Treks for a Chance to Live the American Dream

By: Irene Patatoukos

        Staff Writer, Tampa Bay

Immigrants tell their story of the journey they made to live the American Dream

Everyday people from all over the world find a way to enter the United State’s illegally in order to live the American Dream. They risk everything from money and their homes to, more importantly, their lives to make it across our borders in hopes for something greater. So many wonder the details of these infamous crossings. Is it really like it is characterized, one quick swim across the Rio Grande and then ta-da welcome to the United States? Or is it something much more involved? Luckily for all of those who have questions, I have managed to get answers.

We begin with a young man of about 28 years old, who managed to cross the border twice, first in 2003 and then again in 2006. He, unfortunately, had gotten caught by border patrol and remembers it as a horrific experience. He was only 19 at the time. His journey began with a one-night stay in a small room that was shared with roughly 50 people. The slept on “beds” that were made of chain link fence covered by a towel. His walk was to begin early the next day but because of some difficulties that came up the official walk did not begin until the late afternoon. The change in plans meant he and his group had to spend a night in the freezing desert, which led to a meeting with thieves who took all of their money at gunpoint. He wonders whether or not this change of plans and this late night meeting with thieves was some sort of conspiracy. After surviving this horrific experience he managed to make it across the border. He thought the worst was over until he met with another struggle. He was forced endure a car ride with about 20 people in a small van for over 30 hours. It was 33 hours down and only 1 left to go when immigration and border patrol had pulled over the van and discovered the group. In his words “I suffered for nothing”.  He chose not to allow this to stop him or kill his spirit. He was determined to try again. He did and managed to make it into the United States.

Another young man, age 24, had a different story to tell. His story was one of a much more treacherous walk through the desert. Of having to sleep on garbage bags covered in garlic so as to avoid getting bitten by scorpions and potentially die. Living off of 2 gallons of water for days. Hiding during the day so as to avoid being caught by the United States government, or worse, the Mexican Mafia. Remembering how he almost died and how some were, unfortunately left behind, never to be seen again. His story was like one we would see in Hollywood. One where pain and suffering, turned into a story of success. He managed to make it to the land of opportunity and felt like he had won a prize that was worth more than any lotto.

A young woman age 26 had a different story to tell. She too had been caught once before but did not allow that stop her from trying again She remembers having to spend 7 days in the desert at the tender age of only 16. She didn’t have enough food or water to last the entire treck. It was on the 4th day when she ran out of supplies. Her fear and determination to make across the border and into the land of opportunity kept her mind off of the thirst and the hunger.  Her suffering did not end once she successfully made it over the border.  Instead she spent hours in a small car with over 10 people until she finally reached her destination state. The entire journey took her 20 days.

A young man roughly age 30 took the chance at around 20 years old. He too, was one of the lucky ones who only spent a few hours in the desert.  He walked through the desert for only 4 hours. He jokes that this was his exercise for the day. He was humble about his treck through the desert. “I did not suffer,” he said. But his tune quickly changed when begins to talk of part 2 of his journey over the border: the time he spent on the train. He had to spend15 hours in a small train car with about 20 other people. This may not sound like such a bad way to travel as trains are known to be a comfortable and effective way to travel. This is not the case, however, when you are not only sharing your space with over a dozen people but with hundreds of tires as well. The idea of comfort and a luxurious way to travel quickly disappears. Just when he thought it was over and he was finally free, he then spend another 3 hours in a crown victoria packed with 10 people. He, unlike many of the others, was lucky enough not to get caught by immigration and border patrol.

Our last interviewee had just had only been 16 for 2 weeks at the time he chose to make his pilgrimage in to the United States.  He recalls spending three miserably hot days and three freezing nights in the desert. They walked for hours. He remembers only getting about 30 minutes of sleep for every 8 hours. During this walk he was greeted by snakes,, scorpions and the remains of dead people who unfortunately did not make it. He too was robbed at gunpoint. Thieves took everything from their money to their drinks. This particular individual was lucky because he hid all but 20 pesos of his money in the lining of his cloths. With no drinks left he was forced to drink whatever water he could find on the ground.  “It was bad and gross” he said “but it was all I had and all I could find”. At the end of their walk he, along with the other 30 people that were in his group, were forced into 1 truck for 2 hours. The worst was over once they had officially crossed the border.  He merely had to wait his turn to be dropped off at his destination. He spent weeks in phoenix and Los Angeles before finally making it to Florida and beginning his life.

So many of us take our status as a legal resident or a citizen in this county for granted. We don’t realize how much people suffer just to make it here, to the United States. So many of us complain about our country and how unhappy we are with some of the decisions of our leaders or the laws we have to follow, while others are risking their lives to touch our soil, breath our air, and live in a land of freedom and opportunity.  So many show their disgust in these people who have entered this country because it was done so illegally. However, do they ever ask why or how this was done? Perhaps if they knew the sacrifices of these individuals their opinions will change.  Clearly there is good reason that exists for these individuals to go through the trials and tribulations they had to endure.