click to view image larger                     Case Study

    “We are all immigrants.  Our only difference is that some of us arrived earlier and some of us later” a great quote from Ruiz (1997).  From the 1930’s to the 1970’s most people that immigrated here were from Europe, it is only recently that people from Mexico began immigrating here (Christie, 1998).  The only difference is, when people were emigrating here from Europe, they already had high income and educational levels (1998).  People that are emigrating here now from Mexico have trouble keeping the economy up (1998).  Economists Beverly Fox Kellam and Lucinda Vargas (1998) wrote in a recent report for the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, “U.S. immigrants, on average, earn less that native workers, and the deficit has been growing-mainly because the gap in education and skills has been widening.” However, tat does not stop many Mexican immigrants from coming to the U.S. in hopes of find a good job.  Moreover, people of Mexico put their lives on the line every day to reach the other side of a 2,000-mile international boundary (azcentral, 2001).   They see it as the U.S.-Mexico border as separating the haves from the have-nots” (2001).  People that live in Mexico view the U.S. as full of wealth, hope, and economic vitality (2001).  They know that the jobs in the U.S. have higher wages and more job openings, even if they are undocumented (2001).  It is said that in a years time, more than a million people will get caught trying to sneak illegally into the U.S., most of them seeking work with higher pay than Mexico (Dennis, 2001).  Unfortunately, more than 1,100 people have died since 1997 trying to reach this land of opportunity (2001).  With all this said, my paper will focus on an illegal immigrant (will call him ‘Garcia’), who can into the U.S. illegally, and although didn’t plan on staying here, has lived here for almost 15 years. 

            Garcia was born in Mexico City (D.F.), Mexico and was the first born of six children.  He was brought up in a poverty stricken family and remembers at age six, he would take the subway all over the city trying to sell bottles of pine sol.  He and his family always had to work hard to get what ever they needed.  Most mornings his mother would have to give coffee and bollios to Garcia and his siblings for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Garcia told me that anything else was to expensive and remembers fighting with his siblings when there was meat or fruit in the house.  Garcia told me, “Meat and fruit was a real treat for us and if one of my siblings took too much then I would get pissed off!”

            When he was about eleven years old his father started cheating in his mother with another woman and had kids with her.  Garcia stated that was when things really went bad at home and in his personal life.  There was less money for them, so all his siblings had to work, even his two year old sister had to sell gum at the airport with her mother.  Then at about age 17 his brother decided he wanted to come over to the U.S. with his girlfriend and send home money.  Chavez (2001) found that most of the 8 million to 11 million illegal aliens already in America are Mexicans.  This is one of the reasons, why Garcia’s brother and his girlfriend felt that they would fit in the U.S.  Garcia stated at that time it was simple to just walk over the border, no one ever stopped you.  So, his mother allowed his brother to come to the U.S. and work to send money to the family.  The incentive to cross the U.S. border is high, because the average illegal worker can make about $60 a day in the U.S. compared to about $5 a day in Mexico (Moore, 2002).  Yet, after only one year of being down here, Garcia’s brother was being severely abused by his girlfriend and called Garcia to come and help him.  So, in less than a week, Garcia bought a fake green card and was allowed into the U.S.  He helped his brother get out of the abusive relationship and they moved in together in a little run down apartment.  It is not surprising that Garcia and his brother made it into the U.S. with little problems, considering the fact that 150,000 illegal immigrants go undetected each year (Christie, 1998).  According to Boston University (2002), that is not all, there are about 700,000 legal immigrants, 275 illegal, and 100,000-150,000 immigrants are refugees.

            Garcia and his brother were only planning to stay here long enough to save enough money to send to their mom to live comfortably, and then leave.  Garcia told me, “When I first came here I didn’t like it, people were rude, no one talked to you or even looked at you and I missed my home.”  So, he and his brother obtained a goal, save $35,000, go to Mexico buy their mom a house and come back, save another $30,000, and then go back to living comfortably in Mexico.  Garcia and his brother are one of the many Mexicans that send home an estimated $4 billion per year to their families and former communities (Chavez, 2000).  So, for three years, he and his brother worked three minimum paying jobs each and were able to save almost $40,000.  According to azcentral (2001) most Arizonans agree that illegal immigrants work harder for less pay than U.S. citizens, perform jobs U.S. citizens are unwilling to perform, and are an important part of Arizona’s economic success.  These are most likely the reasons that were able to find three jobs that would be flexible with their schedule.  After getting all the money together, they quickly went to Mexico and bought they mom a house worth $30,000 and with the rest of the money, they gave it to their mom to furnish the house and do what ever she wanted to do with the money.  Chavez (2001) points out that most undocumented Mexicans, and possibly other undocumented immigrants, come to the U.S. to work for a short time, earn some money, and then return home to develop a business or live more comfortably. 

