September-October 2013

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IMMIGRATION STORIES In Search of the American Dream by Sheeba Raj A fter enduring unrelenting physical and emotional abuse from her mother, Vivian Szawarc wanted out. Her then-husband and sister got Vivian her travel documents to help her flee Argentina for the United States. In 1986, at age 19, she flew on a plane for the first time. As Vivian and the other passengers disembarked from the plane in Tijuana, a Mexican immigration officer pulled her aside. The officer said she stood out because she was a white person with green eyes so he asked for her visa to the border. She simply replied, "How much?" He took her to his office where Vivian handed him a $50 bill. She was then allowed to leave the airport. Vivian called her sister, who told Vivian to head to the house of someone her sister knew. When Vivian arrived there, she found no one. A neighbor across the street took her in for the time being. Vivian's sister then told her to check into a hotel, so the neighbor's son accompanied Vivian on a bus to that hotel. After spending the night there, Vivian learned the next morning that her sister had made arrangements for a coyote to smuggle her across the border. Vivian was told to go to a particular corner and look for a woman holding a piece of toilet paper. Afterward, Vivian and the coyote headed in an SUV to another house. As the day wore on, more young women entered the house. When night fell, all of them left and walked to the border. They crawled under u Top, clockwise: Vivian Szawarc, 18-19, in Argentina; Vivian, 20, after arriving in the United States; and Vivian now. the fence and then alternated between running and sitting. They continued until they reached another house, which was crowded. Vivian found some space to sit against a wall and was given a dirty, smelly blanket to warm herself. The next morning, a man wearing a military uniform rounded up the people and told Vivian and two other young women to lie down on the floor of the car and keep quiet when the car was stopped or when they heard talking. Vivian was in the front and anxiously awaiting the reunion with her sister in the United States. "I was coming from a very bad emotional state, so I didn't allow myself to feel any fear," she said. S EPTEMBER/ O CTOBER 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. $500 for Freedom, Worth Every Penny 19

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