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Crossing The Line: One Immigrant’s Journey

Your browser does not support this object. View the original here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sULpnyJaHek

Video published July 30, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: KPBS Border Reporter Amy Isackson tells the story of why one man risked illegal crossings to live and work in San Diego County.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

THE IMMIGRATION DEBATE IS BACK IN THE NEWS. WHEN A FEDERAL JUDGE BLOCKED MOST ELEMENTS OF ARIZONA'S CONTROVERSIAL LAW WHICH WAS SET TO TAKE EFFECT YESTERDAY. ARIZONA GOVERNOR JAN BREWER IS APPEALING THE RULING. AND THE DESIRE TO WORK AND LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES CONTINUES TO DRIVE MIGRANTS NORTH. KPBS REPORTER BRINGS US THE STORY OF ONE MAN'S JOURNEY .

Reporter: THIS IS A STATE IN SOUTHERN MEXICO KNOWN FOR ITS RICH CULTURE. IT IS ALSO A STATE WHERE 75% OF PEOPLE LIVE IN EXTREME POVERTY. FOR THE LAST 70 YEARS MEN HAVE HEADED NORTH TO THE UNITED STATES TO FIND JOBS .

THEY TOLD US THAT IN THE UNITED STATES THE DOLLAR WAS WORTH SOMETHING, MORE THAN THE MEXICAN PESO.

Reporter: IN 1974 MAENADES AND HIS FATHER AND COUSIN TOOK A BUS TO TRY THEIR LUCK ACROSS THE BORDER . HE WAS 17 YEARS OLD. THEY HAD SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO TAKE A TAXI A FEW MILES TO MEET WITH ANOTHER RELATIVE WHO HAD HELPED THEM CROSS THE BORDER.

EVEN THOUGH THE TAX IS MORE EXPENSIVE THEY ARE NOT GOING TO KILL YOU OR KIDNAP YOU.

Reporter: THIS IS THE AREA WHERE THEY FIRST CROSSED THE BORDER. THESE DAYS HARDLY ANYONE TRIES THEIR LUCK HERE. THERE ARE TWO FENCES AND THE BORDER IS FORTIFIED WITH MOTION CENSORS AND INFRARED CAMERAS AND A LOT MORE BORDER PATROL AGENTS. YEARS AGO THAT WASN'T THE CASE.

THE BORDER PATROL WASN'T SO STRICT. YOU COULD JOSS YOU WANTED TO.

Reporter: HE AND HIS DAD AND BROTHER LANDED WORK IN THE FIELDS IN CALIFORNIA. FOR THE FIRST THREE WEEKS THEY DIDN'T HAVE MONEY FOR FOOD AND ATE ONLY TOMATOES AND A PLANT THEY RECOGNIZED. THEY LIVED IN A CANYON. WHEN THE PICKING SEASON ENDED THEY WENT BACK TO MEXICO. HE REPEATED THIS PATTERN FOR A DOZEN YEARS. HIS BROTHER TAUGHT HIM HOW TO DO ROOFING AND CONSTRUCTION. IN 1986 ALONG WITH NEARLY 3 MILLION OTHER ILLEGAL AMERICANS HE EARNED HIS RESIDENCY. HE WAS ABLE TO WORK MOST OF THE TIME.

WE WERE ABLE TO SEND HOME 4 OR $500 A MONTH. WE BUILT A HOUSE. THOSE WERE THE BENEFITS OF THE TIME THAT WAS REALLY GOOD.

Reporter: HE BROUGHT HIS FAMILY TO SAN DIEGO IN 2004, 30 YEARS AFTER HE FIRST CROSSED THE BORDER. HE BOUGHT A HOME HERE. MANY OF HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY DID, TOO.

WE ALL BOUGHT AND THEN WE LOST. I THINK WE ARE IN THE WORST CRISIS IN THE UNITED STATES.

Reporter: THE ECONOMIC CRISIS HAS HIT STREET CORNERS ACROSS SAN DIEGO LIKE THIS ONE. HE HAS PICKED UP WORK FOR THE LAST 20 YEARS. HE ALSO EARNED HIS RESIDENCY WITH IMMIGRATION REFORM IN 1986. HE HAD A FEW STEADY JOBS. HE SAYS HE USED TO EARN 20 TO $30 AN HOUR. NOW IT IS $8. HE SAYS HE HASN'T WORKED IN TWO WEEKS.

A LOT OF TIMES YOU HAVE TO ENDURE THE HUNGER. IT IS TREMENDOUS SUFFERING. I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING AND THEN THE FAMILY IN MEXICO SAYS WHAT ABOUT YOUR KIDS HERE AND PAYING FOR THEIR SCHOOL. I HAVEN'T WORKED. I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING FOR ME. I'M LIVING ON THE FIELD.

Reporter: HE SAYS MANY OF HIS FRIENDS WHO COULDN'T MAKE RENT ANYMORE MOVED BACK INTO THE CANYONS. HE SAYS EVEN SO IT IS MORE ATTRACTIVE TO STAY HERE THAN GO BACK TO MEXICO.

PEOPLE WHO DON'T HAVE DOCUMENTS DON'T LEAVE BECAUSE THE KIDS WERE BORN HERE EVEN IF THEY ARE WORKING ONE, TWO OR THREE TIMES A WEEK THEY CAN DRESS THEM. SEVERAL FAMILIES POOL THEIR MONEY TO MAKE RENT. IF THEY MOVE SOUTH THERE IS NO WHERE TO WORK.

Reporter: WAYNE STUDIED MIGRATION.

IT IS A COMMUNITY THAT YOU WONDER HOW ANYONE ACTUALLY MAKES A LIVING THERE BECAUSE AGRICULTURE IS SO MARGINAL. ONLY 4% OF THE LAND IS IRRIGATED. IT IS A COMMUNITY IN WHICH THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR INCOME EARNING IS LIMITED.

Reporter: HE SAYS PEOPLE THERE AND IN VILLAGES THROUGHOUT MEXICO HAVE BEEN HIT BY A DOUBLE WHAMMY. THE U.S. DOWNTURN AND HISTORIC ECONOMIC CONTRACTION IN MEXICO.

IT HAS BEEN FAR MORE SEVERE ON THE MEXICAN SIDE THAN IN THE UNITED STATES. THAT IS IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO REALIZE. SO IT IS REQUIRING A GREAT DEAL OF INJURY NEWITY TO RIGHT THIS OUT.

Reporter: HE IS WORKING ON PLANS WITH THREE SAN DIEGO ENGINEERS TO TAP INTO UNDERGROUND AQUAFERS IN HIS VILLAGE BACK HOME TO IRRIGATE HUNDREDS OF ACRES OF LAND.

A BIG WATER PROJECT LIKE THAT WILL NEED MACHINES AND WORKERS SO IT WILL CREATE WORK, ALL WILL HAVE WORK. WHY WILL THEY COME HERE IF THEY HAVE WORK THERE? TAXIS, RESTAURANTS, SHOP OWNERS. THEY WILL HAVE WORK BECAUSE THE ECONOMY WILL START MOVING AGAIN.

Reporter: HE SAYS A RELIABLE WATER SOURCE WILL GROW NEW CROPS AND LIFE FOR THE VILLAGE. FOR 17 YEAR OLDS FARMING DOESN'T COMPARE WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF AN IPHONE IN THE UNITED STATES.

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