June 1, 2019
Mexico City, Mexico
On being from nowhere
1 of 4
*To hear more about Ben listen to the playlist above
Anne: You said you went to the States when you were three months old?
Anne: So, obviously, you don't have any memories of that. But why did your parents decide to take you?
Ben: Well, they decided to take me because of hardships here. My father had already left to the United States. He was already working over there when I was born. My brother was over, I had an older brother, but he left to go work over there. Then, once I was born, he came back, gathered my mother, my brother and I, and took us with him, back to Dallas, around the outskirts of Dallas.
Ben: He was good with horses, so he was working at a horse stable, a very prominent horse stable, that caters to most of the people around SMU, or Southern Methodist University, that keep all their horses there. So, mainly it was to give us a better life, because things are bad around that little town. There's no opportunities.
Anne: And how did you learn English?
Ben: How did I learn English? English, when my father was working at the horse stables of course I grew up around it because the owners of the stables, they would talk to us in English and they would give us candies, they would let us watch TV. But my father also had a tape recorder and he had some English cassettes. And, when dad was at work, my mother would have my brother and I sit there, and to us at first it was like a game, to be able to punch the play and the rewind and all that. It did help and that's the first actual learning encounter, as far as applying yourself to try to learn, was that little recording machine.
Anne: So, you were playing this game with the tapes—
Ben: With the tapes and stuff and then later we started elementary school and then once I started elementary school, it changed. Well my mother had a rule, she goes, "No English inside of the house.” Before, it’s “Speak English, speak English,” but once we started school, she goes, "I don't want you all speaking English here inside the house” to me and my brother. And we used to think that’s because she didn't understand, but it was because she wanted us to practice the Spanish.
Ben: And when I would get home from school when I was going to kindergarten—my brother would get out an hour later—I would get home and my mother would give me these little comic magazines, Mexican comic magazines, and she'd have me read them. And then she would make me write letters to my grandmother. So that's how I was able to learn a little bit of, keep the Spanish and English. But English I did, I went through elementary, middle school, went to tenth grade in high school, then I dropped out of high school to go help my father. He started a small construction business, but then he got sick and he was hospitalized for three months.
Ben: And then after dad got better and went back to work, I still stayed working there and then I need to go back to school. I didn't want to go back and start and be behind the class. So, I became aware of the GED program. So, I went and took the GED program, I didn't even study for it, I just went and took it and passed it. And I started taking community college courses before my classmates graduated [Laughing]. Already had a jump on them!
Anne: That's great.
Ben: I thought it was too, but I still miss the graduation experience and all that. I missed out on that, but regardless, I kept going and I just went mainly into construction, stayed with drywall and did really well. When I married Bena, I started a business of my own and it struggled at first, but then I was persistent and everything just, it just changed from one day to another. But it was really rough going at first; it was like working, working and then this money comes in and then it goes all out. And then finally, poof and from there everything changed.
Anne: So, when you were in high school, did you feel like just any other American kid?
Ben: Oh yeah. Yeah. Yes, I felt normal, I had a lot of friends and our high school, the high school I went to, there was very few Hispanics- period, very few blacks. If you looked at that high school, if you pulled it up—well actually they made them remove the confederate flag, because the confederate flag was part of, it was the school football team logo and it was on their helmets. They were called the Southland Prairie Warriors, and when they ran out on the football field, they carried the confederate flag—and the high school flew the confederate flag up with the Texas and US flag—which it would make you think the opposite. I can't say that the school was…Of course there were a few people, but I did okay. I didn't feel out of place and I felt pretty well accepted by others.
Anne: And did your mom work too? Or just your dad?
Ben: My mom, she worked quite a bit, but there was a period when my youngest sister was born, she ceased from working and she stayed home with her for a few years. And then once—I think my sister was about four years old—then she went back and started working again until we were doing good in the construction. When I jumped into the construction and started my own business, then my dad went to work for me. And when he went to work for me, then my mother didn't have to work any more. We were really doing pretty well, we did pretty well. Did a lot of construction projects all throughout the Midwest and eastern seaboard. Lot of government projects.
Ben: Yeah. A lot of low-income housing for the government.
