Financial Hardship / Making History / Stories

Maria and Alvaro F.

Maria and Alvaro F, Iowa, Born in Mexico

mariaandalvarofsMarried for 18 years, we came to the States 22 years ago. We had been childhood sweethearts in Mexico since we were 15. Our two U.S.-born children make us very proud, especially our 21-year-old daughter, Nancy, who is a student at the University of South Dakota. She will graduate this year with a BA in psychology and a minor in Spanish. Our son Sebastian is four and has his whole life ahead of him. We came here to provide them with a better life and this is what keeps us going.

In 1997 Alvaro’s brother began the process of sponsoring us for legal residency. Now, 18 years later, we are hoping to get an answer. It has been a long road of waiting and worrying about being deported — being separated from our children. We’ve both worked for two decades at Nebraska meatpacking plants. Now we work different 11-hour shifts so one of us is home to care for Sebastian. We don’t get to see each other except on weekends. The job itself is hard – knife work for years then packaging as a bit of a step-up. Alvaro has gotten only one raise in all these years. The pay is minimal and the working conditions very difficult. Since we’re Undocumented, we have little recourse to express grievances, though union members and friends stand with us when things become intolerable.

It’s exhausting to live a lie, to be unable to find a good job, to be afraid to stand up for our rights, to live in fear, to contribute taxes to a system that doesn’t include us. Without drivers’ licenses, transportation is always an issue. We haven’t seen our families in Mexico since our arrival here and we miss them.

How we got to this country shouldn’t define who we are. Our mere presence shouldn’t be illegal. We are saddened by the fact that our daughter encounters much of the same bigotry we have faced. We had hoped that those in her generation would be more accepting.

What makes everything worthwhile is knowing our daughter will soon graduate from college and that she is intent on helping others, already interning with foster children. With young Sebastian, we are hopeful that he grows up in a country where immigration reform centers on our stories, our contributions and recognition of us as fellow Americans who have earned our rightful place in this country.