Photo: Face of the Undocumented, Oscar Molina & Family in Alabama
This beautiful profile was written by one of our contributors Anne Little. Ann is a freelance writer/photographer for over twenty years. Check out her profile on Alabama immigrant Cessylia here.
Oscar Molina looks proudly at his son, Angel, 11, who often makes the honor roll at school. “If I take him to Mexico, his education will go,” says Oscar.
Oscar and his wife are undocumented workers in Montgomery, Alabama, where fear and uncertainty about local laws are causing some immigrants to consider moving to other states or returning to Mexico.
If Oscar or his wife lose their current job, they don’t know if they could find another one without being able to provide worker authorization. Meanwhile, the couple runs the risk of deportation if they are caught driving without an Alabama driver’s license.
It wasn’t the life Oscar’s family expected when they took the huge risk to come to the U.S. Back in their home in Mexico City in 2003, they considered their options carefully. Oscar had worked as a machinist at a factory since he was 15. At 17, one of his fingers was severed by a machine blade, he said. The job offered no chance for a raise or for promotions within the company and paid roughly $70 a week.
Having no work visa, the family decided to cross the U.S border illegally in hopes of finding a new home in Alabama, where they had friends. “You need money for a work visa. No visa; no passport,” said Oscar. In 2003, they paid a coyote a downpayment on the $5500 required for the trip.
Oscar worried about taking his 2-year-old son. He thought, “Ok, if it’s gonna be for a better life, we need to do it.” Six other relatives, including the parents of Oscar’s wife, joined them on the dangerous trip.
In February 2003, they boarded a private bus in Veracruz along with approximately 20 other people, said Oscar. They drove two days to a border town where they hid in a motel room for 3 days, waiting for their guide to take them across the border. Finally, the coyote returned and told them that they would have to walk approximately 20 hours to cross the border. If they preferred a way by car, that would cost more.
Oscar’s in-laws decided to pay more and go in a car, so they left the group. Then, Oscar lifted his son, Angel, onto his shoulders, and, with his wife and relatives, began the arduous walk from Naco, Sonora through desert land often roamed by wild animals. “We heard snakes and patrol dogs barking,” said Oscar.
With their guide setting the pace, they walked from 3 o’clock in the afternoon until around 9 a.m. when they reached a pickup point at a low area beside an interstate, said Oscar. Soon, a car pulled up to take them on the next stretch. “When they come, I don’t feel my legs,” said Oscar. With his family running beside him, Oscar crawled on his hands and knees toward the car.
They drove across the border to Phoenix, Arizona, where the family stayed in a house for two weeks. They waited to be rejoined by Oscar’s in-laws, who had been discovered by authorities and deported back to Mexico.
But the hardest part was yet to come, according to Oscar. After being reunited with his in-laws in Phoenix, the family would take the long trip to Alabama in a cramped van. Just before they left, Angel fell on a pencil that pierced the skin above his eye. The family prepared to abandon the trip in order to get help from a doctor. But the wound stopped bleeding, and the van excursion began.
“That was the worst time,” said Oscar. “I felt scared.” He said they were not given food, and their drivers would only stop twice for a bathroom break. But eventually they arrived safely in Alabama.
Oscar and his wife quickly found work, and Angel entered school. A second child, Karol, was born in 2009. “I feel at home (in Montgomery), ” said Oscar.
The family must now decide whether to return to Mexico or move to another state with more lenient laws toward immigrants.