Norma comes from a small town in Nicaragua, where she had to end her education after the third grade. She is the second oldest of six children and worked since she was very young helping to sell the tamales her mother made in the streets. "My father was very abusive and would beat my mother very often," she said. "My little brothers and sisters never had enough to eat so I would often miss school in order to sell the tamales or other food that my mother would make just to help keep us afloat." When Norma was 11 her mother became very sick and wasn't able to work. "That's when I contacted our friends and family for help and they let me stay with them in the city and work for two years until I was 13 years old." At that point Norma and her family had raised enough money for her trip to America.
During the trip across the border, Norma remembers breaking one of her ankles after jumping the fence. "The people I was with kept running, and I was getting behind, so they finally just left me there. I didn't know what else to do so I remained in the desert until a border patrol showed up. I was very thirsty and felt like fainting." Norma had been stranded there for a day until immigration officials took her to a hospital for treatment. Fortunately, Norma's uncle living in America was contacted and she was released into his custody.
"My family life is much better now although I don't speak English. I'm often very worried because I know that the police can come and pick me up at any time. My faith and my commitment to helping my family back home have kept me going, since I know that my siblings and mother still need me. I haven't been able to see them for over four years now, although I'm very happy when they call me. I understand that if I can't learn English then my future is limited to what I have right now, and I won't be able to get a better job. I would love to see my family have a house of their own and not have to worry where their next meal is coming from. I also want my mom taken care of medically, because even though she doesn't complain, I know she's very sick. I hope that my adopted country realizes that we aren't delinquents, but are here to help and give the very best of our lives in an honest way."
Juan Daniel Espitia is a pastor in Solana Beach, California.
This account is taken from Voices of Immigration, a campaign of Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR) aimed at highlighting the stories of immigrants in our country. Believing that every person is made in the image of God, we seek to restore the human element to the conversation around immigration reform. Each day this week a new story will be highlighted on God's Politics, with additional ones posted throughout March at CCIR's Web site: www.faithandimmigration.org.