Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Illegal immigrant

This one was really touching. Immigration took this guy and I'm trying to find him now.

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Deported to Mexico four times, but life is here
By Sam Bhagwat
of The Valley Mirror

Editor’s note: Seeing a police report about a man who had been deported four times, MIRROR reporter Sam Bhagwat went to the Glenn County Jail to talk to him. Deportation, he found, was only the beginning of the story.

“At 40, Gustavo Sanchez could be my father; yet his pleas almost put me in judgment of him. Perhaps, I was his main link to the outside world. He asked this 19-year-old kid to contact his son for him, and to get him an injury lawyer. ‘I’ve told you my whole life,’ he said afterwards, ‘and I didn’t know your name.’” Mr. Sanchez is currently in the Glenn County Jail on an immigration hold. (Translated and narrated to Mr. Bhagwat by fellow inmate Jorge.)

Willows — Gustavo Sanchez only attended school until the second grade, then dropped out; he preferred to work. He was planting tomatoes, planting corn, watermelon; picking tamarind.

When he was 14, he came to the U. S., but his uncle gave him money to go back because he couldn’t find work; he was too young.

A victim of California

He came again when he was 16. He met a girl; they began drinking and partying. He was arrested after they were in a fight. The police told him they would have to get back together or he’d be up to a year in jail.

After that, he was arrested for drinking and deported. He came back the next day. Seven years passed. He worked construction for a company that builds homes in California.

They stopped him because he had a ticket and was smoking dope; they deported him again. He came back again, they deported him in Arizona when he was trying to come to California. He came back again.

He hasn’t found any way to stop the police from catching him. They appear out of nowhere, so he always feels someone is watching. He feels like he is a victim of California.

He had an accident in June of 2006 and cannot work. He was drywalling a garage ceiling while standing on a scaffold; turning around he fell through, onto a pipe. He takes eight pills a day to fight infection, and 12 to fight pain. Sometimes the pills don’t work, he says, and he feels the same as the first time the pain struck. Now, he lays in bed and gets up only to take his medication.

A small apartment to live with his children

He would like an opportunity to interact with his children. They were born here: a son, Gustavo Jr., 19; daughter Maria, 17; son Roberto, 16. Their mother was the same girl he was talking about earlier, an American; they’ve been separated for 15 years because of fighting.

And the mother of his children is in prison. Gustavo Jr. is in Lodi, in prison; Gustavo Sr. would like to get hold of him, but he is locked up, and the police took Gustavo Sr.’s wallet, with his son’s address in it, and wouldn’t give it back.

Maria is living in a foster home, but when he’s free Gustavo goes often and visits. She would like to live with him, but she cannot because of his record. Roberto is with another family, but CPS won’t give him the number. Gustavo doesn’t know why.

He can’t afford to send money to Gustavo Jr., because he doesn’t know what will happen. He won’t sign the deportation papers. He only wants one more opportunity to interact with his children: he sees them, but cannot be with them. He just wants a small apartment to live here with his children.

A person of the streets

He believes in God and does not take substances anymore, he doesn’t smoke, drink, do drugs. In 1998, he lived with a lady in a Christian home in Bakerfield. The lady rescued him from the streets, turned him into a Christian; he went to about four or five days of church a week, at night.

“They believe that when you’re living with drugs, that’s one life, but in church, that’s another,” he said.

He would like to erase his record because he has changed. He apologizes to the community for being a person of the streets. He has been arrested on license charges, DUI and possession of a controlled substance.

Couldn’t come back for 35 years

Before, immigration would just release him when he would tell them his name; he does not know why not now. He is really sick; he will not sign deportation papers because he wants a lower bail. Right now, it’s $12,000.

What would he do if they deported him?

He would have to come back. Over there he has nobody, all of his family are over here. That is why he is waiting until they lower his bail.

They told him this time, he couldn’t come back for 35 years. What’s the point? After 35 years, he will most likely be dead. Before, they told him five years, one year, six months.

I asked again about deportation.

He doesn’t know what he would do. He is really sick; he cannot jump the gate or run quickly [to cross the border].

He has nothing in Mexico now. All of his family is here, 60 to 80 relatives altogether. His mom is legal; he also has some legal brothers, nieces, and sisters-in-law. They’re in Yuba City, Marysville, Sacramento, Oregon, Washington ... but he doesn’t associate with them much. He has always been alone with his mom.

Everyone is well-off except for him. He doesn’t know why.

I show him the police report, and ask why he uses a false name, Gustavo Dias.

His name is Gustavo Sanchez Aguilar. He apologizes for using a different name. Every time he gives that name, he is deported.

Dias is his uncle’s name. He used a residence card with it; the card expired in 2006. He’s not sure whether it was fake or real; he got it from the lady in the Christian house.

Because we come risking our lives

He’s worked in construction, the fields, a nursery, packaging rice, and for five years in Marysville drywalling. Right now, he needs a job that he can do with one hand. He would prefer construction.

It’s easy finding work without a permit. In Red Bluff, when he was 15 or 16, his boss used to tell him, go to school in the morning, work in the afternoon. He preferred to work.

He would say he was 20. His boss would say he was 11 or 12; he would insist on him going down to school. After that he worked in a rice plant in Maxwell; he had a fake ID.

He has never had any problem with ID when working, only when he went into town.

He hopes [California] can accept his apology for the things he’s done.

He doesn’t want anything to do with his past; he would like an opportunity to be right in this country. Because we come risking our lives, and sometimes we fall into drugs and alcohol, when we are young. He doesn’t want any problems now. He apologizes for using things that end life; it’s better to get close to God. He did not understand this.

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