Beyond Trafficking and Slavery: Feature

Crossing the US-Mexico border, just to see

Crossing the US-Mexico border is a lifeline for some. For others, it’s an adventure

4 May 2022, 6.00am

El Paso in the distance


Fernando Loera. All rights reserved


I had never really thought about crossing the border to Texas. But in that moment, I changed my mind. I wanted to know how it felt to be there. To know that place. I wasn’t planning to stay there; just to go in and out. I wanted to see.

At first I felt scared. But once I was at the crossing I felt excited. I felt an adrenaline rush. There were four of us: me, my brother-in-law, and two others. It took us three hours to cross. We were waiting for my brother-in-law’s mother to pick us up, but she was hiding from Border Patrol herself and never made it. We eventually tried to move forward anyway and that’s when US Immigration caught us. They were riding horses.

I didn’t panic when they saw me. I thought, if they catch us, it’s ok. I knew that because I was underage they would send me back here. And the men on the horses behaved well. They gave us something to eat and blankets. They asked us questions about how many times we’ve crossed, how old we were, etc. And they took our fingerprints and photos. They treated us well.

Read the same story, told this time by Omar’s mother

I have never crossed people myself. It never attracted me. I had a friend who offered me 400 pesos (US$20) to help him hold the ladders that they use to climb. But I said no. It is not that I was afraid. And nobody tried to force me. It was just not what I wanted to do.

My first job was with my brother in a workshop repairing drills, polishers, and other tools. I was 15 and it was just supposed to be a summer job. But I liked it more than school, and I ended up staying for more than a year. I earned little: 500 pesos (US$25) a week. So little in fact that I sometimes had to buy my lunch burritos on credit. I liked the job, but I didn’t like the pay.

It is not that I was afraid. It was just not what I wanted to do.

After that I got a job in the maquiladora (assembly factory) where my mom worked. They paid a little more, around 1250 pesos a week (US$63). The benefits were also good: they included food and transportation. The bus came at 5 a.m. and we worked until 8 p.m. I spent the money I earned on clothes, other things I needed, and sometimes on household expenses. I enjoyed the job at the maquiladora. Since I was the youngest, I became friends with everyone. It was fun. I made it all the way to machine operator, handling a big metal flattening machine.

But that job eventually ended. I’ve done a few things since then. I helped renovate an AutoZone for two weeks. I didn’t like that job though. They had us working seven days a week and getting there was hard – unlike at the maquiladora where they pick you up and feed you. So I left that job. Now I need to find something new.

I re-enrolled in an open high school a little while ago and got my high school diploma. It only took a couple months. After that I tried studying autobody work, but Covid got in the way. I’m going to try again, this time with electronics. I like repairing things, and if I study then I could get a new job in the factory that’s related to electronics. That’s really all that I have in mind.

Read the same story, told this time by Omar’s mother

This story is part of a series of testimonies from children and mothers living in Ciudad Juárez, on the US-Mexico border. The children were all caught crossing into the US, either to pursue personal aspirations or to smuggle people, and are now receiving restorative justice services from the NGO Derechos Humanos Integrales en Acción. The testimonies were prepared alongside DHIA's advocates and have been edited for clarity. The illustration of the speaker is a fictitious rendering produced by Carys Boughton (All rights reserved). The speaker's name has also been changed.

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