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Raul's Story of Immigration

Mara Davidson
Mara Davidson is an AFSC Iowa intern for Spring 2011. She's been interviewing clients of AFSC's Immigrants Voice Program. Jody Mashek directs AFSC's immigration legal services work in Des Moines. Photo: AFSC

By Mara Davidson, AFSC Iowa intern, March 2011

Raul’s story began in Adrian, Michigan picking tomatoes. Raul came to the United States in 1985, seeking what he thinks everyone else was hoping to find: opportunity. He came with the hope of finding a better life, not only for himself but also for his family.

Raul picked tomatoes for three years, earning about a hundred dollars a day, but only when the crop was in season. The rest of the year he earned nothing, unable to find another job. The first season off, Raul returned to Mexico to see his family, but after that he decided to stay in the United States since the trip back was so expensive and dangerous. Raul’s wife and children remained in Mexico. He worked and earned money to send back to them. “It was a sacrifice,” Raul says. He would have rather been with his family, but he knew coming to the United States was necessary in order to provide a better life for his family.

In 1987 Raul traveled to California where he lived with his sister and her husband. He lived in L.A. and worked in a furniture-manufacturing factory. He was able to get the job through the help of his sister, who was married to the manager of the plant. Here he worked eight hours a day and earned $50 each day, most of which he sent back to his family in California.

Raul spent eleven years in California before moving to Des Moines, Iowa. Raul’s face lighted up when he was asked how he got a job. He was able to get a job on his first day in Des, Moines. “It was very easy to get a job here,” he says. Raul works in a packing factory that ships out all kinds of materials such as books and beauty products. He laughs and makes motions to signify the Proactive product that his company ships out.

He likes how tranquil Iowa is. There aren’t gangs here, like he saw in L.A. and Mexico. The people are friendly to him and he feels safe. Since living in Des Moines, Raul has come to AFSC Iowa several times. He knows many people who have gotten help, and through AFSC he has been able to file for citizenship. Raul just passed his citizenship test and comes to AFSC today looking for information on when the process will be finalized.

After his citizenship is official, Raul intends to help get citizenship for the rest of his family, but it will cost about $1000 for each member of the family so he must wait and earn enough money to help. Raul really believes that AFSC is a place that helps the community. Because AFSC provides affordable services and does not deny services to anyone, many of his friends have received help from AFSC; but he knows many others who are too shy to come forward and ask for help. Raul suggests holding monthly conferences over topics such as how to get your citizenship so that those people who are shyer can also receive the information.

Raul’s entire family has moved from Mexico, except for his daughter. He speaks of his fears for her there. Raul respects that in America we have established laws that are followed. Back in Mexico anyone with the right amount of money could break the law, and the poor were punished for crimes they did not commit.

When asked what Mexico needs to do in order to keep citizens in the country, Raul says that the focus needs to be on education. Once people receive their education, they can get a better job and raise their economic standing; but people do not have the educational opportunities in Mexico that are provided here in the United States. Second, Raul commented on Mexico’s job situation. There aren’t many jobs, and that needs to change in order for people to stay in Mexico.

As the interview closes, Raul goes back to the idea of sacrifice. He knows that deep down every Mexican in the United States would like to return home if they were able to, but the unstable economy and government don’t allow for that. He says that everyone just wants to be surrounded by their family and their own culture, but sometimes in order to allow for your family to prosper you have to sacrifice the comfort of home.

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