            After about a month, Garcia and his brother once again entered the U.S. illegally, but this time it was harder.  They had to hire a ‘coyote’ who are people that smuggle people across the U.S-Mexico border (Gonzalez, 2001).  They had to pay the ‘coyote’ $500 each and had to walk for three days through the hot and summery Arizona desert.  They were worried about dying, because they had heard lots of horror stories of people being killed, but they knew they had to come back to the U.S., so help their family stay stable.  So, they took the chance to walk the 2,000 mile border walk with the ‘coyotes’ and became one of the 16% of illegal immigrants that enter the U.S. (azcentral, 2001).  Fortunately, they were okay, and made it with only sore muscles, cuts, and bruises.  Garcia told me, “It was very frightening; we had to duck behind cactus and bushes.  When it became dark, there was no light in the desert, and we often fell on cactus, in deep holes, or on huge rocks.”  He told me that he never wanted to do that ever again or have anyone of his other siblings do that either.  Moreover, he told me that he would not recommend that anyone else do that either.

            When he finally arrived with his brother, he started working again at the same three jobs, to save money to go back to Mexico to stay.  Just for security, they purchased a resident alien card from someone they met on the street and were told that they would be able to take that card down to the social security offices and obtain a valid social security number.  So, he went with his brother to the social security office and it worked to his amazement.  After he obtained the social security card in the mail, he went to a well known company and applied for a job as a carry out.  He got the job and was able to quit one of his other jobs that he hated witch was cleaning dishes.  Then, after about two years, he desperately wanted to go home, but his brother wanted to stay.  Garcia stated, “My brother loved the culture here and the fact that there was not as much poverty here, as there was in Mexico.”  Then, a week before I was planning on going home to surprise my family, I received a call from my mother, telling me that my other brother was beat up really bad in the subway.  She told him that the kids in there wanted his shoes and his clothes and he wouldn’t give it to them, so they told him that if they ever see him ever again they were going to kill him.  So his mom asked him, if she could send him to the U.S. and if he would watch over him and being the oldest sibling, he was obligated.

            Ever since then, Garcia only went back to Mexico once, because the price was getting to high and the risks were getting even higher.  He told me, “Last time I come back from Mexico, I was robbed and almost died of dehydration.  Also, the price was $1,500 for me to return, that is just too much.”  Now, Garcia writes lots of letters to Mexico and spends even more on phone cards, he told me spends about $40 a month on phone cards.  He received a promotion at his job to Manager, and was able to quit his other two jobs.  He now lives comfortably in a house with his wife and his only wish is to be able to send enough money to Mexico so his mom will be able to get a real visa and come and visit him in the U.S.

When asked what are some of the major problems are with Mexico City, Garcia told me that it is over populated.  Reforma (2000) states that in Mexico City, every year 220,000 children are born and 46,000 people die, which leaves a net increase of 174,000 people every year.  Garcia also tells me that the health services there are dirty, and many people depend on “witches” to heal them, in fear that if they go to the hospital they will get an even greater infection.  It was found that an estimated that 8,000 people die each year from heart related diseases (2000).  He told me that the biggest problem with Mexico City is the large quantity of homeless ranging from infant to elderly.  He told me, “I used to hate walking down the street and seeing little kids or elderly ladies asking for money.  It just broke my heart knowing that there was nothing that I could do to help them.” 

            Garcia told me about one of his jobs, that I very similar to a story in the book “Domestic Disturbance.”  He told me that he used to work cleaning offices with two other illegal immigrants and three American’s.  He told me that while illegal immigrants were getting paid $4.25, the American workers were getting paid no less than $9.00.  When Garcia asked his boss why this was, his boss simply replied, “You are luck that you get paid anything.”  Needless to say, that is the job that Garcia quit, when he became a carry out.  In the book “Domestic Disturbance” (2000) an immigrant names Harris worked cleaning city busses for eight hours a day.  While Harris and other immigrants got paid only $5.31 an hour with no benefits, city workers were getting paid $15.04 an hour with full benefits.  Harris told the author, “The city says were no considered workers.  They say we’re volunteers, so we don’t deserve to get paid more.”  This is unfair for all those hard working immigrants.  U.S. Rep. Jim Koble, R-Ariz. (2001), says that “Without illegal immigrants, every motel in Phoenix wouldn’t be open tomorrow. None of the restaurants would have clean dishes.”  The American people depend on illegal immigrants so much and yet we take them for granted.  Tom Rex (2001), manager of the Arizona State University Center for Business Research, says, “You have to argue tat they aren’t taking any jobs away from American citizens.”

            Garcia was asked that if he could have one wish what it would be.  He said, “That is easy, it would be that my mom and my brothers and sister that are still in Mexico would be able to come and visit me.  I miss them so much.”  Garcia has a serious case of home sickness, much like immigrants from Morocco in the book “In & Out of Morocco” (2001).  Immigrants from would not allow their dead to be buried in a non-Islamic cemetery, because they believe that true peace of mind could only be found in their homeland (2001).  This relates to Garcia, because he believes that once he is able to see his family again, he will have peace of mind. 