Anne: So, you moved around, it wasn't a local company that just stayed—
Ben: I based my company in Indianapolis and the main reason that we ended up based in Indianapolis is that I had a project going on in Akron, Ohio, one in Indianapolis and then I had two coming up in the Kansas City—in both-- Kansas City, Missouri, Kansas City, Kansas. And I knew it was going to be a lot of jumping around, and I figured well Indianapolis will be right in the center. So, I rented an apartment there for me and my wife and my son and my daughter; my son was a baby, but my daughter, she was like four years old, or three years old.
Ben: And then right about after that, we bought a house. Well, no, my wife wanted to enroll my daughter in pre-K to get her going because her age. Her date of birth and the cut off with the school, they won't let her in for regular elementary school. So, she found this church and she told me, "There's this church that's got pre-K and we're going to get her started there.” And I go, "Well okay, go ahead.” So, we enrolled her there and we ended up getting involved with that church and we were the only Hispanics at the church at the time, whenever we did it. But they were good to us and they still attend there.
Ben: That church, they started building one year on, every year they would add a year onto the school. And my daughter was one of the original students. So, she's one of the original students. The first original student to go all the way through the academy and graduate.
Anne: What's it called?
Ben: Cornerstone Baptist Academy in Indianapolis.
Anne: That's great.
Anne: So, you dropped out of high school to help with your dad because he was sick and then you got your GED without studying.
Anne: And you then went to community college. The community college, the courses that you took, were they designed to help you with your business? Did you think about that?
Ben: Yes. The courses that I started taking were courses that I figured would help me, not just in my business, but in personal wealth later. For instance, I took business management, small business management, was one of the courses that I focused on. And then the other course was psychology-- definitely something that I knew would help. Then real estate finance because I figured later with accumulating some money I could invest in real estate. Understanding real estate finance was a very very important factor in me being able to grow my business later. I didn't know that at the time, but later I purchased my first home and then we purchased a home up in Indianapolis. And then when I hit a point where I needed to grow, I had the opportunity to take bigger jobs and bigger contracts, I didn't have that much capital to be able to take that much more on.
Ben: Well, come these home equity loans, finance pulled money out of the house, take the property, rent it out to somebody to pay that, or lines of credit and then we'd do a job, I'd get the money, pay that loan off, and free that line of credit up later on. But apart from that, I did take all the basic arts classes, English, algebra, I had some calculus and trigonometry. I taught those at our private school, where my kids went to, later as a substitute.
Anne: So, you were in Texas initially, is that where you got married?
Ben: Yes, in Texas.
Anne: Your wife. When did the business start blossoming to help you move out of Texas?
Ben: The business started blossoming when we were in Texas. I had told my wife to give me…Within five years we'll have a house and we'll both have good vehicles, dependable vehicles, but it's going to take a while. Well within a year and a half from when I started, we bought out first house and we both had good, dependable vehicles. However, it was still tight when I took a project on in Akron, Ohio. And when I took that project on, I did not want to go up there for many reasons. One, because I had this immigration issue on me and I'm going near the Canadian border. Another, I didn't really want to be away from my family.
Ben: But when these customers get persistent, "What's it going to take? What's it going to take?" And I said, "It's just out of the question. I can't go up there, I got all these jobs going on. Plus, I got bad equipment, my equipment’s old and if my equipment breaks down up there, I'm not going to be able to meet the schedules and we're all going to be in trouble.” "Is that it? Really?" The last price he had upped the price of what the contract was to pay, and the pay was fine. I had other reasons why I didn't want to go. Well when he says, "I'll throw in a brand-new texture machine on top of it, but I'll sign off on the paperwork after you complete the project.” And I go, "You'll do that?" "I'll do that and when have you known me to not keep my word?" And I go, "Done deal.”
Ben: One of those texture machines, the price tag at that time was about $30,000. Right now, it's probably closer to $40,000 because we're talking about 1996. And he followed through, I came up to Akron, when I got up to Akron though, they had projects, there were projects everywhere, Kentucky, Michigan. And the pay, the pay was awesome. And that is where it really, within I think about the second month that I was up north, it just completely changed.
Ben: But I hadn't seen my wife and children since I had taken off up there. So, I told her to come up there and visit and I started discuss with her. I go, "Look these other jobs,” and I had already said I was going to take them, but I didn't tell her that. I told her, she says, "What if you go to be traveling?" I go, "It's worth it to be traveling back and forth, but I'm not going to be traveling back and forth. We're going to just take the kids; we're going to move up here and we're going to be together".
