Despite popular belief, however, attaining peace, the group argued, is not as simple as returning to their native countries where they do not have to worry about their legal status.
“We are constantly being told to return to our countries, apply for a visa and return here legally without breaking the law,” said Luisa. “What people don’t understand, however, is the sacrifice it takes to apply for a visa. In a country like Mexico, salaries are incredibly low, so in order to be able to spend $150, about 1,500 Mexican Pesos on a visa, it takes lots of saving and several months of hard-earned money.”
According to the U.S. Department of State, visas cost anywhere between $140 for nonimmigrant temporary visas, to $720 for employment-based applications, plus any number of applicable fees.
“The sad part is that many times, after all that sacrifice, all that effort to do things right and not break the law, our visa application is denied,” Luisa said. “What happens to our money? They keep it; they smile and say ‘we are sorry, have a nice day,’ and send us away. People think it’s as easy as handing in a couple of papers and receiving a visa in return, but it’s not that easy. People don’t understand the procedures involved, the sacrifices involved in applying for a visa that is never guaranteed to go through.”
What they also do not understand, said Luisa, is that their countries are not conducive to a productive lifestyle. In fact, in many places, merely staying alive is difficult enough.
“In Mexico, the drug cartel and gang problems are so bad, I’d be crazy to try and go back there,” Luisa said. “Every day, I hear about grenade attacks, bombings, shootings and kidnappings from family members. There is so much going on that the news doesn’t even have time to cover it all. It’s an everyday thing. The city I am from has no security left; people do not go out, it is just too dangerous.”
For people like Luisa, the American Dream is what they are after. They work for the right to get ahead, to provide a better life for their children, something they hope to be able to do legally.
“All we want is a chance.”