Splette's Travel Blog


Illegal immigration is a big issue here in the United States. Most of the immigrants are from Latin America and get into the United States by crossing the border to Mexico. The border is 3169 km (1969 miles) long, difficult to secure and much of the area is desert (Wikipedia has more information on the border and illegal immigration to the U.S.).

Recently I met a boy from Mexico who illegally crossed the border twice. I found his story so fascinating that I asked him for an interview.

[Thomas] You are originally from Mexico and decided to come to the United States.
[Mexican] That’s right
When did you first come to the United States?
Back in 2004 or 2005. I was 17 years old.
Do you have family here?
Yes I do, cousins, brothers and aunts.
Do they live here legally or illegally?
Some of them are legally others illegally.
So, how did you get here?
The first time I got here because of my uncle. He offered me to come. He also gave the same offer to my sister. She is older than me and was 19 years old. So we both came together with a friend of my uncle. His name I think was Chewy. We didn’t know him at all but we met and we came together. We had to take an air plane to St. Marita. That’s like the border to the United States.
Which is the closest U.S. city on the other side?
I think it was Phoenix, I don’t really remember. We stayed there in a motel for a week or so.
Why was that necessary.
The immigration controls were very active. So it was too dangerous to go right away. We had to wait. Which sucked. Because we had to pay our motel, food and stuff. That was the extra money, not necessary, that we had to spend. After that week one guy that is payed to get us there contacted us and picked us up in a pick-up truck. These guys are called ‘coyotes’. And they are the ones that know all the deserts. They know it perfectly, that’s why they get paid.
How far was that town from the border?
About 45 min.
We actually went to a different place to meet another 15 people who we didn’t know at all. We all were like too tight in the pick-up truck on the back of the car and we were almost on top of each other. We rode into the desert for about an hour. I couldn’t see where we were going because we were hiding in the back of the truck. We were covered by some sheets, so we couldn’t see and so we wouldn’t get sand all over us. The car stopped. We were about 10 min running away from the Indian Reservation.
…on the American side?…
Yes. So we had to run non-stop
So, he just dropped you off and told you: Run in this direction?
No, he ran with us. They just leave the trucks behind or they get them later. Because the most important thing is to get into the Indian Reservation. Because apparently the U.S. immigration control or police they can’t do anything in there. They have no power there. So we had the Indian protection but as soon as we get out of the Reservation they can pull them over or something. But if they don’t look suspicious they can’t do anything to them. So we were hiding in the car with different Indians. They took us to the same house in Phoenix but at different times.
How many hours drive was that from the Reservation to Phoenix?
I don’t know, 30 min or an hour.
And then we stayed there at night. The next day we were just waiting. They wait until they have like 15 people that go in the same direction and then they put them in a truck and go. So they can drop off several people. Those coyotes don’t get payed until they deliver the people. So, it took me two days to get to my final destination in the U.S. They dropped me off at the Walmart parking lot.
This is where they gave you to your aunt and received the money?
Yes. Then they just left and dropped off the other people.
This was really easy but the second time was 5 years later [2009] it was almost the same thing but this time I had to pay 2500 Pesos to this guy. I had to pay my way to some place in Mexico, 4 hours away from my home town. I don’t even remember what this place was. I had to take a bus there. I stayed there for 6 hours until they picked me up and took me to this restaurant. I think it’s not really a restaurant, it’s just a meeting place. But officially it’s a restaurant, so nobody would ever suspect that it’s nothing but a meeting place for people to cross the border.
Were there already other people waiting?
Yes. There were already 20 other coyotes and their people. Everyone brings their people here until they can fill up a bus. This was even a greater number than last time. This was a bus of I think 50 people. This time they took me to a city in Mexico, I forgot the name, but on the other side of the border is Douglas.
We stayed there for three nights.
All 50 people?
No, the bus carried 50 people but only like 10 people that I knew stayed with me. Actually this time I decided to come to the U.S. because I wanted to see my best friend. And because a cousin of my cousin also wanted to go there. But she didn’t make it.
Did she try to cross the border at the same time with you but she was in another group?
Yes, she got into another group.
Were you planning to stay in the U.S.
*pause* Yeah. This time I’m gonna stay 5 years and it’s already been 2 years.
So, you were in this border town on the Mexican side and you were in a group with 10 people. And there were other groups also, right?
Yes, this time really sucked because where I stayed was a really crappy motel which was connected to a bar. I did something silly… All the people that were with me also wanted to get to the same state as me and we went to the bar which was next to the motel. And that’s where I needed to use the bathroom and it was totally dark and there was nobody there. I did what I needed to do in the bathroom and was on my way out and these two guys got in there. One of them was blocking the exit and the other one was restraining me. He was like “Give me your phone. Give me your money.” So, I think I smiled and he punched me. I don’t even remember where. I just remember he punched me on my eye, my cheek and my wrist. I don’t remember which hit was first and second.
But they let you go?
They didn’t let me go but I guess when they hit me I made a sound like I didn’t scream but ‘Ahrg’ or something like that. The bartender heard me and came to the bathroom and grabbed the guy by the neck and took him away from me. But these guys didn’t actually take any money from me. I think they just hit me because they were trying to rob me and I was laughing about it. I don’t even know why I did that…
