Somewhere in northeastern Romania. Photo taken November 30, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.

Where are they going next? Not sure. We're staying in Chisinau for a week or so.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A dangerous journey

With the recent strength in the U.S. dollar, there is even more reason for Mexican people to want to work in the United States. We personally know two young Mexican men in their twenties who have made the dangerous, expensive, and illegal journey north across the border.

One of them tried on his own a few months ago and was caught by the U. S. Border Patrol and sent back. So what do you do?

You pay and you try again. Why? Because it's worth it...

They have no idea how many people make their way through the desert and across the border. But they say that there are six and a half million people from Mexico alone who are in the U.S. illegally. And a total of around 11 million if you include other nationalities.

The people we know paid around $4,000 each for the 15 day journey across the border. Part of that $4,000 goes towards paying off officials along the way, part of it goes to paying off cartels along the way, and whatever is leftover goes to the "coyote"...the one who has organized your journey.

An emergency aid station in the desert.

Common. As in every single day.

In our experience, the average unskilled Mexican laborer makes about 250 pesos per day. At current exchange rates, that's about $15 USD per day. And, most of them can live on that. They'll have a Mexican cell phone, they'll have food, and they'll have basic shelter. 

If they make it into the U.S., they can easily make $8 an hour cash. Easily. The people we know are painting houses and making $16 an hour. Cash.

This is the third time one of them has done this over the last ten years. When the exchange rate was 13.5 pesos per dollar, it was well worth it to them to do this. Now, there are 16.5 pesos to the dollar.

It had averaged around 13.5 pesos to the dollar over the last five years. 
It spiked at over 17 pesos to the dollar a couple of weeks ago.

So while these two young men could be back in Mexico making 250 pesos per day, they now make that per hour! Yes, they make eight times as much money by working in the United States.

What do they do with that money? They send it back home to make better lives for their families. Usually, the end goal is to own their own home in Mexico. Then, they will go back to their families and leave the U.S. behind.

It's a struggle for these people. They leave their families for up to two years at a time. Some of them don't make it that long and end up going back to Mexico early. The extra money isn't worth being away from their wives and children for such a long time. Others, stay until their goal is met.

And still others, die in the desert trying to make the journey itself.

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20 comments:

  1. We have seen a lot of those signs and of course the Mexcian workers all over the south west, hard working people.
    Also have seen bus loads taken back across the border as well.

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    1. Anyone that has travelled in the south near the border will have seen these signs no doubt. I think that maybe most of the bus loads that you see going back into Mexico are the workers that are legally brought back and forth each day to work in the fields from the Mexican border towns.

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  2. Good post! People in the US don't realize how important those workers are. Sure a few are criminals as in any group of people but most are just hard working people trying to get along. We should make it easier for them to enter the country not harder.

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    1. We totally agree with you, Don. We think the borders between Canada, the US of A and Mexico should be open and similar to those in Europe.

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    2. Amen to that. However, the political climate in all three countries does not support that notion.
      The political focus in the U.S. Is anti Mexican immigration. That is the focus.
      Too bad common sense does not trump politics. No pun intended.

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    3. Unfortunately you are right Dayton, open borders will never happen. One of the republican nominee has actually suggested that a wall be built between Canada and the US of A, as we are a threat to letting terrorists into our country who will then migrate down to the States! Sometimes you just have to shake your head.

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  3. You are right, it's worth it for these people who just want to live decently and support their families. Our country has lived and profited from the hard working people coming over the border for years and years. It's a crying shame what we do to them. If we took a moment to imagine their life stories and why they come here with such risk, maybe it would put a different perspective out there. We have NO CLUE! And most Americans don't even want to think about it. We should be ashamed because it could easily have been the other way around. All based on the lottery of your birthplace. We have lived in several regions of the U.S. over the years & in every community we've lived in there has been a large Mexican worker population. They are the ones who tirelessly pick our fruit and other crops, who walk through chicken waste to make sure we have meat to eat, who do all the manual labor jobs that no American citizen would dream of doing. I cleaned bathrooms and weeded during my college years because my well off father wouldn't pay a dime more than my tuition. I had to earn the rest and since my parents were in a higher income bracket, I didn't qualify for the so called "good jobs" at my college. I had to settle for the $2.00 an hour cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors, & weeding jobs. It was a humbling experience and one I will never forget. More people need to think back a generation or two to how our parents and grandparents & those before us lived. Somewhere along the way we have lost sight of human decency and compassion for others less fortunate. If we removed all the "illegal" workers today from the U.S. I believe our economy would collapse and many people wouldn't have a clue how to take care of themselves. We need to tear down the "fence" and stop the insanity.

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    1. Well said, Lori! I live in Mexico now and have been incredibly impressed with how hard the people work here. The men who are paid a pittance to shovel the sargassum piles off the beaches in the blazing sun so the tourists can have their pristine white sand. The housekeepers who clean and do laundry tirelessly six days a week instead of being able to stay home to take care of their children, because they need the money for food. I see this every day and realize just how much I take for granted as a US citizen. I think the US should appreciate these folks coming in and doing the grunt work that most US citizens will not stoop to.

