TUCSON - It took years for Normaeli Gallardo, a single mother from Acapulco, to drum up the courage to join the growing stream of Mexican women illegally crossing the border on the promise of a job, in her case working in a Kansas meatpacking plant for $5.15 an hour.
First, she had to grapple with the idea of landing in an unfamiliar country, all alone, with no grasp of English and no place to live.
Then she had to imagine crossing the Arizona desert, where immigrants face heat exhaustion by day, frostbite by night and the cunning of the "coyotes" - smugglers who charge as much as $1,500 to guide people into the United States and who make a habit of robbing and sexually assaulting them.
And finally, Ms. Gallardo, 38, who earned $50 a week at an Acapulco hotel, had to contemplate life without her two vivacious daughters, Isabel, 7, and Fernanda, 5. That once unimaginable trade-off - leaving her children behind so they could one day leave poverty behind - had suddenly become her only option.
She simply did not earn enough money, she said. If she paid the electric bill, she fell behind on rent; if she paid the water bill, she could forget about new clothes for the children.
"My heart broke, my heart broke," said Ms. Gallardo, who crumbled as she recounted her decision to leave her girls with her sister and make the uncertain journey across the border. "But I had to give them a better life. I told them I would go and work, and we could buy a small plot of land and build a little house and have a dog."
Undaunted by a backlash against illegal immigrants here, Ms. Gallardo is part of what some experts say is a largely unnoticed phenomenon: the increasing number of women, many without male companions, enduring danger and the risk of capture to come to the United States to work and to settle.
As many as 11 million illegal immigrants are thought to be living and working in the United States, though estimates vary.
No one knows how many people illegally cross the Mexico http://snipurl.com/lg4q United States border, trekking through the desert, hiding in cars and trucks, or walking through points of entry with false papers. But academics, immigration advocates and Border Patrol agents all agree that the number of women making the trip is on the rise.
Katharine Donato, an associate professor of sociology at Rice University in Houston who studies Mexican migration to the United States, estimates that as many as 35 percent to 45 percent of those crossing the border illegally today are women. Twenty years ago, fewer than 20 percent of the people crossing illegally were women, she said.
The increase, which has occurred gradually, comes at a time when anger over illegal immigration is on the upswing, especially in states near the border. Some of that anger is directed at women who have babies in American hospitals and send their children to public schools.
The House recently passed a hard-hitting bill that seeks to beef up border enforcement and make it a federal crime to live in the United States illegally.
But to most of the women who cross the border, the debate over illegal immigration and the ire of taxpayers has little bearing, if any, on the difficult decision they make to undertake the journey. " 'Vale la pena,' " said Kat Rodriguez, an organizer for the Human Rights Coalition in Tucson, echoing a refrain among the women. " 'It's worth it.' "
Some women cross simply to keep their families together and join their husbands after long separations, a situation that has grown more pronounced since the Border Patrol agency began stepping up enforcement 10 years ago. With the border more secure in California and Texas, many people are now being funneled into the rugged territory of Arizona - an effort that virtually requires the help of an expensive coyote to cross successfully.
Yet a growing number of single women, like Ms. Gallardo, are coming not to join husbands, but to find jobs, send money home and escape a bleak future in Mexico. They come to find work in the booming underground economy, through a vast network of friends and relatives already employed here as maids, cooks, kitchen helpers, factory workers and baby sitters. In these jobs, they can earn double or triple their Mexican salaries.
"It remains a story about family reunification, but the proportion of women coming to the U.S. who are not married and working full time has gone up substantially," Professor Donato said. "So we see the single migrant woman motivated by economic reasons coming to the United States that we saw very little of 30 years ago."
Still, the promise of a sweeter future often goes unfulfilled.
Ms. Gallardo never made it to Kansas. She never made it beyond the desert. After walking eight hours at night and committing $500 to a coyote, she stumbled down a rocky hill near Tucson and broke her ankle. The coyote left her sitting on a nearby highway in the desert, where the Border Patrol eventually found her, took her to a local emergency room and deported her to Nogales, Mexico, the next day.
A Mexican immigrant group, Grupo Beta, took her to a Mexican hospital where she was told she needed surgery on her ankle at a cost of 3,000 pesos, or seven weeks' salary. She also owes the friends who gave the coyote $500.
A month and a half earlier, Margarita Ximil Lopez, 20, had her hopes dashed, too. She sat in a dismal holding cell at the United States Border Patrol station in Nogales in October and tried to hide her tears from her son, Edel, who is about to turn 6.
