Undocumented business owner faces uncertain future in city

Mouna Algahaithi, News Editor

Like many other undocumented immigrants, a local business owner who attended the Dia sin Latinos rally in downtown Madison worries about her future as a state resident.

The woman, whose name shall be omitted for her protection, was surprised by the turnout of people at the rally on Feb. 18, and the shared sentiment that was felt.

“I have never seen so many people fighting for the same thing, unifying one voice,” she said. “It gives me hope that it could help draw the possibility of getting an identity card or driver’s license.”

When she first heard about the two bills the protesters were opposing, it “added onto a preexisting fear of looking over shoulder and wondering how officers will look at me. With no driver license and car insurance, how can I drive thirty minutes out of town to one of my jobs, without the constant fear of being caught as an undocumented worker?”

“In my mentality, if these laws pass, I’d have to leave my children with someone who is documented,” she said slowly, tears brimming. “Yo no tengo futuro aqui,” she explained, which translates to I have no future here. “I can’t think of tomorrow because tomorrow the police come and ask for my papers, which I don’t have and I’ll have to leave.”

Latino workers are the largest population of immigrants in the state.

“We are helping the state,” she cried, describing how Latino workers work twice that of the “average white American” because they have to provide for themselves in this country while also financially supporting their families back home, many of whom are in extreme poverty.

She expressed the betrayal she feels from the government, by asking how she could be here for 15 years, working continuously day after day, with this type of treatment from the state.

“How does this make sense for the way we contribute to the system? I pay thousands of dollars of taxes a year, and where is it going? Into a system that is bringing more fear into my everyday. They want to try to throw us out. The idea of planning has a big ‘what if’ in the middle of it.”

The fact that she could be deported at any time weighs heavily on her.

“I can really only think of today, and maybe tomorrow. I don’t know how much to invest in (in terms of furthering her education and expanding her business), because in one swoop, I could be deported. Everyone (in Mexico) that can leave has already left… there is no work or future for us there,” she said.

“The system flags my family for owning enough money from our businesses that they assume we must be able to afford healthcare, but we’re in such a small margin, and we end up caught in between sending money home and doing what’s needed here.”

All of her children were born here, making them American citizens.

“It’s their country and culture, but I feel like the state has turned it’s back on me as a small-business owner, mother, wife, and grandmother,” she said.

She fears that a simple traffic ticket could easily end in her deportation. This dilemma has her and many other Latinos struggling with the idea staying in Wisconsin or moving to other states with better immigration policies.

“Do we sell everything and move?” she asked. “For a long time, Wisconsin has been a beautiful, safe place for us, but these laws bring up real injustices. Where is it heading? What is the reality?”