Ben: And so that's when I moved them to Indianapolis. We stationed in Indianapolis although I did travel quite a bit. I was on the road quite a bit because I had later ended up with jobs as far down as Orlando, Florida. And I ended up in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to repair a bunch of apartments which we had worked on before. But it was a pretty wild ride, but we really were doing really well, and it was really amazing.
Anne: Yeah. So, in Texas, you couldn't get a license, could you?
Ben: I had a license, I did.
Anne: So how did you get it?
Ben: Well, the thing is that I had, when I was 19 I had a brush with the law and I took care of it, but then ICE came looking for me, they didn't pick me up or arrest me, but since they came looking for me, they left their card there. And so, I voluntarily went in, but I knew something happened, so I grabbed my driver's license, my social security card and I tucked it away. So, I go into the offices and immediately they put me on a pretty high, outrageous bond and—
Anne: When you were 19?
Ben: No, 19 is when I got in trouble. They came back looking for me, I was already what? I think I was 27, going on, 27, 28.
Anne: Oh wow.
Ben: And so, I go to the immigration office in Dallas and I went in and then there they told me I was under arrest and then they shipped me to Lorado. And I go before a judge in Lorado, and I go to fight this. I'm going to have to sit here two years or pay $50,000 bond. And I go, "No,” so I just told the judge. I had an attorney, we had hired an attorney, but the attorney, I knew he was just wanting to. I probably could've, maybe it was a mistake, we could've won. But I did not want to sit there for two years at a young age, two years and then at the end, maybe nothing.
Ben: I didn't want to waste two years. So, they deported me, I asked the judge to sign, and I signed and that same evening I was on the bus to Lorado, caught a bus to Saltillo, , and then this was a day before Thanksgiving, when I arrived in Mexico. And then I stayed there in Saltillo up through December, through Christmas. Christmas my parents came to visit, and my girlfriend had come to visit too, my girlfriend had come to visit around Christmas and then they left.
Anne: They were all citizens?
Ben: Yeah. And then we had plans to get married and my girlfriend, she was willing to come live here, give everything up in the states and live here, even though she's a citizen. So, I said, "Well if you really feel strongly then come on.” So, she came to Mexico and when she arrived here in Mexico, I went to pick her up at the border, she came on the bus right across from Eagle Path. So, I met her there and then brought her back to my family's house.
Ben: Then we get there and we're there—and then my parents had arrived there too—and she goes, "When are we heading back?" because she thought we were going to Saltillo, because I told her it's a big city, better opportunities there. I go, "Oh we're not going to Saltillo.” She goes, "Well where are we going?" I go, "You think I'm going to sit here and years later we're going to be worried about our kids, where they're at, because you know they're not going to stay put here. They're going to jump that border.” And I go, "So what are we going to do?" "Well I'm going to take that risk right now, I'm going to jump it right now.” She goes, "No you can't.” I go, "You watch me. Let's go, we're leaving tomorrow".
Ben: And so, we left, and we went to Acuña across from Del Rio (Texas) and then, "No, just wait for me across the bridge. I'll be right there.” So, "No, no no.” So, I got a taxicab straight across the bridge. But I had already had my Texas driver's license and social security card brought to me in case they questioned me, then I could say, "US.” And that's all I did, just told them I was a US citizen, they just…It wasn't like it is right now. Right now, even a US citizen is going to have trouble getting across the bridge [Laughs].
Ben: But over twenty, 22-23 years.
Anne: 23 years? And were you worried about getting deported those 23 years?
Ben: Right after my daughter was born, yes, every day, the thought would cross my mind. I had many brushes with Immigration, as we're in the construction business. Many times, job sites would get raided and the only thing was just to keep cool and walk straight up to them. Don't walk away from them, if I seen them walking this way, I walked towards them instead of walking away from them. I walked towards them.
Anne: So, they probably, you being the head guy, they didn't think of you as much—
Ben: No, but during the raids I don't think they had any idea of who was the head guy or not.
Ben: Because a lot of the times, a lot of these raids, I was all covered in drywall, compound, white compound all over me, almost like if you got paint all over me. But I just wouldn't…I would just walk right up to them. And there was another gentleman—this was amazing because he didn't speak English. And there was three times these raids that Immigration come up and you're talking about over 10-11 people just scatter. He would never run; he would stay put. And one time he was up on a scaffold and immigration officer, it was one vehicle pulls up front and just one officer, I knew that everybody else were all around in the back because there was a big old wall.