It was for his sake, she said, that she illegally crossed the border, only to be abandoned by the coyote and picked up at a motel by American immigration officers. Ms. Ximil, from Puebla, a large city southeast of Mexico City, had hoped to join her sister, who had lined up a job for her as a waitress in Los Angeles.
Here in Arizona, a tide of anti-immigrant sentiment has swelled along with the number of border crossers, some of it directed particularly at women. Many taxpayers say they resent that their tax dollars are being spent to educate these women's children and pay for their delivery costs at local hospitals.
Reacting to the surge in illegal border crossings, voters in Arizona passed Proposition 200 in November 2004, which, among other things, requires people applying for some public benefits to show proof of citizenship.
The economic reality of illegal immigration is complex. Whether these workers cost taxpayers more than they contribute has been debated for years, factoring in the taxes collected, the unclaimed Social Security funds and the undesirable jobs filled at low wages.
Pregnant women who are already in the United States illegally invariably use hospitals to give birth, though statistics are unreliable because emergency room patients are not asked their legal status. Children born in America are automatically granted citizenship, and some critics accuse the mothers of exploiting that guarantee.
But advocates for illegal immigrants maintain that the women's reasons for coming here reach far beyond citizenship for their children; few women come to the United States expressly to have babies, collect benefits and visit the emergency room, the advocates say. Jim Hawkins, a Tucson sector Border Patrol agent, said such instances were rare but not unheard of.
"I had a woman sit on the south side of the fence until she went into labor, then jumped the fence," Mr. Hawkins said. "She was coached well: she immediately asked for an ambulance."
After she gave birth, the woman was ordered to return to Mexico. Rather than have her baby put up for adoption, Mr. Hawkins said, she took the baby back to Mexico with her.
The nation's roiling immigration debate weighs little on the minds of the women who cross here. Nor do the dangers of the crossing itself, which they know routinely include sexual harassment or assault. As the borders have become tighter, the coyotes have become more violent and desperate, law enforcement officials and immigration advocates say.
"These poor aliens are nothing but product to these animals," said Mr. Hawkins, adding that many women are raped, robbed and abandoned at the first sign of trouble and are given amphetamines to keep them moving faster at night.
Since most women do not come forward to report the crimes - because they do not speak the language and are illegal, ashamed and scared of deportation - few hard numbers exist. But there is ample anecdotal information to bolster the claim.
Maria Jimenez, 29, who is from Oaxaca and came here to work and join her husband, has experienced most of what can go wrong. The first time she crossed into Arizona three years ago, she was told by a coyote to expect a three-hour evening walk across the desert. She packed no water. The journey took two nights and three days, and Ms. Jimenez grew desperately dizzy and disoriented.
Then the coyote, an American, tried to sexually assault her and her sister-in-law, she said. "I told him no," Ms. Jimenez said. "I started to cry." He left her alone, but robbed her of the $300 in her pocket. Then just as they neared a highway, the Border Patrol arrested the group.
She tried again a month later carrying drinks with electrolytes but no money in her pocket. She made it, joining her husband in Tucson, where she got a job at a restaurant and had a baby, Stephanie. A family emergency in Oaxaca forced her to return home last year. But in November, she came back into the country, this time with a group of eight people - four of them women she met in Nogales.
During the trip, Ms. Jimenez slipped and fell, spraining her ankle. She wrapped it in discarded clothes strewn across the desert by other immigrants, and she hobbled on.
After a night of walking, they reached the railroad tracks and hopped a freight train to Tucson. Her husband paid the coyote $1,000.
Ms. Jimenez, her husband and baby now share a house with another family. She found work quickly in a restaurant kitchen for $5.25 an hour, no breaks, no sick days.
"We are all scared when we cross," she said. "But the thought that we can help people back home makes it worth it."
-------------------- Regards, Bill _ _______________________________ _ I could eat a can of alphabet soup and shit a better argument than that. Posts: 5508 | From: East central Indiana | Registered: May 2001
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To express my deep sadness at the plight of these poor Chicana entering the U.S. to find a better life would severely tax my literary skills so I won't even try.Suffice to say that my tears and snot are dripping all over the keyboard as I write this.
And that poor woman who didn't get to Dodge City to work at the EXCELL plant is pitiful beyond words.
There is ,however,some good news.A lot of Mexican girls who can't speak Eeengleesh find employment as nurse aides in hospitals.At bath time,give that Mexican girl half a chance and she'll play with your dick.
-------------------- FUCK OBAMA Posts: 815 | From: By The Salt Fork | Registered: Sep 2003
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