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A Christmas Wish for the Undocumented

A Christmas Wish for the Undocumented
by Rodolpho Carrasco
Tuesday, December 15, 1998 in Pacific News Service
(Rodolpho Carrasco is associate director of Harambee Christian Family Center in Pasadena, Calif. and a columnist for the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group. Check out more articles by Rodolpho Carrasco here.)

EDITOR'S NOTE: By any standard, Luis has been a success in his new home -- for himself and for his family. But he is troubled because he is in this country illegally, and believes he can -- and must -- resolve that situation now. PNS commentator Rodolpho Carrasco is associate director of Harambee Christian Family Center in Pasadena, Calif. and a columnist for the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group, where an earlier version of this story first appeared.

"The first time I tried to enter the United States," says Luis, "I went all the way to Tijuana without asking God's permission. When I got off the bus, the police stole my money and sent me right back to Mexico City.

"I went to a huge church in Mexico City and had some of the brothers there pray for me. As they prayed I knew everything would be fine. So I tried a second time. As I stood at the border with the coyote, I saw that everybody - the coyote and the fifteen other people crossing with me - was scared. But I had a peace in my heart, because I knew the Lord was with me."

If I were running for political office, I wouldn't tell that story to any voters. It's too complicated. Here's a guy violating U.S. national sovereignty and claiming it's God Above who is guiding him to do so. The other problem is that Luis is sincere. Either he's a little unbalanced or there is some unseen force operating -- neither a good explanation when the public wants an accounting.

But I'm not running for office, and I'm convinced Luis means what he says. I know he is not lying because of what he is about to do.

This Tuesday Luis (not his real name) will board a bus near his home somewhere in the San Gabriel Valley. He will take the bus to the Tijuana border. Carrying his laptop computer and other items stuffed in a suitcase, he will find another bus to take him to Mexico City, his hometown.

The crossing is the thing. For an undocumented person like Luis, crossing the border into Mexico means an expensive and difficult return trip. Luis himself has not re-crossed the border since arriving six years ago. But this crossing is all the more momentous because Luis has vowed that the next time he enters the United States, it will be with proper documentation.

What Luis is saying is a little bit like the kids in my neighborhood saying that they are going to the NBA: It's almost impossible. Because the bulk of immigration - legal and illegal - to California in the past twenty years has been from Mexico, our government ain't giving up a crumb.

I'm staring at Luis as he tells me his story. He sits calmly in front of me, spouting details and confessing dreams. His eyes are red and puffy, but he's upbeat.

"I've been living a lie," he says in smooth English. "To be here the way I've been, I have to tell one lie after another." A fervent Christian, Luis reached a point this summer when he could no longer live with his duplicity. After an Evangelism Explosion meeting at his church, he walked outside, looked up, and thought, "I'm lying to God."

For five months he has agonized over whether or not to return. A return means a return to nothing. The reason he came north in 1992 was to support his mother and younger brother. At the time Luis was a university student. But often, there was no food in the house, he couldn't pay for his books, and his mother would drag herself into the house every night, bone-weary and exhausted. "I couldn't take it," Luis says.

I know what he's talking about. I've been to his home town. It's in view of the smoking volcano, Popocatepetl. Countless children who can't afford elementary school run the streets. Jobs are scarce, and many jobs that are available pay less than a dollar a day. There is a certain type of inertia people display when there are few ways to make money. What they do all day is conserve the money, materials and energy they have.

Like any human released into a free environment, Luis shed his conservationist mode when he crossed the U.S. border, and has been busy building his personal wealth. Working nonstop, Luis has sent back lots of money to his family. He has also acquired a car, two Pentium computers, and list of other material benefits of our robust economy. He has even made time to volunteer, teaching disadvantaged young people to read by reading them the Bible.

He has done what he believes God allowed him to do: come and make money to take care of his mother and brother back in Mexico. But now he believes God is sending him back. He has talked with many friends and advisors and has concluded that God is personally moving in his life. "He will show me what he wants me to do when I get there," Luis says.

The members of his church think he is nuts. "They all say, 'You will be back in a month, tops,'" Luis says. "To be honest, I'm scared. But I pray that God will use me, because that's all I want, to be used by Him."

There are an estimated 3 million undocumented Latino immigrants in the United States today. Luis says that every family in Mexico has at least one person over here, legal or undocumented.

I have a Christmas wish for each one of them. It's not that they come and go as Luis is doing. It's that they can receive the gift of faith that Luis has, that they can know that God brought them here for a reason and that he has a purpose for their lives, no matter where they are.


The copyright for these materials are owned by Rudy Carrasco.  These materials were use with permission by TechMission