Ben: And so, he finally gets out and comes inside the house and he walks right past me and that happened a couple times where they would just walk right past me, didn't even acknowledge that I was even there, nothing. I go, "Is God making me invisible?" [Chuckle]. It really felt like that because this time he didn't even acknowledge me, just walked right past me. He didn't see me. Anyhow, he walks up to this other person, he's on the scaffold and he goes, "[Spanish 00:27:11] papels hombre?” and from up there he goes, "Yeah.” And pulls out his wallet, left him alone. Walked away.
Ben: And it was three times with that one person. And then after that last time that I was with him that happened, he goes, "Look at that, they're taking all these poor guys that don't want to go. I want to go back, I want a free ride back. But they don't want to take me.” And I spoke to a cousin of his, it’s probably been about three years ago, and I asked him about him, and he says, "To this day, he don't have his residency, he never got his papers.” He's living in Atlanta now by the way, or he was when I talked to his cousin. His cousin goes, "He's in Atlanta, but to this day he never got his papers and he's never been deported.” And I go, "Some people are lucky and some are not".
Anne: So, you built your company, your wife was a US citizen?
Anne: And your two children?
Ben: U.S. citizens.
Anne: U.S. citizens and you sort of had a really nice middle-class life, right?
Ben: Yes. Real nice life. And my children, they didn't know that I was illegal until it happened. And we had…Well there was a reason why we didn't want them knowing because children can tell others. And then also they just wouldn't understand. When they were a little bit older, like my son in junior high and my daughter barely starting high school, do you remember when Lou Dobbs went off on his rant? On CNN, when he started all that. When Lou Dobbs started ranting, it was like every day on TV, the other school children were talking about illegal ladies and this and this. And one day I got home and my wife, the kids were already in bed, and she told me, "You know what? Vanessa came up and asked me if any of our relatives were illegal aliens.” And I told her, "Probably about time we started explaining some things to her.” She goes, "No, with our relatives yes, but as far as you, no. You can't"
Ben: So, we didn't. And it was just, once they did find out, I really don't know, I'm really not sure how they really feel. But it had to be—
Anne: They didn't find out until you actually—
Anne: And they're adults now? Or young adults?
Ben: Yes. And my daughter, I know it had to move her because after my daughter, this is her graduating from Indiana University with honors, very decorated.
Ben: Her major is paralegal studies. She's still studying, she wants a law degree.
Anne: That's great.
Ben: And she did her internship at the Marian County prosecutor’s office. She graduated and upon graduation—well before she even graduated—she had secured a job. She's got a job, she's got her first job, right now she's a paralegal for immigration family law.
Anne: Oh wow. Wow.
Ben: So, I guess it has something—
Ben: My son, just barely last week he went to get settled. He was going to IUP [Indiana University of Pennsylvania] in Indianapolis, but he just got the Disney scholarship and it's a full scholarship, so room, board everything. And he just got settled last week in Orlando. So, he's going to be there for a little while.
Anne: And what school does that go for?
Ben: I'm not exactly sure, some university there in Orlando. I haven't had a lot of contact since…They were busy over there, when they were over there, I was busy heading this way.
Anne: So, what happened? What happened to bring you to detention and deportation?
Ben: Well, this last issue had to do with labor. I was used to these labor department investigations and this last few really started getting more intense though. I kind of think that it took a stronger turn with the Obama administration, to focus on these contracts and make sure that all the criteria in these prevailing wage jobs were really fulfilled to the T.
Anne: So, for the federal contractors?
Ben: Yes. And I'm an illegal alien, but you can look me up in the Michigan records. And I'm registered there as a preferred government contractor. I did well over 200,000 units and for Amtrak, which is in a bad area of Detroit, and around other parts of Detroit, Wayne town. But there, Indiana and Ohio, Florida and Mississippi, Texas, I was a preferred government contractor. And did they know I was illegal? Damn right they did.
Anne: They did?
Ben: I know they did. There's no way that they couldn't have known. Did they care? No. They just needed their job done.
Ben: At the end, I think they still didn't care but I think the heat got turned up and they started—
Anne: That's all you can think of?
