By Guadalupe Navarro Hernandez
Guadalupe (right) working in the United States
My name is Guadalupe Navarro Hernandez. I migrated to the United States three times. The first time, I was 12, the second time I was 23, and the last time I did it was not long ago.
I migrated to the United States because I could not find a job here, in Mexico, and
because the little money that my family earned was not enough to support my children or to pay for our most pressing needs. Leaving my family was very painful, but I wanted to be able to provide for them. I wanted the American Dream.
The first time I migrated I rode the “bestia”, or the train, in order to reach the Northern border. Once I arrived to the United States, I found a job working in the fields of Washington State, picking apples, peaches, cherries, asparagus, squash, and cucumber. I worked hard, even during the winter. Sometimes I went hungry because I did not have enough money for food, much less to send to my family in Mexico. I was not able to get help because I was undocumented. I was always hiding. The working conditions were not good and the wages were low, but I had to put up with it because I did not have papers.
The second time I lived in the United States, I worked in California at a restaurant. I worked from noon until 2 or 3 in the morning. In addition to that job I worked 5 hours at a fast food restaurant.
The last time I went to the United States I lived in California, where I worked as a farm worker. This time I worked with lots of workers, from China and Vietnam. We picked celery and some Asian crops. We started working at 6 in the morning and our workday was over 12 to 14 hours later. When I started the job, we were paid $5.25 per hour. By my third year I was earning $6 per hour. The workers who had papers were getting paid $12 to $16 per hour.
The working conditions were also bad. We were given only 30 minutes to eat lunch. We had to work under the heat and we were not given water breaks. The grower watched us work with his binoculars from the top of a building. I put up with these conditions for my children. I have 5 children and I needed to send them money so that they could go to school.
In order to go to the United States, I had to cross the desert. I walked for 10 days. My group started with 45 people, 15 who were women, but at the end only 17 of us made it, only 3 women. When I was walking in the desert we had nothing to drink. The water we had managed to bring with us was boiling. We had no food. We didn’t eat for four days. During my journey, my legs really hurt. My feet had wounds. My body was full of thorns from when we had to crawl under fences. I had several cuts. It was very hot. We usually walked at night and rested during the day.
I think that the dangers of the journey are worse now than what they used to be. Migrating to the United States is like looking for your death. People are victims of violence at the border. Jobs are scarce in the United States. Our people humiliate themselves in order to work a few hours, at any price. Undocumented people in the United States live like they have no rights. That is why I hope that they pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
Reprinted with permission from the National Farm Worker Ministry.