Their original dream had been to work in the United States and make enough money to build a house back in their hometown, but the rewards they encountered in Alabama far outweighed the dangerous unrest back in Mexico. The promise of financial security quickly outweighed the love for their native land.

When others set off in pursuit of similar dreams, making plans with often dangerous coyotes, or smugglers, their hopes are often crumbled by unforgiving terrain and border patrol. Every year, hundreds die on that same path, taking in their last breath with the moon as their witness. The Espinoza’s were lucky to make it across.

“That journey was the first and last of its kind that I’ve ever made,” said Lilia, 42. “I have no desire to relive that experience.”

Lilia stared off toward the distance; her big, doll-like eyes focused somewhere else, perhaps stilled by the memory of endless hours wandering out of her native land and into California, again crippled by the unyielding fear that they were going to get caught.

The realization crept up on her as though she were still standing somewhere in the Mexican desert, exposed and vulnerable.

“In Mexico, I am free; in the United States, I am not,” she said.