Is that your natural reaction to being robbed? Laughing?
Yes, I guess…
Probably would be mine too…
So, my face looked horrible and that was the beginning of the not-so-nice days. Three days after that happened we had to go. They made groups of three or four people. I got in the group with the people that were traveling by themselves. So, there was me, I was the oldest. I was 21 or 22 and the other guys were 19 and 16.
16! Oh my God…
I was worried about the 16-year old guy but I guess they were in pretty good shape. Because this time we actually had to climb the wall. They helped us.
The wall. What wall? At the border?
Yes. There was an huge antenna or something you can see from far away. They told us to run in this direction and when we see any immigration patrol just lay down on the ground and hide because when you lay down they can’t easily see you. And we did. And we saw a bunch of patrols in jeeps and we saw how they were getting everybody. From the 15 groups or more that were there only my group made it. Which was a nice thing because if they get you you get a record.
And you can never come back to the US…?
…or apply for a visa. I don’t know. I made it, through. We walked so long. For two hours or something. We finally got to Douglas.
Did you have a GPS device?
No, they just told us to follow the antenna which was in the city on the U.S. side. As soon as you get to the antenna you want to walk two blocks and stay there. They told us not to look suspicious or anything.
Oh the city is right behind the wall? This time there was no desert?
Yeah, it’s like an hour but it took us so long because we had to hide and stuff. So when we were in the streets, like near the house and everything we were supposed to call this guy so he can come and pick us up but he never answered the phone. So we didn’t know what to do. And that’s when it was night. We waited for like 5 hours and by that time we felt like giving up. It was 11 o’clock at night and it started raining and all we worried about was not getting the phone wet because we knew we needed it. We were freezing because they didn’t get us until 12 o’clock the next day. And it was raining and cold and we had nowhere to stay. I went to sleep next to an air condition box, you know how there are air condition boxes outside of houses? It was kind of warm. And I lay down next to it because it was freezing. One of the other found a big cardboard box. He put it upside down and just stayed inside of it. It was big enough for both of them. And I think it was about 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning and we were sleeping and there was a noise. It sounded like a bunch of horses was running by. So we kind of hide because we were afraid it was a sheriff or something. When the sound was gone we looked and saw it was another bunch of immigrants and they were just running in the same direction because… I don’t know…they were supposed to meet somebody or were going to the same house… So we tried to run after them but they were too fast. And I don’t know why but they just disappeared. I think they thought we might be cops running after them. They just hide and we couldn’t find them.
Finally, how did you make contact to the guy who never answered the phone?
Because they answered the next morning. We got picked up by a different coyote, not the one that was working for us. So they got paid to give us back. We were basically kidnapped or something. They knew they would get much trouble if the police found out that they are keeping us in their house. So, they put us where the dogs were staying. We lay down in the dog’s house or whatever. They didn’t give us food. They let us use the kitchen but there was nothing just dirty dishes. There was no soap, so we couldn’t wash any of them and decided not to eat at all. We stayed there for two days. It was so hot. We didn’t have much water. It was horrible. After the two days the coyote that was supposed to take us across the border finally came to pick us up and he had to pay money. So he took us to his house where it was like 50 people. There were two rooms, one bathroom, one kitchen and a living room. But one of the two rooms was just for the coyotes. So they were staying there nicely. They had air condition, food, stuff.. But we we wearing almost nothing because it was too hot and we had to do turns to cook or do dishes.
Where there showers?
There was a shower but we didn’t have soap or anything. We were wearing the same clothes all the time. I lost like 15 pounds. When I actually got here I looked like a fucking skeleton.
And from that house how did you get to your final destination?
It was like the first time. Whenever there were 15 people going in the same direction that’s when you leave. Except this time they didn’t drive us from the house all the way to our destination. From the house they drove us to some place in Douglas before the checkpoint. At the checkpoint the police would check the car. So we stopped 10 miles before the checkpoint and we had to crawl for 30 min so they won’t see us and then just lay down until it’s dark. After it got dark we had to start run for 20 minutes and after that we had to walk for several hours. If you don’t care for yourself nobody would. Like if you fall down nobody will come back and get you. So you have to be really careful. Nothing you can do but be persistent and try to catch up with everybody. All in my mind was me praying and stuff like this. And at least I made it and I was proud. And actually I felt very lucky because in the first try I made it, just my group made it. Out of 15 groups everybody got caught but us. So I felt very lucky. I don’t know if it was because I was praying…
You think the other groups were not praying? Atheists?
Hmm, that’s what I was saying, I don’t know if it was because I was praying. Or because the other groups were just careless.
Or maybe you were just lucky.
I don’t know.
And then you arrived at the Walmart Parking lot again?
No, this time they delivered me to a restaurant and my brother was waiting for me there. He took me to his house so I could take a shower and then he took me shopping because I had nothing with me but my dirty clothes. He actually let me wear some of his clothes which were twice as big than me.
How long did this second crossing take you.
It was about two weeks.
And how much did it cost?
The first time was $1800 and the second time was $2600.
Thank you very much.
You are welcome.

(slightly edited for clarity)

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