Alexander - Migrant deportee

Like many migrants, Alexander took the decision to leave San Salvador in search of a better life for himself and his family. His dad abandoned them when Alexander was still young, which forced him to help his mum to bring the food to the table. Given the situation, he was forced to drop out of school and work very hard to make ends meet.

In 1994, his mum took the tough decision to migrate to the USA; Alexander joined her some time after because of the poverty he was living in.

He was 20 years old when he left his country. He made the trip travelling many hours by bus, in deplorable conditions by car and by train, on the Beast (the freight train that carries hundreds of migrants illegally from the south to the north year after year), until he reached the border wall.

The first journey he made took place in 1996 from San Salvador to Brownsville, Texas. Once he crossed the border he made another long journey to his final destination in California where his family were waiting for him.

During his first time in the United States he found a job as farm-worker. Alexander explains that you can earn very good money if you work hard, but many people take the wrong path and end up doing drugs and what not.

That was sadly Alexander’s case. He didn’t have a drug habit back in his home country. He started with drugs and from there he lost his job and started to commit other illegal acts. In the end, he lost his way altogether and the targets he had once set for himself came apart.

Although Alexander entered the country illegally, he was fortunate to gain legal status. After his arrest and imprisonment, he lost his documents, due to his criminal activities. Subsequently, he was deported back to El Salvador in 2002.

Years later, the story repeated itself. He jumped on buses and cars, and once at the border, he walked for three days in the desert to reach the city of Phoenix, Arizona.

During the three-day walk, he remembers being accompanied by many Mexicans from the state of Oaxaca who did not show much solidarity towards each other. For instance, when they had to jump fences, many just helped themselves. Alexander, on the other hand, supported many who were having trouble dodging obstacles along the way.

Besides all the harsh complications that travelling as a migrant involves, what mainly motivates people like Alexander is their enthusiasm and their wish to find a decent job that will pay good money, unlike back home.

He did not have much luck the first time he got arrested as the judge who sent him to prison issued a formal parole in case he came back to the United States. This parole would give the police the authority to arrest him if he was detected anywhere and deport him for life.

After his return to El Salvador he stayed there for 2 months until he took off again in 2012. On his third crossing, he travelled in company with a Honduran migrant by train all the way to San Luis Potosi in Mexico. 

It took them almost 2 months to travel from El Salvador to San Luis Potosi. The train journey was highly risky. He remembers seeing robbers harassing other migrants and on some occasions, he observed how criminals kidnapped and killed people with machetes.

Eventually a coyote managed to smuggle him into El Paso, Texas for USD 3000.00. Once in the United States, he was driven to Los Angeles and then reached his final destination.

He was fortunate to find a job again and decided to live a life whereby he would travel from home to work only in order not to take any risks that could lead him back into trouble, hence be deported again.

One day he visit a relative in prison but unluckily he was stopped and arrested. Alexander ended up being deported for a third time.

After all those experiences, he is still determined to migrate back to the United States, perhaps in 3 or 4 years, as the living conditions in El Salvador are very tough.

Having tattoos, he explains, is a problem in El Salvador as the police tend to link them with gangs though his tattoo’s, he says, have nothing to do with that. Based on his appearance, the police detained him once and incriminated him for carrying illegal substances. After that, he was sent to prison for a short period until his relatives managed to find a lawyer who got him absolved from any wrongdoing.

Alexander’s job is cleaning cars in his local neighbourhood. He wakes up at 4am to start work and finishes at 2pm. He started this job on his own as nobody wanted to employ him due to all the tattoos he has.

His three daughters, his wife and he manage to survive on the little money he earns. Fortunately, his parents have supported him with the remittances they send from the United States, so he can buy the household needs, such as nappies and milk and sometimes even food. His parents are aware of the poverty his family is enduring and they empathise with him.

Life in his neighbourhood

‘It’s tough here, tough to survive’, Alexander says. If you don’t take care of yourself you could be killed easily. It’s often the case that just by being involved in rumours one can lose one’s life. The other hardship is that living in places like this one you have to watch where you go. If you turn up in the wrong neighbourhood by mistake, you could be severely injured or killed.

The USA as opposed to El Salvador

Alexander thinks that the main reason he migrated and why he would migrate again is because the United States offered him economic stability. He says that he never had to learn English as he was surrounded by many other hard-working Latin Americans from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador etc. who only spoke Spanish but he was comfortable working with them. Overall, he says that the United States is a country with many opportunities and if you know how to take advantage of them life can be great!

His aspirations, he says, were never to travel outside his country to seek better opportunities. His aim was to remain in El Salvador, graduate and find a good job. He once had a dream to be someone in life but unfortunately not everyone gets that chance. 

He says that he felt pretty free in the United States as opposed to his country. Freedom comes with a price as there are many other rules that have to be followed. ‘If you fall into the trap, that’s it, you are done for’, he says.

The Mexican authorities

He never really encountered any repressive situations in his experience of travelling through Mexico. All he remembers was on one occasion where he was stopped and arrested by the federal police for no reason. After 72 hours in detention, he was released without further charges.

On the other hand, extortion is a constant threat during the journey to the border. Everyone is after you for money, whether that be the police or the gangs that control the migration business, etc.

At the same time, he bumped into very friendly people who were extremely helpful to him. They offered him food and water and guided him throughout the journey.

He hopes to travel back to the United States in a few years and to work very hard so that he can send money home to build a house of his own and for his daughters. 

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