            The last question that Garcia was asked, was what do you think would be a good solution for the U.S. and Mexico border?  He told me that I have thought about that for a long time and I think I have a good idea.  If the U.S. allowed all of the immigrants that are currently in the U.S. to work, they could take out more taxes and not give us a tax return.  All we would need in return is health benefits and citizenship.  Also, make it easier for Mexican immigrants to get wok visas, that way, they can come and work for a while and then leave.  This way, many Mexican immigrants would only stay a couple of months, and then leave.  These ideas sound pretty good, but would take a lot of work and effort to make possible.  Leiken (2002) states, “Mexican immigrants are not the threat to homeland security.  The real problem is that a large illegal population creates an active market for illegal documents.”

            In conclusion, I would like to point out a quote by President Bush (2001), “Mexico is our neighbor, and we ought to take care of its citizens first.”  There is an estimated 400,000 Mexican immigrants currently live in Arizona, which means that one-sixth of the state is foreign born (Wagner, 2001).  It is sad to think that if an illegal immigrant gets robbed, they can’t go to the police and if they get sick or injured severely, they can’t go to the hospital (Chapa, 2001).  Undocumented workers also typically live in areas of higher crime and work the most dangerous jobs (2001).  Moreover, the new President of Mexico has a lot of work cut out for him, he is ending seven decades of political corruption and undemocratic ruling by the PRI, Mexico’s governing party since 1929 (Chavez, 2000).  Yet, if the U.S. helps Mexico build up their economy, then so many immigrants will not want or even need to enter the U.S.  It was by an instructor at Boston University (2002), “Until Mexico’s economy grows to the level that the country can sustain a thriving middle class, immigration will continue, and it seems as though the U.S. can not decide which policy to institute towards Mexico: to build walls along the borders and hire more inspection agents to keep people out, or try and bolster the Mexican economy through trade agreements.”  It is in the U.S. best interests to have a neighbor that is strong economically and stable politically, we never know when we will need a helping hand (2002).  


Boston University (2002, March 20).  Class Journal: Immigration and Drugs.  Retrieved April 23, 2003 from the World Wide Web:

Chang, Grace (2000).  Disposable Domestics.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: South End Press.

Chavez, Linda (2000, July 4).  U.S. Residents Play Role in Mexican Elections.  Retrieved April 23, 2003 from the World Wide Web:

Chavez, Leo R. (2001).  Covering Immigration: Popular Images and the Politics of the Nation.  California: University of California Press.

Christie, Jim ( 1998, September 3).  Is The U.S. Importing Poverty?: New Immigrants Are Now Often Poor, Uneducated.  Retrieved April 23, 2003 from the World Wide Web:, David A. (2001).  In & Out of Morocco.  Minneapolis, Minnesoda: University of Minnesota Press

Flannery, Pat & Wagner, Dennis (2001, August 26).  Dying to Work: Once Across, They’re Home Free.  The Arizona republic on the Web.  Retrieved April 25, 2003 from the World Wide Web:

Gonzalez, Damiel (2001, August 26).  Dying to Work: Same Continent, Worlds Apart.  The Arizona Republic on the Web.  Retrieved April 23, 2003 from the world Wide Web:

Indiana University (2001, August 21).  Amnesty for Undocumented Workers Would Boost Economies, Bring people Out of Shadows.  Retrieved April 23, 2003 from the World Wide Web:

 Moore, Art (2002).  Is Mexico Reconquering U.S. Southwest?: Illegal Immigration Fueling Aims of Hispanic Radicals.  Retrieved April 23, 2003 from the World Wide Web: wires (2002, August 7).  Millions of Mexican Illegal Aliens Endanger U.S. Security.  Retrieved April 23, 2003 from the World Wide Web:

New York Region (1998, July 19).  A New Immigrant Wave, More Varied Than Ever.  Retrieved April 23, 2003 from the World Wide Web:

Reforma (2000, January 6).  26 facts About Mexico City Taken From The newspaper “Reforma”.  Retrieved April 23, 2003 from the World Wide Web:

Ruiz, Ramon Eduardo (June 1997).  Asymmetry.  Retrieved from the World Wide Web:

The Arizona Republic (2001).  Dying to Work: Highlights: Illegal Immigration Poll.  The Arizona Republic on the Web.  Retrieved April 23, 2003 from the World Wide Web:

The Arizona Republic (2001).  Dying to Work: Interactive Report.  The Arizona Republic on the Web.  Retrieved April 23, 2003 from the World Wide Web:

 Wagner, Dennis & Flannery, Pat ( 2001, August 26).  Dying to Work: Dying to Work.  The Arizona Republic on the Web.  Retrieved April 23, 2003 from the World Wide Web:


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