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Primary Issue: The American Dream ?Que esta?

Posted by kameron1 on June 8, 2009




North County Times

April 16, 2006

(Escondido, Calif.)




Living the (Mexican-)American dream




By: DAVID FRIED – Staff Writer

ESCONDIDO —- Macario’s decade of hard work has begun to bear fruit. The extra money

earned from 10- and 12-hour days has started to provide financial security for the 26-year-old

Escondido resident. He got married two years ago. Plans to have children, and send them to the

best schools, of course.

To top it off, three months ago, he purchased a 30 percent stake in a local home renovation


By most measures, the enthusiastic young man is closing in on the American dream. Except for

one glaring detail: Macario is an illegal immigrant.

His residency status means he lives many of his dreams in the shadows. But that fact does little

to damper his sense of accomplishment, or his enthusiasm.

“This was always my dream, to have a house or a business, and I am making my dream come

true,” said Macario —- who asked the North County Times not to publish other identifying

information, including his last name, the name of his company or his business partner out of

concern that he could be a target of immigration officials or opponents.



Success in the shadows




Macario is one of an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

And like many undocumented migrants, he tries to live under the radar as much as possible.

He has two cars —- older-model Toyotas —- but no driver’s license. He drives the vehicles only

to and from work. He takes a back route to avoid the possibility of being pulled over.

Rarely do he and his 22-year-old wife go out in the evening, except maybe to walk around the

block. Usually, if they leave the Escondido house where he and his wife rent a bedroom, it’s with

his brother-in-law, a legal U.S. resident.

“I feel a little that I can’t do some things,” Macario said. “And I want to do so many things in this


That’s why he plunked down the $6,000 he had squirrelled away bit by bit over the years on the

opportunity to own part of the home renovation company where he had started working two

years ago.




A step up




The owner, a former Escondido official, said he saw something different in Macario, a drive and

ambition that he wanted to foster.

It was no small transaction.

In order to allow Macario, a foreigner, to legally own part of the company, his partner had to

reform his business as a C corporation, named after the tax code that governs it. Typically, a

jointly owned company would qualify as a partnership, but then both owners would have to be

American. The change in company status means fewer tax breaks for both men, but his partner

said the trade-off was worth it.

“I just wanted his sacrifice to mean something,” said Macario’s partner, who spends time each

week with his apprentice, going over the ins-and-outs of owning a business.

It’s a lot to learn for a man who never went beyond elementary school.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Macario said of learning about payrolls, insurance and taxes —-

plenty of taxes.

Company documents show Macario paying about $160 in personal taxes every two weeks, not to

mention the additional $108 in payroll taxes the corporation pays.



A growing investment




Stories such as Macario’s reflect a growing reality of border politics, according to Wayne

Cornelius, director of UC San Diego’s Center for Comparative Immigration Studies.

Increased calls for stricter border enforcement and efforts such as Operation Gatekeeper, which

was implemented in 1994 and built a steel wall along parts of the 1,952-mile U.S.-Mexico

border, have merely pushed migrants to cross in harsher, less populated terrain, such as the

Arizona desert. Each year, roughly 400 people die trying to sneak across the border from


“We’ve made it much more costly and risky to come and go crossing the border, and because of

that we make it more likely (undocumented immigrants) will spend a longer time in the U.S. and

settle permanently here,” Cornelius said.

The upshot is that more illegal immigrants living here pour what money they are able to save

into homes or small businesses on this side of the border.

“They’re more likely to invest more on the U.S side than in their hometown, because they don’t

see much of their hometown,” Cornelius said.



No return





For Macario, seeing home is out of the question.

“I feel like, if I went back to Mexico, I couldn’t make it there,” said Macario, who was just 16

when he hiked across the border and into the hills of Jamul.

He left for a reason, after all. He had no work and no money to pay for school.

Leaving the two-bedroom shanty he shared with his parents and nine brothers and sisters in order

to help the family made sense.

Ten years later, most of his siblings are spread around California. The two youngest are back

home taking care of his parents, who speak with him by telephone but never face-to-face.

They do not see the fine white powder that covers his hands and work boots after spending the

day carefully shaping stone slabs into luxury countertops. On his wedding day, they did not kiss

the soft beard that has grown on the young man who left their home as a boy searching for

something better, anything better.

“It’s hardest because I can talk with them, hear their voice, but I can’t visit,” Macario said,

narrowing his almond-shaped eyes.

Crossing the border is just too risky, and expensive.

“I simply can’t go back,” he said.

Who would want to? he says

The appeal of the U.S. is obvious, he said, especially when you compare the two places.

American police, he says, are here to protect you, “no matter if you’re dark-skinned, white,

Chinese,” not like back home, where they are often indifferent at best, and corrupt at worst.

Hospitals will attend to you, whether you are able to pay or not, unlike Mexico, he said.

He still recalls his first taste of American life —- tomatoes, sweet, ripe tomatoes he and the

others in his pack picked from vines on a local farm, their first meal after the two-day crossborder


Once inside the U.S., Macario made his way to Vista, where some acquaintances had told him he

could stay with two other Mexican migrants in a makeshift room built in a garage.

His village in the state of Puebla offered little more than subsistence farming to its 2,000


Everyone he met in the U.S. and every place he went yielded opportunity.





He says he quickly tracked down a Social Security number. Maybe it was lost by someone.

Perhaps it’s from someone deceased.

The number got him work, first as a landscaper in Encinitas, then at a restaurant washing dishes

and busing tables. The jobs paid $5.50 an hour, not much, but enough to pay rent, send home a

little money, and save what he could.

Once, he submitted an application for legal residency when the owner of the landscape company

he worked for offered to sponsor him. It cost Macario $3,000 in legal fees. But the owner died

before the application was completed, leaving Macario without anyone to vouch for him.

While still working at the restaurant, he began learning to cut stone for kitchen sinks and other

household embellishments. Then, in 2004, he took a job with the company he now co-owns.

The company that means he has arrived, and has no intention of leaving.

“Being here legally or illegally, I feel American.”






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