by Oscar Picazo
The foundation of the United States of America has always involved immigrants as a component of the country. Throughout the history of this nation, the privileged have always used immigrants as the labor for our output. The outcome of this method has always been more profit for the owners of companies. Therefore, the exploitation of immigrants as cheap labor has created the infrastructure of America. It worsened when companies began to place their factories in third world countries because they would have to pay higher wages if they were in America. In the book They Take Our Jobs!, Aviva Chomsky discusses some of the hidden truths of our economy and deconstructs some of the myths regarding immigrants. One example she talks about regarding the exploitation of labor is: “Products can be produced cheaply when business expenses-things like wages, benefits, taxes, infrastructure costs, and the cost of complying with health, safety, and environmental regulations are low” (Chomsky 13). I believe that the most considerable reason for the success of this country has been through the hard labor of immigrants. My grandparents are a part of that category of hard working immigrants. “America is a diverse country built through many decades of hard work by generations of immigrants like my grandparents and likely yours” (Vallorani). My grandfather, Baudelio Picazo, has always been a hard worker his entire life. I wanted to hear his life story, so I interviewed him for thirty minutes to understand his struggles and triumphs in his life as an immigrant, and his becoming a legal citizen in America. He comes from a small town in Jalisco, Mexico called Mezcala de los Romero. In my interview, a common theme that transpired resembled what many call the “American Dream.” My grandfather envisioned his American dream in Mexico and his journey to America as a better life for his future family, altered it when he got deported numerous times and during his life in America, and achieved his American dream when he began to live here with a secure income.
In Mexico, my grandfather envisioned his American dream as a better opportunity to work and make more money. In my interview with my grandfather, I asked him, “What did you expect before entering America?” He replied, “Another life, more work, more money.” He wanted to make money and live comfortably. His expectations were meager, but eventually they grew as his simple expectations were met. Immigrants come to America from different countries around the world to have better job opportunities and wages to provide for their families more feasibly. There is no true definition for the “American dream.” Everyone has his or her own interpretation of this concept, whether it is money, happiness, or freedom. According to the academic journal article “The American Dream as the Cultural Expression of North American Identity,” James Truslow Adams gives his definition and interpretation of the American dream:
“The American dream cannot be interpreted as a myth in the traditional sense of the word, but as a metaphor of translation of the diasporic subject from an old cultural space to a new cultural space. This metaphorical translation can be considered at the individual’s level (the immigrant) or, in a larger sense, at the collective level, as a sort of translatio imperii, that is the succession of power or the shift of meaning from Europe to America, the modification of the old European values and their distillation in order to found a new (perfectible) society, the American one” (Adams).
This shows that Adams’ interpretation of the “American dream” is adjusting to a new region with different protocols in hope for a better accommodating society than the previous community they resided in. My grandfather had a simple life in Mexico. He had always worked hard, but in Mexico it was a struggle to earn money to support a family. He did not want to start his family in Mexico because he did not want his children to experience what he had to go through. I asked him, “What was your favorite thing to do in Mexico?” He responded, “Go to school, take milk from cows, and buy corn to make tortillas.” He lived on a ranch and it would have been his responsibility to take care of the land after his father. Therefore, at the age of seventeen, he started his journey to America.
During my grandfather’s travels to America, he achieved a part of his American dream when he crossed the border and started his new life in a different country, hoping for freedom. I asked my grandfather, “How was your experience on your journey to America?” He responded, “Good. I was very young.” I followed up with, “Was it hard to enter? Any problems when you arrived?” He said, “Yes. I needed to cross the line. It was easier back then.” I asked my grandfather, “Were you scared before entering if anything would go wrong?” He said, “I am never scared.” He is a fearless warrior and nothing will stop him from doing anything that people say he cannot do. There are many dangers that come with the risk of crossing the United States border. In an academic journal article entitled “United States–Mexico Border Crossing: Experiences and Risk Perceptions of Undocumented Male Immigrants,” it discusses those dangers that are involved in border crossing. “Little is known, however, about the ways in which undocumented immigrants actually receive information regarding the risks of crossing the border, how such information impacts their preparation for crossing or how the journey itself effects their motivation to cross again in the future” (DeLuca). His exposure to the dry desert did not stop my grandfather from crossing the border five times. Although he had seen the danger of his decision through experience, he risked his life every time he tried to enter America because he had not accomplished his American dream. The opportunities of employment were all over California and on his mind. I asked him, “What did you do when you came to America?” He said, “I went to San Francisco.” His first place he lived was on 17th and Folsom, in the Mission District. Therefore, he started his life in San Francisco and searched for a job to start his pathway to his American dream. The dream started when he arrived to America by crossing the border because he had a better fortune for freedom.
