SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2012       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Kyle Molina

It Was an Honest Mistake

Our neighbors once thought my grandparents had been deported. I grew up with my sister and grandparents on a feedlot called Red Rock, in the Arizona desert almost an hour north of Tucson, surrounded by cows, farmland, and abandoned mines. The cows outnumbered the people. We could hear them over the machines at the mill creating their feed, day and night the moos and stamping of hooves would come through the walls of our trailer; the stench of manure no longer fazed us. Our Chevrolet Suburban was our link to the outside world.

The majority of the people living in Red Rock had good reason to fear deportation since they had come to the United States Illegally. Their assumption that my family was in the United States illegally only seems natural since my family bear no physical characteristics which distinguish them from Mexican people. Our neighbors believing my family had been deported resonated with them, kindling their own fears of being found to be in the United States illegally and removed by Border Patrol agents. I understand their choice to come here was only to improve their own lives but they were already criminals by not obeying the laws of the United States and crossing before seeking documentation.

To get out of Red Rock we had to travel nearly an hour before we got to the nearest city. The tallest building we usually saw was the mill, which went up only three stories, aside from the piles of grains. Past the mill laid desert, some small fields, mountains, and open sky. Looking down the only road out of Red Rock it seemed as though the highway lead know where, just a forgotten strip of asphalt lined by desert brush, cracked, often covered with dirt, and very susceptible to flooding. The mountains surrounding us made it feel as though we were held in, separated from the world.

My sister and I lived with our grandparents since our parents lived and worked near the border. We had good relationships with everyone there. We would visit with our neighbors and every so often someone would purchase a cow and we would have a big celebration and have a cook out. As a child I was unaware that the other people living on the feedlot were all from Mexico, aside from the owners. I just knew we were all tied together by the feedlot.

My mother came to visit us once dressed in her Border Patrol uniform in her plain white car on one of the few breaks she had from the border. Our neighbors saw her arrive and leave with my grandparents and us kids, but did not see us return. All they knew was we had left in the middle of the afternoon with a Border Patrol agent. The next day people were surprised to see we had returned and did not understand what had happened. They believed my grandparents had been deported and we were either given to the state after being removed from our grandparents and we may be abandoned.

At the time I did not understand that some of the people living in Red Rock were not legal United States residents. I had no understanding of why people would need to prove they were from, where they lived, nor did I really know where most of them were actually from; we all looked alike. I only knew of the feedlot we lived in and little of the towns and cities we visited every few weeks for groceries or to have a nice meal at Burger King. To me we all looked the same except the owners who were by far lighter skinned than us. We were so connected to each other there was only one phone in the entire feed lot and it was located in an office near the mill, if anyone wanted to contact us they would have to physically come to us. Even the news seemed like science fiction since every place it spoke of was so unfamiliar even though it was in the same State. My mom’s job gave her a better understanding of the world than I had as a child. She knew of the Immigration reform Act in 1986 and how it created a rift between people of United States since three million foreign people were granted amnesty. It would seem they had found a way around the system, which gave the impression Americans were going to lose their homeland to someone who did not deserve to be there.

The fear of deportation may have helped keep the residents from getting involved in criminal activities, which could endanger themselves and more importantly the families living near my kinds and parents. But that does not stop them all from breaking the law. Border Patrol would regularly deport people from Red Rock, with good cause. They had come illegally and were harbored by the owners of the feedlot at Red Rock. Some of the people there were involved in illegal activities and had criminal histories, even different identities. Their removal helped protect American families.

There can be no good from illegal immigrants they hold us back by creating more crime in the United States. Americans make the United States stronger, a leader of the world. We have only ourselves to rely on.

The North American Free Trade Agreement affected Mexico’s population since it changed Mexico’s agriculture industry causing small farms to fail and forcing those who relied on farming to find jobs elsewhere. This caused families to split over their hardships. The North American Free Trade Agreement may have lead to our increased illegal migrant population and the fear of deportation within the minds of our neighbors. The discussion of the North American Free Trade Agreement originally began in 1986 and was implemented in 1994. This has even lead to toxic dumping by some of the companies polluting the land of the Mexican people. Various manufacturers have moved into Mexico to find cheap labor, nearly resembling slave labor. The people have moved towards the companies, often living in squalor with dreams greater than what they are given to live with. Many children often die from a house being burnt down, while living in the hovels their families have created in order to work for the Maquiladora.

In 1994 Mexico’s economic collapse helping to hasten the diaspora of its population. The root causes of the crisis are usually attributed to Mexico’s President Salinas de Gortari's policy decisions. With a devaluation of the Peso, the work done by the population would be disproportionate to the income earned. When time came to make use of this money earned, some may have found the items that sought were out of their, reach making it hard to survive, forcing them to work harder just for half a step forward. Their choice to move to across the border was to improve their lives and end their struggles in Mexico, but my mom’s job was to keep them from doing so.

When I was stationed at the border in Douglas, Arizona we would see some people cross and my supervisor told me even though they got across they would be caught eventually.

Even though Red Rock was in Arizona, a state within the United States, it felt as though it were its own border holding us apart from the rest of the world after we spoke to our neighbors about the supposed deportation. We came to live there since my family was migrant farm workers and traveled from Texas to Montana, from there to Idaho, and up to Washington. My family did not have to deal with being labeled first, second or third generation American; our veins flowed with the blood of the Yaqui people, indigenous to the southwest and more American than the Americans.

The migrant people have come here to better themselves. Similar to the very first American settlers they have left their own country and eventually, as many before them create a name for themselves here in the United States. The work they do in order to be successful may be the work others wish not to do. In many ways we cannot complain; migrants help make our world go round.

I can only guess now who in Red Rock was there legitimately as a legal citizen of the United States and who was not, since we always had an influx of people who would live there briefly at the feedlot. After finding out my Grandparents were related to a Border Patrol agent, some people stayed away or would be cautious around our family. My family has been living in Arizona for over a century, yet we look the same as those who migrate from Mexico every day. Their assumption that family had been deported only seems natural since my family is undistinguishable from the people of Mexico.

Return to Personal Memory Ethnographies homepage