An Immigrant Story: Tito Crosses Over

“I take issue with many people’s description of people being “Illegal” Immigrants. There aren’t any illegal Human Beings as far as I’m concerned.”
― Dennis Kucinich


Tito left Ometepe Island on June 9, 2004 in search of a better life for his family. Until he was 24 years old, he lived with his single mother. His father abandoned the family when he was 14 years old and now lives in Costa Rica with another woman. This is the story of Tito’s journey to the United States, as told to me by a local Ometepian.

Tito had many friends on Ometepe Island.  He was a hard worker, intelligent, and pursued English classes offered by the Peace Core volunteer. Tito’s mother owned a chicken bus, a Pullman, that traveled from Moyogalpa to San Marcos. He started to drive the bus at 16 years old, but he needed a special license for bus drivers from 16-23 yrs. old.

He applied for a visa to go to the United States when he was 20, but was denied. Patiently he waited for six more months, reapplied and was denied again. Why? Because he wanted to work in the U.S. to send money home and help his mother recover from debts. He was never in trouble, a good kid, and played baseball passionately.  Tito was not trying to escape from violence or a repressive and corrupt government. He only wanted to help his mother.  During Semana Santa in 2004, he met a man from El Salvador that was crossing people over the border. He made connections with the man from El Salvador and paid $6,000 by taking out loans. He took 2 t-shirts, 1 pair of jeans, and a couple of dollars. (Tito’s girlfriend, who had a visa for the U.S. had Tito’s baby in the U.S., then returned to Nicaragua.)

He went to El Salvador to meet the man. They took buses to Mexico with only IDs and passports. They were tightly packed into trucks…a very dangerous ride. Once at the border of Mexico and the U.S., near July 4th Tito recalled that the border was tight. He had to wait in Mexico almost two months. He had barely enough money to survive.

Between Mexico and Arizona, they walked through a tunnel into the desert and walked from 5 am to 7 pm all night for six nights with 47 people. But, only 11 arrived. Before walking, they prayed. Some were caught the fourth night.  It was the third time that the police had chased them and most of the people were caught. Police had loud speakers warning them to stop. They had to run, so they threw away their water and food. They spent the next two days without water and food. They were pricked by cactus at night, with no flashlights to defend them from the cactus attacks. When they arrived in Arizona, the El Salvadoran coyote transported Tito to Miami in a tightly packed truck. It took 14 days.

When he arrived in Miami where his girlfriend’s sister lived, he met another Nicaraguan man and they rented a room together until his girlfriend and his daughter returned. Now, his girlfriend is an illegal because she didn’t renew her visa, but their daughter has a U.S. passport because she was born in the United States.

Tito worked as a mover and his girlfriend worked in a gas station washing cars, picking tomatoes, painting, and washing dishes. He sent money home to his mother every month, at least $100. Tito has no regrets. He said the work was hard, but he made more money. He’ll have to wait a long time to get his papers.

“What is better? Never seeing your family again, but knowing that they are not suffering or staying and watch them suffer?” Tito asked.

While living in Miami, his grandmother died on Ometepe Island.  He couldn’t chance returning to Nicaragua.  He, along with his girlfriend and daughter, left Miami because of tension with immigration. They were in New Orléans, when Katrina struck, so he and his tiny family boarded a bus to Houston along with hundreds of Katrina victims. He says,” In Houston it is cheaper to live.” He is now a contractor. His father-in-law died of cancer in Houston. His mother applied for a visa to visit him, but she was denied.

IMG_1731A long road traveled, is there an end in sight?

IMG_1755_1At the crest. Is this the end?

IMG_1743What are your thoughts on Immigration reform? Should Tito be allowed to stay and pursue legal residency in the United States?

16 thoughts on “An Immigrant Story: Tito Crosses Over

  1. I’ve heard so many stories like these. It makes me so sad because I understand the reasons for having immigration regulations but at the same time don’t understand why they have to be so severe. My father arrived to the United States similar to how Tito did, luckily he can live to tell the story. Now I’m doing paperwork so that my Argentine husband can accompany me to visit relatives in California (he was denied the visa twice when we were dating several years back). Fingers crossed.

    Thanks for sharing this story.

  2. It is such a complicated subject and I would like to see the US let the immigrants apply for residency. The situation of children fleeing their countries under dire circumstances and barely surviving the trip only to be sent home reminds me of all the Hatians on rafts turned around. Yet, it was ok for the Cubans remain. Politics! One in five children in the US lives in poverty. There is hunger and malnourishment. We have pockets in our suburbs that are considered third world. Like the above comments, it is a passionate and emotional subject. Thought provoking post, Debbie.

  3. I’ll try not to get too involved as I feel pretty passionate about these issues. All of my wife’s family came to the U.S illegally and half are now citizens. My mother’s family was fortunate enough to live in a part of Mexico which later became New Mexico.

    I came to the U.S. in June to go to my grandkids’ graduations, one of whom was valedictorian in a class of 550 seniors. Another granddaughter is an immigration lawyer, another a stockbroker. Their parents’ lives in Mexico were horrible, from a time when Mexico was hardly better off than Nicaragua is today.