My grandfather’s “American dream” altered when he started his life in the United States because he was deported back to Mexico multiple times. These setbacks made him more ambitious and made him yearn more to be successful. I asked my grandfather, “What was the hardest thing when you came here?” He replied, “The hardest thing was to not come across the police. When I was 23 I got married to Raquel, my wife, and got papers.” He had to constantly worry about encountering immigration police and regular police to avoid deportation and this created a sense of permanent anxiety. From when he was eighteen until he was twenty-three, he got deported five times. I asked him, “Did you ever encounter the immigration police here?” He said, “Yeah, a couple times. They told me to leave but I didn’t, and they sent me back to Mexico.” The first time they stopped him was in Chinatown and he got deported back to Mexico. He was in a cell for ten days with over two hundred people that were about to get deported. They were all sent to Mexico on a bus. So I asked him, “After that, you returned right away?” He replied, “About one month after I came back.” This shows that my grandfather does not give up and did not get discouraged from pursuing his American dream. My grandfather got a job at the garbage company in South San Francisco at the age of eighteen. He was nineteen when he got deported for the first time. I did not understand how that worked, but he still worked for the garbage company when he returned from the multiple times he got deported. My grandfather never did anything illegal, except come here as an undocumented worker. The academic journal article “Strange passages: carceral mobility and the liminal in the catastrophic history of American deportation” talks about the history of deportation. “For migrants who somehow fell afoul of the law, deportation was a terrifying ritual journey that would spatially and legally dismantle their claims to belonging” (Blue). This shows that if one does something illegally when one is an immigrant, it will increase his or her chance of deportation and the feeling of not belonging in this country. My grandfather got deported for not having a document that states he is a citizen when he only wanted a better life for himself and his future family.
His American dream was altered by his wanting to simply work as a garbage man and to not get deported for doing nothing wrong. My grandfather achieved his American dream in his life in America when he retired from the garbage company, had his family, and finally lived in peace. He was twenty-seven years old when he bought his first house with my grandmother. In the academic journal article “Buying into the American Dream? Mexican Immigrants, Legal Status, and Homeownership in Los Angeles County,” the authors talk about owning property as a step closer to the American dream. For example, “Homeownership represents far more than legal possession of a residence. Indeed, owning one’s home is a key component of achievement toward the ‘‘American Dream’’ in the United States. It symbolizes autonomy, achievement, and national pride…” (McConnell). This shows that my grandfather achieved his dream by purchasing his own property and feeling like he was a part of the country by having his name on something. Baudelio worked over thirty years at his job and now he is retired and truly living the American dream. He spends more time with his family, gets to travel, and watch sports whenever he wants. He got everything he wanted when he would think about it on his ranch in Mexico. His bare minimum expectations were met, and his American dream grew as his goals were met. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, “Physiological needs for survival (to stay alive and reproduce) and security (to feel safe) are the most fundamental and most pressing needs. They are followed by social needs (for love and belonging) and self-esteem needs (to feel worthy, respected, and have status). The final and highest level needs are self-actualization needs (self-fulfillment and achievement). Its underlying theme is that human beings are ‘wanting’ beings: as they satisfy one need the next emerges on its own and demands satisfaction…” (BusinessDictionary). This shows that once our basic needs are met, individuals desire more to attain their satisfaction as much as they can afford to. My grandfather achieved his “American dream” in America when he lived comfortably in his own house, worked a great job over thirty years, and provided for his family. The present day struggles of immigrants are tougher than what they used to be. Donald Trump has made it tougher to live here as an undocumented immigrant and even tougher to get into the country. To get a visa to live in America, there is a program that runs like a lottery system. According to the academic journal article “The American Dream Roulette,” “The program grants 50,000 green cards annually and started in 1990 as a way of increasing representation of citizens of countries that do not send many people to America” (Radu). That is not enough green cards granted for the number of people that want to enter the United States. Donald Trump also wants to remove DACA, which would deport any student that has been in America since a child. In addition, Trump issued a travel ban for people of certain countries. It is unfair and unconstitutional to ban the people of a whole country from entering the United States. The times have changed: it is more difficult to come to America, and everything is more expensive here, so it is difficult to have a low wage job and support a family, along with paying bills. My grandfather came a long way from Mexico to San Francisco. He did not give up when he got deported five times and continued to pursue his American dream. He envisioned the dream in Mexico, altered it when he got deported, and achieved his dream when he crossed the border and got his basic needs fulfilled. His goals grew as he got more money and maintained to live comfortably. One might say that everyone has a dream and has that want to be met. However, it is up to the individual to achieve those dreams no matter the circumstance they are facing. Most people that wish to come to America have an American dream some day, and hope to achieve and expand their dream like my grandfather did. Every individual’s dream may vary, but it is almost always something simple and attainable.
Vallorani, Brandon. Immigration And The American Dream. Forbes Books, 30 Jan. 2018, forbesbooks.com/immigration-american-dream/.
Chomsky, Aviva. “They Take Our Jobs!” And 20 Other Myths About Immigration. Beacon Press, 2007. Print. Blue, Ethan. “Strange Passages: Carceral Mobility and the Liminal in the Catastrophic History of American Deportation.” National Identities, vol. 17, no. 2, 2015, pp. 175–194., doi:10.1080/14608944.2015.1019208.
