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Life in the Shadows: Illegal immigrants in St. Louis

by Craig Cheatham

KMOV.com

Posted on May 26, 2010 at 1:48 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 26 at 6:04 PM

Our story about "Miguel" gives a voice to illegal immigrants, a mostly voiceless group of people in America.

Miguel first sneaked across the border about a decade ago. He worked as a mechanic, sending money home to his family in Mexico, eventually falling in love with a young American woman, and married her. They have no children. Miguel also violated the law by living in the country for more than a year without the proper paperwork.

Last year, he and his wife flew to Mexico to attend his father's funeral. Since he had no passport, Miguel once again decided to pay an escort, or "coyote," to help smuggle him into Arizona. After climbing the border wall and wandering for three days in the desert Miguel, and the other illegal immigrants with him, were robbed at gunpoint by a gang. Two days later, he surrendered to border agents and was put in jail, charged with immigration violations. Now, he faces likely deportation within a few months. 

Miguel and his wife "Susan" admit he broke the law and that he should pay a price, but they argue that convicted killers and rapists are often given parole, why not a non-violent offender like Miguel?

Obviously, it's not that simple. It's unclear how hard Miguel worked to get the proper paperwork before he sneaked into the country a decade ago. It's crystal clear that he violated the law and that he knew it because he sneaked into the country. Although he loves his wife, has paid his income taxes, and now has a legal tax ID number with the IRS, he still must be held accountable for his actions.

Miguel's attorney is trying to convince the prosecutor that her client deserves to be an exception to the rule of law based partly on his otherwise spotless record, the fact that he's married to an American who is the primary caregiver for her disabled mother, and that he is paying his taxes unlike many undocumented workers. But it seems unlikely he'll win that arguement.The most likely outcome is that Miguel will be back in Mexico by the end of the summer.  

I understand why Miguel chose to slip into our country and I admire his devotion to his family. Although I believe in a much more secure southern border, and stronger enforcement of our immigration laws, I also feel empathy for people who are so desperate for a better life that they will risk their lives to get a minimum wage job in the United States.

It's clear that many of our viewers not only resent Miguel and his wife, but also me for reporting this story, and protecting their identities. I strongly believe that Miguel's story is well worth the time we gave it, both off and on the air. I want to have a deeper and wider understanding of immigration, which is one of the most important issues facing our country. If we ignore the voices of the roughly eleven million illegal immigrants in America, we fail to address a significant part of this issue.

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