Ben: That's all I can do. But I'm still grateful I did very well and my family's not hurting. If I felt that they were hurting, I would risk it all and head back. But, they're comfortable, they're doing well. And I think, well I feel that I set a standard for them, to strive to be more, to strive because they all had, including my wife, when we married she was kind of shy and her self-esteem—not that she had low self-esteem—but she really didn't believe that much in herself. But right now, she's shining, she's doing really well, and she's holding it together for both kids at that age to still be living with her, other than my son right now in college, that he went, that's to say a lot for two parents. But for a single parent, you gotta hand it to her.
Anne: And when were you detained? How long ago?
Ben: It's been about a year and a half ago, yeah.
Anne: And you fought it for a year and a half?
Ben: No, no, no. No, no. I had gotten, I was in, it was about six months and then I got shipped over to Matamoras and I was at my family's house, my family has a house here on the border.
Anne: I see.
Ben: I mean it's a nice house. It's up in the mountains and I had a lot of family members, including my wife go, "Why are you leaving? Why are you going to Mexico City? You don't need to.” I go, "Well one I'm going, I want to be involved in helping these people. I gotta go out and do something, I know I can still do something, I need a job. I need a job, I need a real job.” Raising goats and sheep is fine and it was common people and stuff, but I'm a busy body and I need to do something.
Ben: And then I became aware of New Comienzos and when I seen that, that's what I want to do. I want to go down there, I want to be involved in that. I want to be involved in that because that's something that I know I can help and contribute to. And at the same time, I can get me a job down there and I'll stay put. I'll come back and visit every now and then, but I'm a city person [Laughs].
Anne: Yeah. So, did you fight the detention or no?
Ben: No. When my first, I was detained when I was 19—well no, I got in trouble when I was 19, detained at 27. That time, I signed away, I didn't fight it. So, this time, I had no rights. I could not fight anymore because I'd already signed away. This time around, I probably would've fought it, because I had the money this time. Even if I knew I was going to lose, at least I knew I had the money for the bond and I could put it off two, three, four years. But, the first time I didn't have the money. So, I said, “Sit here two years and wait and then probably get deported? No.” Unfortunately, this time, I just, there was no rights that I could—
Anne: And have your kids or your wife been to visit you?
Ben: Yes, they have up there. Hopefully once I get settled here. My wife was supposed to come here in May, like around my birthday, which was the week before last. But when my son got this scholarship, well he said, "We gotta go,” so her and my daughter both drove him down to Orlando and they went to Disney, like we used to always go to Disney World. We would go at least twice a year. There was one year that I had two projects that ran over a year down there and I bought them season passes, because it was easier for them to fly down on the weekend and come see me. And when they come down, if you buy three individual park tickets, it's more expensive then the season pass.
Ben: But they're still keeping up the traditions [Laughs]. They're still going to Disney.
Anne: And you spent a lot of time volunteering while you were in the states.
Anne: So, it seems like, does that make it a good fit to try it here?
Ben: Oh yes. Yes, it's voluntary here, it's a different theme here. It's a stronger, I feel it's a stronger theme. Not that my volunteer work back over there wasn't, but my volunteer… Like helping out at the school whenever I was in town, I would let them know that I would be in town and I was available to substitute if one of the teachers needed a break or was going to be missing. And I was qualified to take the classes on.
Ben: But I also was a volunteer English teacher when they started, they started a Spanish church. When that Spanish church started, it was actually my father that was the preacher. My father was at another church, but when they wanted to do that, I talked to my father to see if he would, because they asked me to, but I was honest, I go, "You know I'm not that knowledgeable of the Bible, to be able to. I don't want to stumble over myself.” And you know when people are barely getting into a church and you say one thing but then you contradict yourself, you're going to destroy their faith.
Anne: Don't want to do that.
Ben: No. And I did a lot of volunteer work there at the church and the school. It was great. And they've been right by my family's side, they're still going to church there and anytime that they need anything, they're right there. But good thing …. they've been fine. My wife, she's got a pretty good job. She worked for a mortgage company, so she does pretty well. And my daughter helps out too now that she's making money. It's been a long ride. [Laughs].
Anne: So, we hear a lot of stories about young men who come over as babies or toddlers and then for some reason get caught up in gangs or crime. What was different for you? Why do you think that never happened?
