LUIS. PHOTO CREDIT: CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, RED CROSS VOLUNTEER
MIGRATION AFFECTS THE LIVES OF MILLIONS ACROSS THE UNITED STATES, THE AMERICAS, AND GLOBALLY. THE HUMAN+KIND PROJECT SEEKS TO HIGHLIGHT THE STORIES OF MIGRANTS IN THE US-MEXICO BORDERLANDS AND THE WORK OF HUMANITARIAN ORGANIZATIONS TO SUPPORT THEM, INCLUDING THE WORK OF THE RED CROSS. FOR MORE FROM THIS PROJECT, PLEASE CLICK HERE.
Chuy — I joined the Marines because I wanted to change my life. I thought it would help me be something and become a man.
Unfortunately, while in the Marines, I had an accident. I fell off a truck in Puerto Rico. The whole platoon was in the truck and we were going back to base. I hit my head. I lost my memory. I was in a coma for almost a month, I couldn’t remember anything. I hurt my shoulder, my knees were banged up and I was on crutches. I was lost.
When I got back to San Diego I found out that my father was in the hospital. He was really sick. He died. When that happened, I just went crazy, you know? I started doing a lot of things. I got arrested. During my legal process, I got deported. I wasn’t right. I tried to get a medical discharge from the Marines but got deported before I could. The military gave me an undesirable discharge. Instead of helping me go through the process they just got rid of me. It’s not like I could do anything [in the military] anyway so they just got rid of me. That got me all mad. I was depending on that to get me a better life. When that happened, I don’t know, I just went crazy. It just broke my heart.
After I got deported, I went back to San Diego. I was acting differently. I started messing up, really messing up. I got arrested a lot of times and did a lot of time for things that weren’t worth it.
I got tired of doing time. I felt that if I stayed in the United States I would end up doing life. The last time I got arrested, I was in a car with a girl. She was the driver of the car and she had drugs in the car. We got pulled over and she told the cops that it was her car, that the drugs were hers, and that she was the owner of the car. She asked them to let me go but they did not want to let me go because I had a record. They thought she was covering for me. She was willing to testify at trial.
Eventually, I asked my attorney how much time she was going to get and he told me they were going to give her 25 years. The girl was young, you know? She was 24. I told him, I can’t let her do that. I didn’t think it was the right thing for a man to do. I told my attorney to get me the least time possible so she wouldn’t do that much time. He thought I was crazy but my attorney talked to the district attorney and they offered me 11 years. I told him I would sign [the plea agreement] for the 11 years. They ended up giving her only 2 years.
After I did my time in 2003, I ended up in Tijuana. I don’t like it here but they had told me I could have spent 36 years to life [if I had stayed in the United States]. If I had not signed up for the 11 years, I would have been in prison right now. I just decided to stay over here. I’ve been ok. I mean, I don’t like being here but I would rather be here struggling then locked up in a cage all my life.
Chuy — It's crazy here. I wouldn't want anyone to live here. When I first got here, I thought I was on another planet. It was hard. I've been here 13 years already. It's still hard. I can't get a job here — I'm too old. I can't stand for a long time or walk far. I can't sit for a long time because my knees get stiff. I take a lot of medications in the morning for pain. My knees are all cut up from the accident. By 2-3-5 o'clock, I can barely walk. I have a car — my kids bought it for me — but I'm trying to sell it because I need the money.
Some days are harder than others. If I didn't have my family I don't know what I would do. My mom helps me a lot. My wife helps me and my kids help me. If it wasn't for them, I would get no help from nobody.
I talk to my family [in San Diego] every day. They're good kids. I'm blessed. I'm happy they did not turn out like me. I try to help people. I'm not out to hurt anyone. If I can help instead of hurt, I'd rather help, you know? I stay away from problems. If I can straighten out a problem, I do. I think I help more people than they help me, but that's ok. I always say that payment is from up above. I always do everything from the heart, not because I'm waiting for something in return. I just try to do my best.
I believe in God. I don't go to church every day but I believe in God. We all gotta believe in something. God is my strength. I give thanks to God for everything — the good, the bad, everything. I give thanks to God for the bad because I know the bad is not his fault. I'm the one that's doing it. Sometimes I do things that I don't want to do, you know? But He doesn't make us do anything. We do it. He gave us the right to choose. I talk to God every day — every day, every day, every day for as long as I can remember. Every night, before I go to sleep, I give thanks to God. I thank Him for giving me that one more day, for all the things He's given me. I thank God for just being alive, for just letting me breathe. And I ask for forgiveness for whatever wrong that I've done. He doesn't blame us for whatever we do, He forgives us. He's a good God.