The U.S./Mexico border stretches over 2,000 miles between the United States and Mexico, going through the Sonoran desert and other rough terrain. Its western side reaches into Border Field State Park, California, on the Pacific Ocean, and extends east to Brazos Island, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico.
With very limited opportunities for government-sanctioned immigration to the United States, hundreds of thousands of people who are desperate for economic opportunity choose to migrate to the United States any way they can. Unauthorized border crossing is extremely dangerous, costly, and very uncertain. For immigrants like Jesus and Ãngela who appear in Brother Towns, crossing the border entails huge economic and personal costs, a perilous journey, and the tearing apart of family.
No one knows exactly how many unauthorized people have attempted to cross the U.S./Mexico border. It is estimated that between 1.5 and 2.5 million people successfully cross the border every year. In 2004 nearly half a million undocumented people were arrested attempting to cross the border south of Tucson, Arizona. In 2005 this number rose to 1.2 million undocumented immigrants apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol. According to estimates, the U.S. Border Patrol catches 20-25% of all immigrants attempting unauthorizedcrossing.
My name is Jesús Cardenas. I have a small family, just my young son Armando Carderas and my wife Ãngela. But together we are fighting to get ahead.
I don’t remember the exact day when Ãngela and I met, but it was about six yeas ago when we got together, and later we married. We’ve been married for about four years now.
Because of the unemployment in Guatemala there was not enough money to support our family. There jobs pay so little. So I decided to leave Guatemala to help my family. I came two months after Armando was born. I missed them both so much. I didn’t feel complete. I needed to be able to see my son, and to care for him. So we planned for Ãngela to come north with Armando, and meet me here. It took three years and three months for them to be able to come and join me.
People say that married couples have problems when they are separated and I didn’t want that for us. I wanted to come and be with Jesús because I didn’t want people to talk like that about us. And I wanted to keep the three of us together. The other reason I wanted to come was for my parents. My father can no longer work outside the house. He had an accident and so he can no longer work. I wanted to come here to send money to him and my mother.
We paid a woman from Jacaltenango to take us north. She took Armando and me to Tijuana, Mexico, just south of the border. Just that part of the journey cost us 24,000 Quetzales. That is more than $3,000. Then it cost us $7,500 to cross the border into San Diego. And then later it cost $500 to get to Los Angeles. It was so expensive.
We didn’t have the money at all, so we had to borrow from my friends and family. We also took out a loan from a bank in Guatemala. Little by little we are paying it back.
When we began crossing the border I got separated from Armando. He went with some other people who got across easily and made it into San Diego. But when I tried to cross I got sent back to Tijuana. I was put in a jail for two weeks.
I was terrified about Armando. I didn’t know what had happened to him. I didn’t eat or drink anything for those two weeks. Without my son, I couldn’t eat anything. Finally they let me out, and I was able to try crossing again. I made it. And I found Armando, and he was okay! He had been in good hands. The woman who had helped him cross took care of him, and he was okay.
A lot of times it is a risk to bring a family. People get robbed, and lots of people die out in the desert. I imagine for that reason people don’t want to risk bringing their families. But thanks to God they came across fine too. I’m so happy they’re here with me. With them here, I feel more peaceful. With the love of a family, with all of us here together, we will be okay. With God’s help we will be okay. We’re waiting now for His help, and it hasn’t arrived yet, but He is great, and it will happen.