Témoignages - 17 December 2014

en - "The cost of a dream"

I was born in Veracruz, Mexico. My husband, Edmundo, was born in Puebla. We went to college, studied Industrial Chemistry and were unable to find work. In 1990 Edmundo and I made a decision that forever changed our lives: we said "I do" and those words marked the beginning of our journey together. That same year, after our first attempt to cross the border was unsuccessful, we came to the United States like many other people looking for opportunities and a better life for our future family. East Harlem, NY, became our new home. One of the most difficult decisions was to leave our loving and close-knit families, not knowing if and when we would see them again. I have three brothers and Edmundo is the oldest of eight siblings. We never realized how difficult life would be: leaving all behind, adapting to a new culture, not understanding English and finding meaningful work.
Shortly after the birth of my first child, I was introduced to the Little Sisters of the Assumption who became the ’family’ we did not have. I began attending their programs – Mothers group, ESL for four years, Nutrition and the Arts & Crafts class. There I felt at home meeting others living in similar circumstances. Eventually I volunteered in teaching the Arts & Crafts class and with Sr. Susanne, I began to lead the mothers group. In 1996 I was employed part-time with the Little Sisters and continue to be employed today as an independent contractor.

Nothing could have prepared us for what ensued.
In 1998, Edmundo was detained by immigration officers after a raid at the clothing factory where he worked. It was a terrifying experience to receive that phone call which contained no information as to where he was being held. Fortunately he returned home late that night lamentably with an order of deportation. We found a lawyer and started a process to stop his deportation. During this long and painful process we went to court and were treated like criminals. With the support of friends and community we initially won our case and residency was to offered to Edmundo, but a month later the decision was overturned on appeal. The next year we received another letter stating that Edmundo had another order of deportation due to our lawyer’s failure to respond to the immigration procedures. The situation worsened. We were extremely frightened and thought about moving because now the Office of Immigration had our information. We decided not to move, just wait and pray that they did not come looking for us. We put plans in place for our sons, Emi 8 and Erik 1½. On the refrigerator there were phone numbers of people they should call if immigration came to take us. They were also instructed to call my family in Mexico. Emi still remembers being at court seated on Father Martin’s lap but not knowing what was going on. Erik recently told me that he had nightmares which he never mentioned to us.
Edmundo’s deportation order still hangs over our heads – it looms in the dark as we stay determined to keep our dream alive. We continue to work and live in the community of East Harlem. We began to pay taxes in 1999 and also paid 10 years of back taxes. We send money to help our families on a regular basis, especially in times of illness. We have not been back to Mexico for many years; we yearn for the day when we will be able to visit in person.

Last year I had the opportunity to talk to NY Congressman Schumer. I shared our story, the story of many, with him and others. The only thing we did wrong was to dream for a better life and if we were to be punished for that, we have been punished enough. My children missed having family around them and couldn’t enjoy the love and care of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was very sad when we couldn’t say goodbye to our own grandparents and very difficult when Edmundo’s dad died and he was not able to be with his mom, brothers and sisters. My father has had several health episodes which threatened his life and every time the phone rings, my heart beats hard and fast. In my opinion, that’s enough punishment.
We need changes in the immigration laws; laws that are just and human, laws that help families to stay united and also help working people like my husband and I to continue to contribute our talents to the benefit of this country. Today our older son Emigdin is in college and soon Erik will be too. Despite everything, I feel that we been more fortunate than many others. We have been and continue to be surrounded by good people who have supported us every step of the way.
Norma Flores