Erica grew up in San Salvador and had to work with her parents since the age of five to help earn an income to survive on. "It was very difficult for us to even make enough to buy bread for our family of five." Having lived in poverty all of their lives, Erica's parents decided to send her to the United States at the age of 16 to help financially support her family back home. "The cost of the trip was a fortune for us, but with a lot of effort we were able to get together $2,300." In order to come up with the money, her family had to sell many of their possessions, including their only cow, with the rest being obtained through loans by close family members. Erica was forced to abandon her studies in school.
"There were many problems along the journey, but at the same time I knew God was with me and he took care of me each day." The people transporting the group of immigrants that Erica was traveling with asked for money beyond what was originally agreed upon. The Mexican immigration border patrol also demanded money, although Erica had none left to give. During the trip, one night Erica awoke to one of the men trying to touch her. "But God helped me in that situation and nothing more happened. When we got to the border, I realized that I was in a completely unknown place and alone. It's only God that saved me."
One of the fellow travelers had family members living in the U.S. and agreed to house Erica once they arrived. "When I came to the United States I had a lot of expectations and many illusions of what my new world would be like." The language barrier was a struggle for Erica at first, although the family she was living with helped her learn English over time. "When I made the decision to come to the United States, I was determined to learn English and get a good job." Erica wanted to attend high school but had to work in order to help repay the loans that enabled her to come to America.
Now at the age of 31, after being in America for 15 years, Erica owns a home and two cars. "We are very comfortable and my life is very beautiful, thanks be to God. He has blessed us with children and even though sometimes we find difficulty in finding a job, God has always been faithful and kept us afloat." Since working in America, Erica has been paying into America's tax system. "What depresses me and saddens me the most is that I have been here for 15 years paying taxes, yet without the opportunity to get any proper documentation." Erica hasn't been able to see her parents during her time in America and hopes that one day her children can meet their grandparents.
"My dream for the United States would be to build a better country filled with peace and where we can communicate as brothers and sisters without being judged on the color of our skin. I have faith that God is going to change hard hearts and that he will transform them into being kind and full of compassion for all the different people that come to this wonderful country. When God formed the earth, he formed it for all of us, and he was not saying put borders here and borders there or huge walls so that nobody can come through. He said that we should love each other the way that he loves us. May God bless this nation and may he bless everyone living in this country with love and the ability to share it with all the immigrants of the earth. Remember that those of us who work here do it to obtain money in an honest way for our families."
Juan Daniel Espitia lives 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.