DeLuca, Lawrence A. “United States–Mexico Border Crossing: Experiences and Risk Perceptions of Undocumented Male Immigrants.” Springer Link, Springer, Dordrecht, 22 May. 2018, link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10903-008-9197-4.
Radu, Sintia. “The American Dream Roulette.” U.S News The Report, 22 May. 2018, eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&sid=ec4575b8-e8f8-4650-aa97-b5 94b1f18424%40sessionmgr4006.
Mcconnell, Eileen Diaz, and Enrico A. Marcelli. “Buying into the American Dream? Mexican Immigrants, Legal Status, and Homeownership in Los Angeles County.” Social Science Quarterly, vol. 88, no. 1, 2007, pp. 199–221., doi:10.1111/j.1540-6237.2007.00454.x.
Stiuliuc, Diana. “The American Dream as the Cultural Expression of North American Identity.” 22 May. 2018, eds.a.ebscohost.com/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=0b765e6a-b212-46ee-8e35-81 df3c0378d6%40sessionmgr4010.
“How Has This Term Impacted Your Life?” BusinessDictionary.com, http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/Maslow-s-hierarchy-of-needs.html.
Why did you come to America from Mexico?
BP: For a better life for his kids and his grandchildren, his family
How was your experience on your journey to America?
BP: Good, I was very young.
Was it hard to enter?
BP: Yes, I needed to cross the line.
Were there any problems when you arrived?
BP: It was easier back then.
What did you do when you came to America?
BP: I went to San Francisco.
Where did you live when you arrived?
BP: 17th and Folsom
What is different in Mexico when you go back?
BP: No problems over here or back in Mexico, everything is the same.
What do you like more, Mexico or United States?
BP: Both places I like.
What do you consider your home?
BP: San Francisco
What did you expect before entering America?
BP: Another life, more work, more money.
Were you scared before entering if anything would go wrong?
BP: I am never scared.
How was your life in Mexico?
BP: Very good, I was young. I was 17 years old when I came here. I liked it, but I like it here more because it is more convenient.
What was your first job here?
BP: In the garbage, I worked as a garbage man.
Did you have family here before coming here?
BP: No. Everyone else in my family came here after I arrived.
What was the hardest thing when you came here?
BP: The hardest thing was to not come across the police. When I was 23 I got married from Raquel, my wife and got papers.
Did you ever encounter the migration police here?
BP: Yea, a couple times. They told me to leave but I didn’t, and they sent me back to Mexico.
How old were you when you came back?
How old were you when you started working as a garbage man?
BP: 18. I was working at the garbage at the time the police sent me back.
What happened when you came back? They still let you work?
How old were you when you bought your first house?
BP: I was 27.
Were you with Raquel when you entered America?
BP: No. I met her here and when we got married I got my green card.
What do you like about America?
How did the police know you were an immigrant?
BP: Because they asked for my name and an ID, I did not have.
Where was it when they stopped you?
BP: Here, in Chinatown.
How long were you in jail?
BP: 10 days.
After that they sent you back?
BP: Yes, in a bus.
After that, you returned right away?
BP: About one month after I came back.
Where did you live in Mexico?
BP: Mezcala, Jalisco
Any advice for anyone entering?
BP: No it is hard.
How many time did you encounter la migra?
About 5 times
Did they do anything bad to you?
BP: No, just sent me back. Spent about 5 nights in jail.
When did you meet my grandma?
I met her in mezcala, and I seen her out here and asked her to be my girlfriend.
How long were you guys together before you got married?
BP: about 4 years
What were your goals upon coming here?
BP: make money to live comfortable.
How much did they pay when you entered the garbage?
BP: 6 dollars
And how much did they pay you when you left?
BP: 35 or 39 dollars
What was your favorite thing to do in Mexico?
BP: go to school, take milk from cows, and buy corn to make tortillas
What was your favorite thing to do here besides working?
How old were you when you stopped?
BP: I stopped playing when I was 18
Your favorite sports?
BP: soccer and baseball
What position were you in soccer?
Did you play goalie?
BP: No, I did not like it.
What was your favorite thing to eat in Mexico?
BP: Anything I could eat. It isn’t like over here where you have many options. But my favorite I guess was rice, tortillas, and meat when I could eat it.
Any memories that you will always remember?
BP: On the ranch, riding the horse and the donkeys, milking cows. I still like to be on the ranch and ride when I go to Mexico.
Did you have cars in Mexico?
BP: No, donkeys and horses.
How old were you when you got your first car?
BP: Like 18
What car was it?
BP: Chevrolet Impala 59
WHat happened to the car?
BP: I sold it and got another one.
What is your favorite car?
BP: Honda and toyota
What is your dream car?
WHat did you do in jail?
BP: nothing, just wait for them to take me. But mostly sleep.
How many people were with you in the cell?
BP: It was a big room with about 200 people.
Did they feed you everyday?
What was it?
It was beans, eggs, and bread.
What were you thinking when you were in jail?
BP: Nothing, that just how life goes. I know I didnt do anything wrong, Im here illegally and the migra got me for not having papers.
So you got sent back 5 times?
Man, Papa, nothing stops you.
BP: No, nothing.