An Interview with Arely Orozco
From the April 2013 PNL #823
Editors’ note: According to a February 2013 study by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), the majority of undocumented immigrants deported have no criminal records. Arely Orozco is an undocumented member of the Syracuse community currently facing deportation. She shares her story with us here.
Ursula Rozum: Why did you decide to come to the United States?
Arely Orozco: To give my children a better future. In Guatemala, there is much poverty. After Hurricane Stan, my family was left with no home. My cousins also came to the US – they are in Houston. My children stayed to live with my husband’s mother. I haven’t seen them since I left Guatemala in 2005. But I believe they will have a better life there because of the work my husband does here. But now, since he was stopped by ICE, he hasn’t had much work.
UR: Can you tell me a little bit about your village in San Marcos?
AO: People there are farmers, growing vegetables and corn. That’s what I did.
UR: When did you decide to come to the US?
AO: I was 20 years old. I am of the first generation in my family to come to the US. When our families raised us, me and my husband, we only attended one year of school because it was too expensive. But we want our kids to go to school so they can have a better life.
UR: Is school very expensive in Guatemala?
AO: They say the school in San Marcos is a government school, but it costs 7000 quetzales, about $1000.
UR: And what is the average salary?
AO: Those who have work make the equivalent of about $50 per week. It’s not enough.
UR: Often I hear people say that the border is too porous. Can you tell me about your experience? Was it easy to cross?
AO: No...to cross in to the US, we walked for days. It was very hot and we had to carry food and water with us. I crossed with a man from my town and some women who were carrying children, they were either from Mexico or El Salvador...We were very afraid because we heard there are sometimes assaults. But nothing happened, thank God. A guide helped us cross.
UR: Do you think a better border wall would stop people from crossing?
AO: Who knows – so many people decide to come to the states. Whether they cross or not, they might die in the desert, but they’ll come back.
UR: Some say that immigrants come to the US to “take advantage” of our country, our system, the economy. What do you think of this attitude?
AO: This is a lie. We come here to work, in the fields, in construction, in work that people here don’t want to do. I don’t know why, maybe because these jobs are too difficult or because they don’t pay enough.
UR: What kind of work do you and your husband do?
AO: My husband paints and does landscaping. Right now, I stay home with the children. In Arizona, I worked as a housekeeper for a gringa.
UR: Have you ever experienced wage theft or other labor violations?
AO: When my husband was detained by immigration in 2011, his boss refused to pay him for days of work.
UR: When they stopped you on the highway – were you expecting this?
AO: Someone that doesn’t have papers is always thinking of the one day ICE will get you.
UR: What will happen now?
AO: I don’t know, I go to court on May 8. There’s also a lawyer working on my husband’s case – he [Hector] has court on June 13.
UR: Is there anything else you’d like to tell people?
AO: The only thing I ask is that people sign the petition to ICE to give our family more time here. If they want to help us with signatures, that would be good, because my children will have a better life here than in Guatemala. We are hardworking people. We aren’t hurting anyone. We come here to search for a better future for our families. We know that being here is considered a “crime.” But we don’t want to hurt anyone, we want to have a better life than in our country.
UR: One last question, how do you feel about the movement of younger people who are “coming out” about their undocumented status?
AO: It’s great – they are coming out into the light and if they help achieve immigration reform, that is good. There are many who have children here and their lives here and immigration reform would be good.