Ben: Well, I can tell you that I think, probably the single most important thing, the most important thing in a person's life is environment. Parenting is important, but you can have the best parents in the world, but if you have them in a bad environment, your parenting is not going to supersede the environment. And that's one of the things that I focus with my wife is that—well my parents, they provided a good environment. And when I got married from my life experiences, I stepped that up a bit. I told a lot of other relatives, this is one thing I've told a lot of other relatives, this happens a lot in America—not just with Mexicans or Central Americans, Blacks or whatever—is a lot of people yell out racism or discrimination.
Ben: And I sincerely believe that sometimes we discriminate ourselves, that we put it on ourselves, because we teach that to our children, because weekends we all want to go get together with other relatives, other friends of our own ethnicity. And that's not really what America's about and that's not what I taught my children because that's not how I lived my life. I was out with everybody, congregating with everybody, and that's the environment that we brought our children up in. We brought them up in their church—I was talking to you earlier, our church and the school that they went to was part of the church. We were the only Hispanics.
Ben: But that doesn't mean that we didn't allow them or try to get them to forget who they were. We didn't, because we brought them around our relatives, but we let them see that environment and so that they felt comfortable. So, when they got out into the world, they're comfortable around anybody and they're not looking at colors or whatever. And they don't feel like they're different and they don't feel different. I honestly, I think I felt more different when I got back here [Laughs].
Ben: Because it was really kind of weird. But over there I didn't, but I think environment is one of the most important things. If you put a good person in a bad situation, in a bad environment, sooner or later he'll break. If you get a bad person that's never known what life is really supposed to be about, guide him a little bit and give him a little time, and if he's willing—
Anne: It might work out.
Ben: Yeah, it might work out.
Anne: Interesting. So, you achieved your dreams in America.
Ben: Oh yeah.
Anne: Do you have dreams now for yourself here?
Ben: Yeah. My dream here is, one, to help here and I can't say it's a goal that's going to be met. And the other is I'm going to have here what I had over there and I'm confident that I can make that happen.
Anne: And will you make it through construction business, or will you make it through…?
Ben: Right now, I think that there's other areas here that I could probably succeed in without jumping into the construction business. We have land back here (in the family home) and a buy little bit of cattle, make some money here. There’s just several different ideas. But I know that I can excel in a job here, because there's several people here that are making some pretty high incomes and just, some pretty much as telemarketers, but just there's some call centers with some good bonuses. You're not going to get rich there, but you can make a good living.
Ben: But there's some opportunities right now.
Anne: What do you think the Mexican government should be doing to better integrate return migrants?
Ben: Well, I think that there should be a program where returning migrant…Well, one, there should be at least some type of assistance, get them a bus ticket and some type of cash, to get him back to his place of origin. Job opportunities, some type of government incentive for employers to hire new arrivals.
Ben: Some type of, I want to say grants, there should be some type of assistance to help, some type of temporary housing assistance, maybe in monetary assistance or vouchers, something. Not just dumping. One of the things that's causing a lot of crime right along the border is you take 1,000 people a day and dump them, right there on the border and they don't have no food, they don't have nothing. And these gangs come along, they have an endless army supply, they can supply their armies and never run out of people as long as they're dumping people right there. Because you're dumping people there with no money, no food, nowhere to go. There's shelters, but them shelters are full.
Ben: Them shelters can't possibly hold all them people, they can't. And so, all these people running around—they're running around the monument right now—laying there around. I see them laying around, the same people laying on the streets. But here in Mexico City, it's not that bad. You go to the border and the border cities where all along the Texas border, those are main dumping grounds for ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. All these border detentions that are on the border states, they're daily buses are driving and dumping people off. Detentions from up north, they wait until they fill up a plane, or planes, then they ship them. But here, they catch. It's every day they're dumping people. And there’s gotta be something done about that. I think that there's assistance for just about any and everything else. I do think that it would be in the best interest of the government to assist deportees that are coming back. It would probably save them a lot of money—it'd probably save them more to get them home and give them a little bit of cash, give them a bus ticket home to where they're from, and it would be a lot less expensive than all the chaos that's going on right now.
Anne: Seems that the US also has really ignored the whole problem, the families that they're breaking up.
Anne: You've thought about that, in terms of US policy, ways that they can eliminate the hardship that your family is going through because you're here?
