Monday, October 6, 2008Life was difficult as an undocumented immigrant

Immigrant Stories
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Elizabeth WeberElizabeth Weber immigrated from Mexico 13 years ago with her son and husband. She came with a temporary visa that eventually expired, and for years she and her family lived in the United States without documents. She is now a U.S. citizen and a business owner. Here she describes life as an undocumented immigrant.

Gallacher: Was it hard to be here without documents?

Weber: It was hard. I would find a job and then they would check and find out I didn't have the right papers to work and then they would fire me. Then I would have to find another job and hope that they wouldn't check and that I would be OK for a while.

And sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. And sometimes I was just there for three months and then they would check and they would say, "You don't have the right papers to be here. You are a great worker, but you don't have the papers we need. If you get the right papers we will give you the job back, because we like the way you work. You are very responsible and a hard worker, but this way we can't keep you. We have to let you go." And I cried. I felt terrible because I never got fired from a job anywhere. And I feel like, "I am not doing anything wrong." (weeping)

Gallacher: You feel like you are a good person. So that was really hard to be treated like a person with no value?

Weber: Yes, it was very hard to feel like I was doing something wrong when I was just trying to work. I just wanted a better life for me and my family.

Gallacher: So the first few years were difficult?

Weber: Yes they were very hard. During those years I was always wanting to go back to my own country because nobody treats you that way. You are somebody there, not here.

Gallacher: Is that still true?

Weber: No, actually I feel like I fit in here now and I don't want to go back. I just go back to visit my mom. Actually, people here are very nice. They are just trying to do the right thing. If you don't have papers they have to protect themselves, too.

Gallacher: Can you describe what that's like to feel like a stranger in a strange land?

Weber: I don't know. It is just really hard and you feel like you are always doing something wrong. You are always scared because they are going to find out that you are lying. You have to start lying in order to be able to work and do stuff. It is something that is not positive to do but sometimes you have to. If you don't, you won't have a job and you won't have a life.

And it is really, really sad. It is really sad and it's hard because in your country you have never lied. A person who is from here they don't know. They don't know what it is like to be "illegal." They don't know because they don't suffer from it. They never feel what it is like to try to find a job and they tell you without these papers you can't work.

And people tell you, (whispering)"Oh, immigration is at every corner." And you are always looking for it, and you are so afraid that they are going to come and take you away. And you don't want to go back because at least here you are making enough money to pay your rent and your food. And sometimes in Mexico, you don't even make that.

Gallacher: So, you wouldn't have left Mexico if life was different there?

Weber: No, I wouldn't. Because I felt I belonged there. That was where I was born and that was where I was raised. And if life was different, it is a beautiful place to live. You have everything there, but not a good government. (sighing) ... 0immigrant