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“ We have applied for Australia. Trying to move there.” He said rather thoughtfully.
“ Move? Again? Immigrate again? With 5 dependents? Are you sure?”, I replied with a tone that couldn’t hide my concern.
I ran into him at one of our favorite latin dance spots. A place I knew he would visit on Fridays, him and his beautiful Columbian wife of 22 years junior. I had known them for almost four years now. Their family was almost doubled in size since then.
Miguel was a hispanic immigrant. He had run the border in his twenties. A smart, hardworking and very capable young man. Probably born in a wrong place, at a wrong time. His father had given him the gift of depending on his hands for making a living. He could fix anything when it came to cars and engines. What a fortunate coincidence! He had to become independent and support his family by the time he was fourteen. His father was killed way before he was able to enjoy the fruits of his life.
“ But, why do you want to take all the trouble again? With 4 kids?”, I asked. Trying to change his mind while secretly wishing I was as bold as he is.
He replied, with a deep fatigued voice, “ We are still illegal, Afsaneh. We are living our lives on egg shells. I am tired. 18 years. I can’t do it any more. I want to walk in the streets freely and without fear. I want to take my kids to a picnic and cook for them without the anxiety of being questioned. I want to be able to attend school events and be a part of my community. Not just the tight community of illegal immigrants. But a community that can support us in achieving our dreams. A community where my kids can have as much opportunity for success as others.
You know I work very hard. But, you know what happens? Every mechanic shop I work for under pays me and eventually doesn’t pay because they know I can't speak up. I work in the shop all day and then teach boxing in the evenings just to provide for my family. But it feels life I am just chasing my tail. I am not getting anywhere. I can’t even establish a home for my family. We are running from one apartment to another. I can’t do it anymore.
When it was just me, it was ok. But now, with Sofia and four kids… I want to have a place I can call home.
This land was not the land of dreams for me after all. And I don’t want my children to carry this feeling in their hearts. I want them to feel that they belong. It has been tough. Really tough.”
“ I can’t even imagine, Miguel. I can’t even fathom. It breaks my heart and at the same time fills it with admiration. It’s hard to say anything! I wish you the best. I know it will not be this way for ever.” I was just babbling. Not able to find words.
I see my child in his kids’ eyes. What would I have done for my kid in a situation like this? What if I was born into poverty and hardship? What if I had to work for cash for the fear of losing everything I have built? I feel that our lives are way more intertwined than we think.
Five years ago when they met on the dance floor, Sofia was visiting United States with her two kids on a tourist visa. She had come to visit her sister and to get away from the mess of the marriage she had left behind. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do. She had a feeling she didn’t want to go back. They moved in together, living under the same illegal roof and raising her kids. Soon, they grew their family. Raising four children with abundant love and ample insecurity. What a dichotomy!
I ponder, where would life take them. How is history repeated in their story? People moving across the globe, facing unthinkable hardship, to finally come to a place they can belong to. Will they ever?
Belonging; this inconvenient and cruel human desire.