Anne: I mean not just the financial, emotional but everything. And it seems like it’s not even in the equation.
Ben: Yes, that's true, that's not even in the equation. [Pause]. That's tough. But yes, I think [Pause] that [Pause] they're not looking at individual cases when looking at this immigration issue. I mean if they really, if the immigration person were really doing their job, then the judge did his job and really take the time to look at each individual case, some of these separations wouldn't happen. But they're not doing that, to me they're just trying to pile up numbers. I know many a case where…Just an example, one gentleman, taking care of his family, has residency, he's a legal resident. One DWI and it's over with, he's gone.
Anne: He's a legal resident?
Ben: A legal resident. One DWI and that's it, he's gone. And I've known of others that had up to three and they're still there. I know some that have felonies and they're still there. Then one DWI, that's not being fair. The biggest injustice I think is going after all these Dreamers and using the information that they filled out on their DACA paperwork to go track them down. I agree that there has to be some type of people should be picked up, but they're not chasing those people. They're going for the easy numbers because, you know what? Those guys they don't have paperwork where they can go pick them up, they’re not going to school here, going there. It's harder to catch them, so you know what? We can drum up 10-15,000 people right here, beef our numbers up. We got the addresses, let's just go get them.
Ben: And that's kind of what they're doing, not really doing their job. Just to say that “We're doing something.” With 9/11, I remember that they, within the first few days, 20 something hundred arrests that they were attributing as terrorist arrests. But you know who they were picking up? They were picking up Mexicans most of them. It was not 20 something hundred Middle Easterners. But regardless, they were numbers. They had to show that they were doing something. But that's that [Chuckles].
Ben: The US, there's a lot that they could be doing, because they can deport 100,000, but they know they gotta replace those 100,000 for the workforce. One thing I know is I know the ins and outs of labor in the US. That is one thing that I do know. And I do know that there's unwritten policies that look the other way, look the other way while we get this done. We need this done, look the other way. Hurricane Katrina was one, we had immigration, immigration was about the only police patrolling the area at the time and they weren't bothering anybody—it was hands off until they get this cleaned up. And once all the toxic clean-up was out of the way, then they started to enforce, but still not full force again.
Ben: So, there's a lot to the government, part to blame there. Instead of locking them up, they should really create some type of labor program.
Anne: People can come and go.
Ben: People can come, instead of coming across and, to me, instead of somebody going to work over there and pay $6,000 to a coyote, they could pay $1,500 at a processing center to apply and get placed in a job by the US government legally. But you know what? US government don't wanna do that, because they want to keep them costs down. And so, does private business, they need to keep them costs down. It's like, would you like to pay $30 for a Big Mac? [Laughs].
Anne: You’re saying that McDonald's is just using a lot of undocumented and paying them really?
Ben: Well the whole concept of migrant labor, the migrant labor force, is to keep the cost of products down and housing as well. If it wasn't for migrant labor and this underground labor networks that are operating, a $250,000 house would've probably cost you a million. And a lot of people wouldn't be able to, a lot of people can't afford a $200,000 house [Chuckles].
Anne: No. Well I thank you very much.
Ben: Thank you all for coming, coming to help us out and spread the news.
Anne: You’ve probably been asked this question, but do you consider yourself an American? A Mexican?
Ben: You know, honestly deep inside, American. That's how I've always felt. But right now, after this happened, it's like have you ever, there was a book called The Man with No Country, are you familiar with that?
Ben: That's, when I was deported, that's the first thing that, that's what came to my mind, The Man with No Country, not here, not there, not accepted here, not accepted over there. And when I got here it's like, no paperwork, no drivers, no identification, and I had a harder time getting a driver's license, getting my voter registration—which is the main source of ID here—the toughest time here then I did getting ID in the United States. And I was illegal in the United States and I was able to, anything I needed, I could get over there. And here, I'm here, I had a hard time. It took me a few months.
Anne: It's really too bad.
Ben: Yeah. Kind of rough. I don't know if it had been easier here, in the big city, but over there it was pretty rough, hard getting around.
Anne: Well, I wish you the best of luck.
Ben: Oh, thank you—
Anne: I think that you're, you think you're going to be fine, so I think you're going to be fine. And you must be very proud of your family, they seem really great.
Ben: Oh, I am, they're going, they're moving forward, that was the purpose of heading that way.