Crossing The Border: One Student’s Story

The heat is overwhelming and you feel as though you’re slowly suffocating in the small space you call home.  Home has become abandoned, your father and mother gone. You’re living alone with your grandmother, but you want to have a better life.  Your parents finally decide to bring you to the United States, leaving you scared. Not only do you have to leave your grandma, but also you have to cross the border by yourself at 12 years old, facing hunger, thirst and fear.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, as of 2017, a total of 1,127,167 immigrants have entered the country through the border.  Of these 1,127,167 immigrants, 40,000 of them were unaccompanied children. Around 11,800 of those children still remain in shelters held in the U.S and 2,047 children of those held were parentless. One of the children who crossed the border unaccompanied goes to Francis Lewis High School. This is his story.

The source has chosen to remain anonymous

How old are you?


We’re going to begin the questions.  How old were you when you immigrated to the United States?

12 years old.

Who did you immigrate with?

I immigrated by myself.

Why did you immigrate by yourself?

I immigrated by myself because I had no one to come here [the United States] with.

What was the process of your immigration journey like?

It was hard. You have to run because the migra [border patrol] will come and we had to take buses and all that stuff and then we have to cross the river.  That’s the hard part because if you fell out of the bus, you can die because the water is so cold. After that, the immigration will get us. My mom and dad paid for me so that I can get here.

So, immigration caught you?

Yes.  Immigration caught me and my parents had to pay money to them so that I can get out and come here.

Where were you when they caught you?

I was close by the river.  We went to get some water because we were so thirsty and then when we got to the river, there were immigration officers and they got us.

Where did you stay when they caught you?

They were asking us if we were thirsty or if we were hungry.  We said yes. Then they took us and gave us water. Then they took us to the immigration station.

Did you just sit at the station or did they put you in a cell?

They put us in a room that was so cold for 24 hours.  Then they took us out and they transported us to another part.

What was the other part?

It was a house where you can stay, but only go out in the afternoon, where you can play with your friends.  Well you didn’t have friends in the start, but you can make friends there.

Who did you leave behind?

My grandma.  She was a special person to me and I actually cried when I left her.  I didn’t know what was going to happen.

Where did you immigrate from?

El Salvador.

Why did you immigrate to the United States?

I wanted to have a better life.  I want to be someone in life.

Were you not able to do that in El Salvador?

No because that’s a poor country.  They don’t have good education and don’t have good schools.

What was the moment that surprised you the most during your immigration journey?

When the immigration got us.  We thought that they wouldn’t get us, but they did.

Were you surprised by how they acted or did you expect them to act the way they were?

I didn’t expect them to act the way they were because they were kind, they were not rude like other [officers] would be.  They were kind.

What did you expect the United States to be like?

I expected it to be a nice place to live.  To see a lot of buildings.

Are you under DACA or anything similar?

No, I have residency.

How did people first treat you when you came to the United States?

They were good.  In my school, they were fine because they already knew what I was going through.

How did you receive your residency?

I received it by opening a case where my dad and mom left me in El Salvador.  They [officers] would lock me in a cell and after 2 years they gave me the residency.

How do you feel about the new policies of ICE and Trump?

I think it’s unfair because they don’t know what we’re going through, how we are, where we come from.  I think that’s really unfair because this is a big country where a lot of people can live and I don’t think they [government] should do that [have the policies.]

Tell me the birthday cake story: 

It was the 24th of October, October 24th, they[the coyotes] bought me a cake and I felt happy about it because they actually did something on my birthday.  Not like other people [crossing the border] come and they don’t know the people around them [to celebrate.] They don’t even know that they have birthdays. It felt good.

How did they give you the cake? 

They bought me a cake, it cost $20.  My mom paid for it, she paid the coyotes [people who help those crossing the border, usually affiliated with gangs].  There were ten people there celebrating with me. I felt happy, really happy, I wasn’t by myself.

What are your plans for the future?
Buy a house, get married, get a career and go to college and be someone.

Do you think that if El Salvador ever gets a better economic situation and you’re already living here, when you’re older, do you think you would go back to live there?
Maybe for vacations.

Over 5000 people – including students, teachers, staff, and administrators – are part of the Francis Lewis High School community. One in 5000 is a series that delves into the individual stories of the people in our community.