Just Your Average Dreamer: One New Brunswick Woman’s story about being a Dreamer in Trump’s America
By Katelynn Simmons
NEW BRUNSWICK Feb 20- Fear, desperation, and despair are just a few of the emotions that Latino immigrants are feeling in the wake of Trump’s America.
Trump has proposed that a wall should be built between the Mexico-Texas border. Many Latinos across south and Central America were outraged. Between the wall and ICE raid deportations happening throughout American on illegal immigrants, many Hispanic immigrants, legal and illegal are on edge about what more is to come.
More information on the ICE raids:
One of those dreamers is a woman named Reynalda Cruz, who is a 44-year-old Mexican immigrant mother of three that works and lives in New Brunswick, NJ.
Cruz is a legal immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1991 as a single young woman. Her status is established as a citizen, but many of her relatives are still living in the U.S. as non-citizen immigrants.
Cruz works at New Labor, an organization that improves working conditions and provides a voice for immigrant workers throughout New Jersey.
“My family is poor. I came to the U.S. for better opportunities, and a better life for my family. When I first came here, I worked minimum wage as a housekeeper for 10/hr. and 7 days a week for 3 dollars,” said Cruz.
When asked what she thought of Trump building a wall, Cruz said, “I think Trump is crazy. The border he wants costs money. The people come here for a better life because life is bad in their home countries. It’s a lot of drugs and corruption. It’s not safe. El Chapo is killing many people or using them as drug traffickers. And if they refuse to be used, they are killed”.
And she’s right. Violence in Mexico has surged, according to an article by the New York Times. 96 people have been reportedly killed in the border city of Ciudad Juárez and 17,063 homicide cases occurred in the last 10 months alone in Mexico.
Cruz wondered how Trump could even think about splitting up families or sending children back to places they were not born in or are familiar with.
“My kids lived here a long time. They were born here. They’ve never been to Mexico, “ said Cruz, “My family is afraid, my family has no social security and maybe in a few months, they will have no job. My family had to leave Mexico. It’s not good there. It’s even worse in Guatemala and El Salvador.”
Many immigrants who travel to the U.S. settle down. They have families, job and friends that are attached to the U.S.
With violence, corruption, and little job opportunities back in their home countries, immigrants find that their only choice is to flee to the U.S.
President Donald Trump has also abandoned the Transatlantic Pacific Partnership (TPP), citing that it was destroying American manufacturing which results in job loss of American citizens. Trump was also said to be renegotiating NAFTA trade between the U.S. Canada, and Mexico- something that will result in massive job loss in all three countries.
The Transatlantic Pacific Partnership was a trade agreement between multiple countries such as Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
With the threat of deportation and a grim outlook on jobs in Mexico, Cruz wonders just how bad the situation is going to get.
“Although Obama deported a lot of immigrants, he supported kids, he didn’t want them ripped apart from their families”, Cruz said. “Trump tells America that immigrants cause all the problems and he wants to kick the dreamers out. Trump is putting pressure on every immigrant to leave the country.”
Cruz said her life in the U.S. has not always been great, but it has afforded her better job opportunities and security for her family. Cruz met her husband in the U.S. and they later went on to have three children. She recounted the harrowing journey that she went through to get to the U.S.
“I went to Mexico to visit family, I had no papers and had to walk three days. I had no food, no water, I ended up staying on an Indian reservation.”
And there on that reservation, coyotes saved Cruz.
The coyotes were a group of Native Indians who left food and water out for immigrants like Cruz who were fleeing for a better life. Cruz recalled how they had saved her and many other immigrants from potential dehydration and starvation.
She mentioned that it was dangerous crossing the border and that it was filled with a lot of snakes and drugs. Cruz said that it was very difficult. Initially, she didn’t speak English, didn’t have any papers, and thought she didn’t have any rights.
Working at New Labor showed her that she had rights and a voice. She remarked that more progress is being made. “50% is progress, but were still 50% away”.
In addition to making very little, Cruz said that she was the victim of wage theft.
“Sometimes my wages were withheld when I first came here for a job”
Wage theft was and still is very common. Without papers and having illegal status, immigrants are regularly abused and face racism and loss of wages from their employers.
Cruz herself faced racism, along with her daughter. Cruz’s daughter, a senior at Rutgers University and an Anthropology major who plans on travelling to Africa, said to her mother that “She is scared of what Trump might do”, said Cruz.
When her daughter went to a Motor Vehicle Commission in NJ to get a license, she needed Cruz’s information. Cruz showed the employee her passport, which was a Mexican passport, but the employee refused to take it and threw it back at her, citing that she would not accept a Mexican passport. Cruz was upset and asked to speak to the manager. Her daughter pleaded with her to let it go. Cruz laughed at this past event, when she recalled how much of a scene she made.
Along with Cruz and her daughter, a male friend of Cruz was also the victim of discrimination, racist abuse and wage theft. The unnamed male friend worked at a restaurant as an undocumented immigrant.
“My friend wants to know ‘What will happen to the immigrants?’ He cried when Trump won. He worked in a restaurant, and had his boss work him very hard. His boss would say to him ‘You’re Mexican, you’re use to working very hard, you do this and that and whatever I say, you don’t need to eat, you need to work hard.”
Cruz remembered the time she met her friend’s boss. “Last month, me and another friend went to a restaurant and the male friend didn’t get paid once”.
Cruz went up to the boss and asked, “Why you no pay him?” The boss replied: “He’s an immigrant. He doesn’t have papers.”
Cruz replied: “He’s worked for you for years and you just now realized he’s an immigrant?” Cruz remembered how angry and loud she had gotten. Her friend came over and calmed her down, and told her to stop. It wouldn’t do any good.
The boss had used scare tactics on the male friend by threatening to call ICE on him and get him deported, Cruz said. If immigrants complain about abuse in the workplace, they fear that that they may not be called back to work. They need the money to survive and provide for themselves and their families.
“This is the stuff I march for. At New Labor, we march and rally for immigrants rights, legal and illegal”.
Cruz considers herself a democrat, and has attended the women’s march in protest of Donald Trump’s presidency. She has marched in multiple protests all over the country that fight for human rights.
“New Labor is working to pass Ordinance to make New Brunswick a sanctuary city. Employers can take your money if you make too much. It happened in an incident in Highland Park”, Cruz said.
Sanctuary cities, like New York for example, are cities that provide work to immigrants regardless of their citizen status, and help them find housing. They also help to protect them from abuse from their employers. Given New Brunswick’s high Latino population, New Labor is trying to push the mayor of New Brunswick into making New Brunswick a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants. Cruz wants to help give them work, aid their families, and not have the city deport them if they’re illegal. President Donald Trump said that he would start to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities, in an effort to stop them from housing and protect migrants. Unfortunately, smaller cities like New Brunswick would have a harder time fighting back if ICE comes. It’s not much New Brunswick officials can do if ICE comes to deport immigrants.
Still, Cruz believes in trying to lend a helping hand and protect as many immigrants as possible. She sees what they go through to get to the U.S., and how tragic it is when families are ripped apart. Cruz believes immigrants should know that they have a fighting chance.
“I need for immigrants to stop hiding in the shadows”, Cruz remarked. “They need to know that they have a voice in this country. Not only Mexico, but all immigrants worldwide. There are a lot of opportunities in this country and there are people out here who will try to protect them.”