July-August 2013

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IMMIGRATION STORIES In Search of the American Dream by Sheeba Raj A ILA member Maria De La Luz Hernandez was 6 years old the first time she had ever traveled in a car. She had trouble keeping food down as the car made its way from her destitute town in Guanajuato, Mexico, to Tijuana—the first leg in a long, exhausting journey to a better life in the United States. To stanch the vomiting, the driver gave her gasoline mixed with sugar to drink. Accompanying her were her mom, Ursula, one of her brothers, Juan, and her unnamed clay doll. "Many hours passed by and when I woke up, I thought I was in another world," Maria said, instead of her grandmother's farm, which is where she thought she was going and the only place she had ever visited outside her town. "There were so many lights, buildings, and paved roads! … The strangest thing of all was the people! They were so fair skinned. I thought perhaps they were sick! In my hometown, we were all dark and indigenous looking." And as if the 2½ -day journey and change in scenery weren't shocking enough to Maria, in Tijuana, she was soon snatched from her mom's arms by two female strangers and placed in a hotel with other crying children and hardly any adult supervision. She said that these women, who turned out to be coyotes, separated her from her mom and brother out of concern that u her fussiness would derail meticulously crafted plans to escape to the United States. In the meantime, two male coyotes took her mom and brother to the inspection line and instructed them to say that they were en route to the market. The guys then went across the border to receive them after they cleared the checkpoint. A day later, Maria reunited with her family in southern California. One of the two women who had taken Maria at Tijuana posed as her mom and brought her over the border. But the journey was not over yet. The last in a J ULY/ A UGUST 2013 COURTESY PHOTOS WHAT'S YOUR STORY? VOICE is looking for immigration stories to publish. If you have a story to tell about a loved one, a friend, or yourself, send it to us, along with photos. From Mexico to California: Being Smuggled in as a Child 17

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