us in a truck back to Tulsa. We were still full of paranoia. It made me scared of traveling at night and traveling in general. Even outside of the border you still feel like you’re fleeing. You feel like you’ve never really made it. You’re always on the run.
It’s naïve to think that people making it harder to cross will keep them from coming. People come from rough places, and they know that one difficult night is worth the opportunities. People are fleeing from hunger and violence; I don’t think there is much to stop them. There are going to be a lot more deaths than there are already.