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Life of Illegal Immigrants from Mexico in America - DOC


Life of Illegal Immigrants from Mexico in America document sample

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       There are an estimated eleven million illegal immigrants in the United States,

with more then three million of them immigrating since 2000 (“Border”). Most illegal

immigrants attempt the hazardous journey in search of a new life in America. They desire

to escape the poverty and unemployment of their homelands, and embark on a daily

struggle of working below the minimum wage in order to evade starvation for one more

day. It is a life of toil and turmoil in a strange land of people who do not understand

them. They are hunted by the government and private citizens alike, while just trying to

earn enough money to feed their families. The Tortilla Curtain, by T. C. Boyle, immerses

the reader in an extremely accurate portrayal of the controversy surrounding illegal

immigration concerning the daily life of the immigrants, their all-consuming fears and the

countermeasures being employed against them.

       The daily life of illegal immigrants is neither glamorous nor luxurious, which is

characterized by living in trash, waiting in long lines for the possibility of a day job and

continuously making the journey back to America after being deported. Trash is an ever-

present aspect in the lives of Cándido and América Rincón, an illegal immigrant couple

from Mexico and one of the families focused on in the novel. They feed themselves from

used Styrofoam cups, which are reused countless times. During times when he can not

get a job, Cándido makes extra cash by digging through the bushes on the sides of the

road in order to find old cans and bottles he can recycle for a small profit. This life

surrounded by trash is even noticed by Delaney Mossbacher, the man from the other

family chronicled who represents everything that Cándido is not. During one of his daily

nature hikes, Delaney becomes irate at of all of the, “refuse. Cans, bottles, the shucked
wrappers of ready-made sandwiches and burritos, toilet paper, magazines- all of it

scattered across the ground as if dropped there by a dying wind” (Boyle 112). Delaney‟s

experience with this aspect of immigrant life is mirrored on a real family farm near the

Mexico border, which is frequently crossed by illegal immigrants trying to travel north.

On a daily basis the family finds many signs of this nomadic lifestyle, including “cans of

tuna,…bottles of water, and… a Pedialyte looking bottle… on the ground” (“Encore”). In

this respect, Delaney is facing true a situation encountered by a real family regarding all

of the trash. In this first part, it‟s not really obvious whether you are talking about the

book or about the real world. It‟s got a great flow, but the reader might get confused

about all the names of people you used. Not only are their lives filled with trash, but a

typical day is also filled with waiting. Almost every day, Cándido or América made the

journey up to the labor exchange to find out if they would be lucky enough to find

employment that day. The labor exchange would be filled with others like them, all

battling for the opportunity to earn a few dollars doing back-breaking work (Boyle). This

situation has been found across the country, where, “illegal immigrants continue to line

up in parking lots and outside stores in hopes of being picked up for a day‟s worth of

work, mostly low-paying construction, agriculture and lawn-care jobs” (“Border”). The

labor exchange found in The Tortilla Curtain is very similar to real street corners and

parking lots found across the country. These gatherings are very obvious targets for

Customs agents, who deport many illegal immigrants each year, but the high return rate is

a problem. A large portion of illegal immigrants, “…get apprehended by the Border

Patrol, but they keep trying to come back”. Some immigrants make the journey seven or

more different times (“Encore”). This is parallel to the story of Cándido, who made the
journey three separate times, although he was not always deported. The large number of

return trips to America display the high unemployment and raging poverty present in

Mexico (Boyle). These immigrants make the extremely perilous journey because they are

desperate for the “American Dream”, and they will do whatever is necessary to achieve

it. Sadly, even after reaching America, illegal immigrants still face a plethora of fears

during the process of starting their new lives.

       An illegal immigrant faces many fears even after much of the journey has been

completed, such as not being able to find healthcare, becoming ill from contaminated

water and being scammed by the “coyotes” they hire to help them. In two instances,

