Despite that brief break in her composure, she emanates calmness, the poise that comes from deep-seeded faith, the trust that something more powerful exists, guiding her through each day. Her hands, a testament to the hours of manual labor she devotes herself to each day, remained together, almost in prayer, breaking apart every once in a while as she slid her thumb over a simple, gold wedding ring.

Barely three months after they wed, Lilia and Teodoro boarded a plane in Mexico City bound to Tijuana, Mexico, where a coyote waited to lead them across the border into San Diego. The total distance was only 31 miles, but on foot, with no protection and under the cloak of darkness, it meant at least 10 hours of walking.

“To me, it was all a dream,” said Lilia, once again frozen in that distant stillness. “I can’t tell you how long or how far we walked. The hours ran together. I remember constantly being told to stay quiet, duck down, not to run. It felt like my heart was going to leap out of my chest.”

After taking a flight from San Diego to Birmingham, Ala.—before air travel became more restricted—Lilia reunited with her brother, Henry, who was already a resident of Tuscaloosa.

“We left everything behind to come here,” said Lilia. “Thank God, we’ve been able to get ahead here, working together towards a better future.”

The young couple lived with Henry for a year, slowly learning the customs of the southern state. Back then, there were relatively few Hispanics in the area, which lead to some suspicious stares, according to the couple.

“Every now and then, people gave us funny looks, probably because there was no one else around that looked like us,” said Teodoro with a chuckle. He held out his tan arm, glancing over its olive complexion before shifting his gaze over to his three children: the same olive skin, jet black hair and rich, chocolate eyes. They are aliens in this land, but when they look at each other, they are instantly reminded of where they came from, of what and who they left behind.