The Net of Immigration

Audrey Buturian Larson, contributor

Photo of students on the Mexico CGEE trip enjoying Tres Leches cake in front of a mural in Tepotzlán, Oct. 16, taken by Faiza Mohamed

For three months, I lived and learned in Cuernavaca, Morelos in Mexico. Cuernavaca is perched in the middle of forested mountains and alive with people, culture and food that I was lucky enough to immerse myself in. My time was filled with fun and connection but also saturated with learning. This learning led me to experience a more interconnected, personal and comprehensive understanding of immigration and its effect on the world. My thoughts on immigration much more complicated and nuanced than when I arrived. 

Family is a huge reason that people emigrate. This is reiterated by the testimonies of Cesar and Lucio, two immigrants who now live here near Cuernavaca and shared their stories with us. Cesar went to the U.S. without documents and Lucio went with them, but both of them went with the intention of making money for their families, build homes, and to put their children through college. They also talked about the dissonance of loving their children and wives and wanting to be the best fathers they could, but in order to do that, having  to “abandon” their children for years at a time to make enough money to provide a life they never had.

Money is another big factor of immigration. One U.S. dollar is worth 20 pesos and the minimum wage in Mexico is equal to about $7.00 in one day. I share this to contextualize how much more your time is worth working as an immigrant in the U.S., whether documented or not. Going to the U.S. to make money may cost you a year or two of seeing your child and a terribly dangerous journey to get there, but you will also make more money in one day in the U.S. than you will in a week in Mexico. I feel like everyone would agree that if they could go somewhere and earn a week’s worth of money in just one day of work, they would do almost anything to get there. 

The argument against immigration that I hear most often is: “if they would just do it legally I wouldn’t have a problem.” We learned, though, that even when done legally, like in Lucio’s case, immigration is not easy. I wrongly assumed that if you had documents, you could come freely into and out of the U.S. and that those papers could not just be taken back. That is definitely not the case. Even when Lucio came into the U.S. legally he was still treated terribly, still had horrible working conditions and was still constantly threatened with deportation. 

The treatment of immigrants in the U.S. is cruel and inhumane. This is made even worse by the fact that much of the U.S. territory belonged to Mexico. What I most want to express from my many conversations and experiences here is how every person we heard from was full of life, humor, inspiration and hope for their futures. This was shown in their dreams, whether to see their children graduate from college, help other deportees, or just be with their children again. Each one of them left me feeling a combination of anger, sadness, determination to help, and hope. These emotions led me to consider my power as a U.S. citizen and how I can use it to take positive action to aid people caught up in the net of the immigrant struggle. I encourage you to look for opportunities to do the same.

For more information, please check out: Casa Tochán, migrant shelter, and Deportados Unidos en La Lucha (United Deportees in the Struggle). If you want to talk more, feel free to email me at audreybuturianlarson@gmail.com.