Illegal Immigrant family talks about life in the U.S.Posted: Updated:
A man named Javier works in a small candy shop in the Valley. And while it's a modest living, every shelf he cleans, every move he makes, he's committing a crime.
"Always I try to follow the laws. And I try to survive here with my family." Javier says.
It was a conscious decision to come to the US illegally almost a decade ago.
Just outside mexico city, Javier and his wife were raising 3 daughters on $300 dollars a month.
Then the jobs dried up.
"I empty my pockets, and I said 'wow'. I have 20 cents in my pockets."
In America, Javier could work 16 hour days, construction in the morning and washing dishes at night.
He made 12 times what he did in Mexico, but he says he didn't come here for the excesses of America, he came for the bare basics.
"We came because we didn't have money to eat. It's for that, we are here."
And his family has reaped the benefits of a generous nation.
His middle daughter, Daniella, who he calls Danny, graduated from one of the best public high schools in the state. Her academic awards adorning the den walls.
But the US generosity ran out when Daniella went back to Mexico to apply for a student visa for college and immigration officials discovered she had gone to an Arizona school - as an illegal immigrant.
All her hard work was not enough to make up for being snuck into the country and "sucking up" its resources.
"I don't know what the problem is, because I was going to pay for school. I was going to pay for housing. I was paying for my books. I wasn't asking for anything from the government." says Javier.
Three years later, Daniella is engaged in Mexico City. But she'll walk down the aisle alone.
Her mother and father and sisters won't be at the wedding, for fear they couldn't get back to the US, and couldn't get work in Mexico.
For the devout Mormon family, it's part of the price they pay for what America has given them.
State Senator elect Russell Pearce says the rules were broken, and they can't be bent for a select few - no matter the circumstances.
"Nobody is separating families. Their parents made a bad choice. Now there are consequences for making those bad choices. Now they must take their family with them."
Border patrol agents say the tough stance on illegals is working. They expect to end the year with 280,000 arrests on the Arizona border - down 20 percent from last year.
But no matter the number, they say there's no way to know the good from the bad.
"Roughly 90% of those are those looking to come up for a better way of life. 10% are criminals. And you put that into perspective, that's nearly 40,000 criminals that we dealt with last year, just Tucson sector. And these are hard core criminals. Not people we want in our society."
But immigration attorney Bob McWhirter bawks at the efforts of the state to "arrest its way" out of the problem. There are an estimated half-million illegal immigrants in Arizona alone.
"If you're going to have enforcement, let's enforce to keep people who have guns and are committing crimes"
McWhirter says immigrating legally from Mexico is easily a 7 to 10 year process, while many of the people there can't find work.
And until recently, many American businesses couldn't find workers.
'Bbecause they have needs, and we hire them. And we need to hire them. The immigration system, i.e. the law that Mr. Pearce is talking about should accommodate that reality, not run around and try to make criminals out of people who are not." Says McWhirter.
But by the label of the law, they "are" criminals.
"And they are right. Because everyone here illegal, we broke the law. I understand that," says Javier, "but we tried to do the rest of our life the better way or the right way."