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    2. Economy would collapse, your interpretation of keeping the economy from collapsing is millions of people working for cash and not paying in to social security, state and federal taxes and sending the money to Mexico is what is keeping the economy from collapsing?

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    3. Strange, the US economy has managed to flourish for decades without these hard workers paying taxes---why start now? I for one enjoy the relatively low cost of American grown fruits and veggies. Don't fix what isn't broken.

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    4. We also agree that these workers do a lot of the grunt work that others won't do but we really do wish that they could make it the process easier so that it could be done legally rather than illegally but unfortunately we won't ever see this happening anytime soon.

      These workers that don't pay into the system also don't use the system! They also spend money that on food, clothing, lodging etc.so the some of that money ends up back in the system helping the economy and that includes taxes that were included in those items. We're not saying what they are doing is right but as Emily and Lori mentioned it would be interesting to see what would happened to the States if all of a sudden all these illegals were kicked out in one day! I think many things would come to a stand still and eventually you would see prices increased a lot!

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    5. Exactly right Ruth! Our welfare system for "American" citizens is destroying us. people on welfare don't pay into the system, yet get much in return. We have much bigger problems than "illegals" that actually put much more into the system than they get out of it. And all that aside, I think many have lost their moral compass in this world. Imagine if it was YOU living in Mexico struggling to support your family living next to a country of opportunity. What would you do?

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    6. We really do feel that education is the best route in Mexico for making a better life and unfortunately not enough of the population gets a really good education, although it is getting better, bit by bit. Yes, living next to the States and all that the Mexicans see about it in movies, videos and TV would make some of them risk life and limb to try to make their lives better.

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  4. If you can save up $4000 dollars to cross the border, put your life in danger, leave your family behind, why can't you just use that money to get a good education at home and make a life for yourself? The American dream is just that, it's a dream. They get here and can't go back home because they can't risk the chance of not being able to return. At a state university, the cost is 3000 pesos a semester, that comes to 27000 pesos or less than $2000 dollars, All Mexican state universities offer scholarships to 50% of their students.

    I have a completely different take on it. Stay home with your family, work hard and go to school. You will have a good live in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Salvador and Panama.

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    1. I have had direct experience with three undocumented aliens who used coyotes to get them across the border into the U.S. None of them had the money to pay the coyote. All three of them borrowed the money, at usurious rates, to pay half up front. The other half was paid when they were delivered to a family member who preceded them and was working in the U.S.

      If they never made it across to become part of the undocumented workforce, they still had to pay on the loan to a lender in their home country when they returned. If they did make it, they sent money home to family members to pay the loan and then had to repay the money to whomever paid the other half.

      So, your argument about using the $4000 (the ones I know paid upwards of $6000) to educate themselves in their home country doesn't hold water. Additionally, two of the ones I know are from Guatemala where, as indigenous Maya, even if they are educated they don't get good jobs because of the rampant discrimination by the Ladinos (people not of indigenous extraction).

      I personally have paid for the education of 5 members of one family of indigenous Maya and only one of them is able to work in their field. The other 4 have either migrated to the U.S. to be day laboresr and send money home to educate their children and support their parents who are now getting up there in years. I have been involved with this family for more than 15 years.

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    2. I'll agree with Kathe on this one. The people we know were subsidized by an older relative already living in the States. They certainly didn't have the $4,000 in their own pockets. However, I tried my best to tell them to stay in Mexico and use what is available to them to better their lives that way. But they know how much money can be made...

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  5. I had an extensive conversation with a young fellow who had gone to the US and who worked for almost two years before he was caught up in an INS raid of the California car wash where he worked. He was paid minimum wage in cash but after paying his share of the rent and food in a one bedroom apartment he shared with three other Mexican workers, his phone calls home, his clothing and incidental expenses, there was very little to send home to his young wife and two kids who he missed terribly. He was actually quite happy when he got caught and deported. When I talked to him he was operating a car wash and wax business in Villa Corona, He and his family enjoyed a much better life than when he was away and they were together and much happier. Yes, the prosperous life across the border is, in most cases, a dream.

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    1. Yes, and that certainly does happen. Our friend told us that many of them get caught up in partying and spending money on things they shouldn't be and that's why there was not much left to send home. And, I think if you're at all ambitious you'll be doing something more than minimum wage. I know that some (like the people we know) do quite well, if they put their mind to the goal.

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  6. I remember reading an article in a local Yuma newspaper about the local vegetable harvests. The legal Mexican origin harvesters are now getting on in age, and their American born children have no interest in doing the work that their parents have done for years. The current low cost of the harvest in America may soon become a thing of the past. Will it be similar to the manufacturing sector of the rust belt of the north?

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    1. They do still employ Mexicans that cross the border every day on a bus brought in buy the particular farms that do the work and then go back to Mexico at the end of the day. Not sure how much they make but again I am sure it is more than many casual workers in Mexico make and I am sure that there will always be a market in Mexico for these workers, although it probably wouldn't be enough to keep up with all the work necessary to harvest. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the near future with produce prices.

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