    To those who say the U.S can’t afford to help refugees- there are a lot of things the country can’t afford, including a military budget of half a trillion dollars, a large percentage of which goes to contractors with great influence in congressional districts. The country can’t afford to keep drug users in prison at a cost of $50 billion a year due to laws written by lobbyists for prison guard unions and the private prison industry, the same laws which made the drug trade so profitable and financed the cartel violence which has destroyed every country north of Nicaragua. The drug cartels which feed the addictions of Americans and caused the violence and political and economic breakdown in those countries has made such incredibly risky trips somehow seem the only possible escape.

    For so many Americans to put the blame on immigrants for the depressed wages and lack of good paying jobs ignores the offshoring of so many industries that provided employment for the middle class in the not so distant past. It’s not immigrants who nearly destroyed America in 2008. Time to put the blame for economic stagnancy where it belongs.

    Well enough of that. Time to sit on the beach, have a margarita and watch the sunset. See you folks in a few weeks.

    • Brian, I hear you loud and clear. I am so tired of the myths of immigration. Maybe that should be my next post. I’ve read everything I can find, and the talking points for those against allowing legal immigration are mute points. Those who are most passionate about legalizing the immigrants already in the U.S. are people who have personally been affected by the immigration system. I do think our immigration system is broken and in need of a big fix. I’d really like to hear more stories, such as yours, because if people have not been affected personally by these issues, they don’t understand, or care to understand the plights of refugees and immigrants. Thanks Brian. Your comments are always enlightening.

  4. Wow what a powerful post. It is such an incredibly difficult issue that it is hard to put my thoughts in a brief comment. I go back and forth a lot because many of these people who come here want to work hard and simply want a better life. Then you have the people who are persecuted and fear for their lives. The big problem is that millions upon millions of people want to come here and to Canada and Europe from poor and war torn countries for a better life. So where do you draw the line? As much as my heart bleeds for all these people in Central America, Africa, Thr Middle East and parts of Asia, how can western nations absorb them all? We can’t even pay for our education or health care or debt and I read that 30% pf Minnesotas children live in poverty. As a world traveler I know our poverty is nothing like extreme poverty that I’ve seen but we still have our own financial issues with such an enormous debt. So what do we do? Who do we let in and how do we make those choices? I would much rather have people legal than illegal so they too get health care, services and pay taxes. But where do we draw the line with so many war torn countries and millions of refuges around the world? I don’t know what the answer is!

    • Oh boy, Nicole, you ask many tough, thought provoking questions. Here’s my way of thinking. First, the refugee children have to be the priority. We need to find a way to keep them safe and give them a way to start legalizing the residency process. My thoughts always return to safety. For the immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally, we have to give them an opportunity to apply for residency. That way, we can begin the process of recording and tracking all the immigrants. Right now, do we even know how many immigrants are living in the U.S. illegally? Who are they and where are they from? If we develop a path to legalization, it will be safer for everyone..U.S. citizens, as well as immigrants. Meanwhile, new immigrants who want to enter the U.S. will have to wait until we see how those who are already here are being absorbed into the system. Other countries have immigration quotas, don’t they? When we applied for residency in Nicaragua, the process was difficult. We had to have police reports, proof of income, marriage certificates, birth certificates, etc. I believe we should give every immigrant an opportunity to apply for residency. Not everyone will be accepted…same as in Nicaragua. Refugees are a whole other ball game. We have a responsibility to take them in and keep them safe, especially when we’re talking about children. I know, I make it sound really simple, and the truth of the matter is that it’s really complicated, but we have to start somewhere. Baby steps…now.

      • Great answer Debbie. Yes we need to help the children since so many of them are in danger. It is so incredibly complicated. I just can’t imagine sending my children without me anywhere. What tough choices these families have to make. I agree with your ideas. We need to do something to document all the undocumented and get them on the grid. Staying tune for more of your discussions on this important issue.

  5. It isn’t just those faceless people when you hear the story of a person and what drove them to go to the US. I met some Mexicans in Florida who had risked their lives because they needed to take care of their families and there was no work at home. It seems we could handle the problem in a more helpful way.

    • I think the USA should have the same immigration policies and strict laws as Mexico then these people would think twice about coming to the USA. They only help the rich Americans lower the wages of everyone else. Of course the USA needs migrant farm workers but we should keep it at that. I immigrated legally to the USA from Canada and do not appreciate people who have no respect for our laws. It sounds like he had something going for himself in Nicaragua a business shared with his family and that is where he belongs. Sometimes we just have to accept what God has given us and be thankful for what we have. Hay tanto sueñadoras en el mundo latino que quieres mejorar la vida pero no bastante espacio para todos de ellos en EEUU!

      • Dean, it is so complicated. I, too am concerned about immigrants working for less than minimum wage and lowering the wages of everyone else. I wanted to be impartial in this post, because I really want to hear all sides of the issues of immigration to the U.S. Thanks for your honesty and your comments. I truly don’t have any answers, just more questions.

    • Thanks, Kris. I wish there was an easy way to fix this major problem. We are a nation founded on immigrants. We need to find a way to help immigrants with the migration process, so that they can become legal residents. Is that even a possibility?
      It was complicated and expensive for us, when we applied for residency in Nicaragua. Honestly, the most difficult part in the process was the paperwork in the U.S. Surely, there is a way to simplify the process. I believe that if the U.S. could untangle the web of bureaucracy, then immigrants could apply for residency. This would be the safe, humane way because then the immigrants are accounted for and we can track them. Right now, we have no idea who the immigrants are, where they came from, and why they are here.

I'd love to read your ideas and thoughts below....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.