Immigrants’ Stories

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Ricardo [is] a follower of Christ and the father of five children, three of whom are US citizens. Ricardo entered the country illegally more than twenty years ago, and for the last twenty years has worked to support his family while serving in his community. However, if Ricardo were to go back to his village in Mexico now, he would be resigning himself and his family to abject poverty. His other option would be to split up his family, leaving his three “legal” children with a neighbor.

(Source: David Platt, Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call to Counter Culture in a World of Poverty Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Abortion, Persecution, Orphans, and Pornography, Tyndale House, 2015, page 206)

Pedro and Martha are somewhat typical undocumented immigrants. They are both originally from Morelos, a small Mexican state south of the capitol city. They married young and have long struggled economically, as many do in Mexico, where more than ten percent of the population lives on less than two dollars per day. Early in their marriage, Martha recalls, they had nothing to eat besides simple corn tortillas and salt.

They considered migrating then, a few decades ago, to find better work and a better future in the United States, but under U.S. immigration law their financial situation made it extremely unlikely that they would be granted visas.

Pedro found work in a factory, making fabrics for export to the United States and other countries; it was hard work at a relatively low wage, but the family was able to support themselves. The couple had four children over the years. It was a challenging life, but they were surviving. Then the factory where Pedro worked went bankrupt and closed, and Pedro lost his job. Pedro found other jobs, but could not make enough income to support the family. Afraid to ask her husband for money that she knew they did not have, but unwilling to see her children drop out of school, Martha began to take out loans for their children’s school expenses. Eventually, she had to tell her husband that they were severely indebted, with interest payments for the school loans using up the better part of the income that Pedro was bringing in.

Desperate, the couple decided that there was no option other than to have Pedro head north: their seventeen-year-old son, Harold, decided to accompany him. Martha would stay behind along with the other three children. Pedro had relatives—two sisters and some cousins—living in the Chicago suburbs, who offered a temporary place to stay and to help them find work. They would send money back to pay off the debt and support the rest of the family.

(Source: Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang Yang, Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate, InterVarsity Press, 2009, pages 30-31)

Bal is one of an estimated 1.5 million undocumented Asian immigrants in the United States, accounting for about 13 percent of the undocumented population. HE legally entered the United States through Austin, Texas in 1988 because he was working as a crewman for a shipping company. After entering, Bal completed his contract with the shipping company. In the United States, he was offered a construction job, with a monthly salary equal to what he would earn in one year in the Philippines, his home country,. He accepted it, though it violated the terms of his visa, and he has been in the United States ever since.
Bal has tried on multiple occasions to obtain legal status, even paying thousands of dollars to “immigration consultants” who promised him a green card. Under current law, though, Bal has no right to apply for permanent legal status: the supposed experts swindled him.

(Source: Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang Yang, Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate, InterVarsity Press, 2009, pages 37-38)

As a young man, Walter fell into the wrong crowd of friends. On one occasion, in 1992, a friend offered Walter what he should have known was too good to be true: a large sum of money for himself if he’d make a discreet commercial exchange with a stranger in downtown Chicago. Walter made a bad decision — and he ended up convicted of a crime and imprisoned for two years.
After serving his time and being released from jail, though, Walter’s life experienced a radical turn-around. Drawn to a local church by a particularly notable girl in the choir — Andrea, now his wife — Walter realized his own need for redemption. Walter accepted Christ in 1995, putting his past behind him…

In 2007, Walter and Andrea started a church on the north side of Chicago, and it has grown steadily as it ministers to Spanish-speaking people from throughout the region.
Last October… Walter traveled to his home country of Colombia for a vacation. Upon his return to the U.S. in November, Walter presented his green card and his passport, eager to be at home in Chicago with Andrea and his two children… The immigration agents at the airport in Miami, however, informed him that there was a problem: His crime, committed in 1992, for which he had satisfactorily served his criminal sentence, rendered him deportable.
After several hours of detention, Walter was allowed to return to Chicago, but the authorities kept his green card — and informed him that he would need to report to immigration court in Chicago… where a judge will determine if he would be allowed to stay or required to leave.


Raised in northwest Iowa, Martha was only three-years-old when her parents immigrated to the United States. Martha strongly believes the United States is her home and the only one she has ever known in her entire life. Growing up, she visited Mexico a few times, where her parents are from, but she never really knew any cultural or social aspects of the country. 

As years passed by, her parents were constantly helping her find people that were trustworthy to start her process to obtain legal status. However, several obstacles came in the way––money was taken away from her parents, lawyers and notaries were paid to help with the process but never did. After 9/11, the process to obtain status became more complicated. Martha was left without any ability to start her legal process, and the only way she could be allowed to stay in the country was if someone chose to petition for her. Later in 2007, she married her now-husband and started her naturalization process. What she thought would be an easy process, turned into 13-months of waiting in Mexico and getting her residency denied. The counsel that was processing Martha’s case at that time told her she wasn’t eligible for a waiver and wouldn’t be allowed to come back to the United States for ten years.

At that time, Martha was a senior at Northwestern College, and she had to finish her degree online. After her ten-year bar was up, the current legislative system and lawyers helped her apply for the DACA program. According to Martha, DACA has been a blessing and opened many opportunities for her, including the opportunity to work and obtain a teaching license. Although DACA is a great program, Martha knows this is only a temporary fix. There is a lot of fear and anxiety within the DACA community; many individuals are afraid to come forward and ask for help due to the fear of being deported or losing their families. Most, if not all of them, are only seeking a better life for themselves and their families. One of Martha’s hopes is for Congress to pass legislation that would give DACA recipients, including herself, an opportunity for a pathway to citizenship. She believes DACA recipients are contributing members of society, and she hopes to see some positive changes in the next few years.


Jose was born in a small town in Mexico, and he came to the United States when he was two-months-old. As years passed by and he was about to graduate from high school, he came to realize what it meant to be an undocumented immigrant. Prior to graduating, he had qualified for the Bill Gates Scholarship, a program that gives students a full-ride to the school of their choice. He attended a seminar to get more information and applied for it; however, he noticed one of the criterias in the application was to be an American citizen or a Legal Resident. This was the moment when Jose realized how the immigration system worked. 

Jose applied to the DACA program, allowing him to apply for his first job and attend a community college. According to his pastor at Hickory Grove in North Carolina, Jose has become an excellent leader in the church and the broader community. Jose has served and loved his community well, and he has become a mentor to many members. After building a relationship with Jose and seeing his exceptional leadership throughout the years, Pastor Pressly believes a legislative solution for dreamers, like Jose, needs to be implemented.

‘‘If I were to receive citizenship through DACA, my main goal would be to finally get involved in making our communities better…having the ability to stay in the country would mean to give my all to this country,’’ says Jose. 



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