We had to take off the tags of our clothing and our shoes,wear plain shirts without words and throw away our documents. If you had a phone number,you had to write it on the seams of your trousers. That way,if the ‘Migra’ (the border police) arrested you,they sent you to Mexico and not all the way back to your own country,” said Oswaldo.
Oswaldo wanted to see the United States.
What he didn’t want (and there was no way he could have known this) was to work day and night,and he also didn’t want all the trouble he went through just to cross the border.
“The Rio Grande was calm. It was Jan. 5,1999. We crossed on foot and without any problems. We started walking through the desert before dawn. We got to a really big fence and the Coyote told us to run. I still have scars. I don’t know how I crossed the fence. But there was no danger,the Coyote was just having fun as he sniffed lots of cocaine from a little bag and laughed,” Oswaldo remembers. He slides his pants up to the right knee showing a deep and long scar that remains,as a tattoo,after that experience.
After three hours of walking,the border police showed up. Everyone ran,and everyone but the Coyote and other two were captured. “The Coyote had had a lot of cocaine,how where they going to outrun him? And the other two got lost,I don’t know what happened to them,” he says.
That is the way he ended up in the INS office,but he knew exactly what to do,since the payment to the smugglers included instructions that explained how to behave if captured. So,he immediately said he was Mexican.
“They started asking us questions to see if we were really from Mexico,but I knew what to answer: They asked me if I had pisto (a word that in Mexico means alcohol but in El Salvador means money). The Coyote told me they would ask that question and had explained the Mexican meaning of the word. Then they asked me what was a Molcajete (a Mexican grinder made out of stone) and I also knew what it was. They searched my clothing for tags,there were none,” he said.
Then,he said,they got upset,they started yelling,threatening him. “That is what hurt the most. There is no need to ill-treat people,because we are also people just like them,even if they don’t like it. They know they need us,they don’t like to clean the sewers,we don’t care. We will do that and all the jobs they don’t want to do. What did they want? To see me cry? To ask for my mom? Did they expect me to tell them the name of my Coyote? I told them I wanted to see people from Human Rights.”
Then the border police took Oswaldo to Mexico.
He tried again. The deal with the Coyote was three attempts to cross the border. If he failed three times then he would have to pay again,but he didn’t fail. On his second attempt he made it to Texas,where he was kept in a warehouse until his uncles paid $3,000 for the boy to go to Washington,D.C.
“Then my uncle took me to Columbia Avenue in Washington. There the Mexicans sell phony papers,Social Security numbers included. They are offering those in the streets for $100,” he said.
Of course they are important
The sheriff of Cochise County,Larry A. Dever,believes that the American government is finally realizing the importance of the growing Latino population of the United States and the economic importance of migrants. According to his way of thought,Washington should be educated about the issue. The sheriff doesn’t understand since,”It has its own dictionary,” and the government says yes and no at the same time.
“Yes,there are a lot of problems in the border,but it is not the people who try to cross,it is the drug dealers,” he said. “Mexicans run,they abandon the cargo and flee,but Colombians don’t,they get in gun fights.
“And the ones who smuggle people are the worst,they know that smuggling is punished less by the law and they don’t care about the people they transport,they view them as animals. Illegal aliens are not bad,they don’t even represent the 2 percent of our crimes.”