Cándido and América refrain from seeking medical attention because of the fear of being

deported. This fear of the healthcare system is evident in América when she says, “ „You

have to go to the doctor,…I‟m afraid‟ ” after Cándido is run over by Delaney in the

beginning of the story (Boyle 22). This theme, which is also present at the end of the

book, is also represented by their unwillingness to take Socorro, Cándido and América‟s

new baby, to the doctor even though they suspect she is blind. Not only is this fear faced

by Cándido and América in the book, but by real illegal immigrants as well, such as an

illegal immigrant named Cristofer Rosete from Phoenix, who says he is “nervous about

taking the boy [his son] to doctor‟s appointments, for fear someone will report them to

immigration authorities” (Hendricks). Another health related concern for illegal

immigrants is drinking contaminated water. Water is scarce in the desert area of the US

near the border, “as a result, they sometimes resort to drinking water from streams and

cattle tanks. [Therefore], humanitarian groups also sometimes leave containers of water

for them” (“Ways”). Cándido and América also get their water from a stream lacking the
purity required for human consumption. Although usually careful to boil their water

before drinking it, the one time Cándido bypasses this important step, he becomes

dreadfully ill, illuminating the need for clean drinking water for illegal immigrants

crossing the desert. Being ripped off by a coyote, or human smuggler, is another fear

faced by illegal immigrants while traveling in the desert. Many illegal immigrants, “hire

smugglers, sometimes referred to as coyotes, who for a fee as high as $2,000 or $3,000

agree to help them get across. The trip often involves days of walking through the desert,

and in some cases migrants are robbed by the coyotes guiding them…” (“Ways”). A

large percentage of an immigrant‟s savings can go to these coyotes, and they could be

ruined if this money is wasted in vain, which causes great concern. Cándido and América

hired one, and, “two-thirds of their savings had gone to this man, this coyote, this

emissary between the two world, and he was either incompetent or he betrayed them”

because they were apprehended minutes later and consequently deported. Coyotes are

necessary for many illegal immigrants to make the crossing because they would not know

what they were doing otherwise, but it is a dangerous gamble that does not always pay

off, such as in the case of Cándido and América. The result of the suspected betrayal was

deportation through means of some very common countermeasures employed by the

United States Border Patrol.

       The Tortilla Curtain showcases some very prominent and accurate methods being

used to prevent illegal immigrants from settling in the United States, including the use of

helicopters, sweeps and fences. The helicopter is a very important tool in the arsenal of

Border Patrol agents. It is the main agent of failure in Cándido and América‟s first

attempt to live in the United States. While hiding under a bush, “the helicopter came with
its lights and suddenly it was bright day...and Cándido had her and the propellers threw

the dirt…but she couldn‟t outrun a helicopter” (Boyle 59-60). The helicopter has also

foiled the plans of numerous real immigrants, such as a particular band spotted in

October 2006, which was captured when “an infrared-sensing U.S. government

helicopter scanned the desert for the runners” (“Border”). In addition to helicopters,

periodic sweeps of likely areas snare many illegal immigrants, with Cándido being a

casualty of one such sweep. In one of Cándido‟s early attempts at the “American Dream”,

he is rounded up in a sweep in Los Angeles, but he and two others manage to escape,

although the consequences of that particular sweep continued to haunt him long after.

Cándido and América come close to being caught in a sweep during the latest trip, but are

warned by a friend that, “if you don‟t have a green card you better make yourself scarce.

La Migra’s [the Immigration and Naturalization Service or INS] going to make a sweep

here this morning. And tomorrow morning too” (Boyle 199). Sweeps like this were

recently initiated across the country at Swift Meatpacking fac ilities “ as part of a

crackdown on illegal immigrants and identity theft. More than 1,000 Bureau of

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 1,282 illegal workers…”

(“Immigration”). Finally, fences are a very common yet controversial method of

controlling the influx of illegal immigrants into the United States. The actions of Delaney

Mossbacher‟s neighborhood leaders putting up a wall and gate around their subdivision

are similar to President Bush calling for expanding walls and fences in high-traffic areas

in his border initiative. In more a more extreme fence-building plan, “Rep. Virgil Goode

(R-Va) has introduced a bill that would have the United States erect a 2,000- mile- long

fence along the U.S. border with Mexico” (“Border”). However, neither the fence around
Delaney Mossbacher‟s community nor the current system of fences on the U.S. border

serve as a big enough obstacle to deter desperate illegal immigrants from crossing them.

       The daily habits of the illegal immigrants, the fears they face and the

countermeasures being used against them all make The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle an

extremely accurate representation of illegal immigration. The daily battle Cándido and

América Rincón fight is one that tests the boundaries of human courage and endurance,

and proposes the question of how much can a human endure. The story offers a chilling

yet inspirational glance into the life of an illegal immigrant family surviving only on

lessons of the past and dreams of their future, and sheds light on a perspective rarely

considered or portrayed in a correct manner. With the constant influx of new illegal

immigrants, a major challenge for this generation will be helping those stricken by

poverty get an education and make something of their lives while still protecting the

border and keeping America safe.


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