The Story of “Martha”– 1980s-2000s
(The Refugee Act of 1980 redefined the definition of refugee)
Martha was an older teenager living in the Republic of Colombia, South America with her parents, two sisters and two brothers. At that time, Colombia was experiencing a major guerilla movement called the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia — The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The FARC continued to grow stronger and was active across Colombia in nearly 45 percent of the municipalities. The United States was a FARC enemy (courtesy – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guerrilla_movements_in_Colombia). Further, the Medellin drug cartel founded by Pablo Escobar was responsible for assassinations and many criminal actions for which the Cali Mafia began to gain prominence. It was a dangerous time in Colombia history, and Martha’s family was concerned for their safety and economic security as there were few jobs because of guerilla bombs and explosives.
In 1986, Martha’s older sister applied for immigration for herself, and she was admitted into the United States under a quota system. She had no job or sponsor waiting for her, but she came for the opportunity to work and live without fear. She adapted quickly to life in the United States by learning English and eventually establishing her own housekeeping business. She married and applied for citizenship and received it.
Martha’s younger brother wanted to follow his sister, and after learning his older sister was safe in the United States, shortly thereafter, he found and paid a coyote to smuggle him into the United States. He flew into New York and the coyote paid a bribe to someone at the airport to admit them. He settled into life in America, working and making friends, and living without issue. After he was in the United States for five years, he left voluntarily and went back to Colombia.
After the coyote was successful in the mission with Martha’s brother, Martha’s parents decided to use the same coyote for Martha’s immigration. Martha was about 24 years old and left Colombia with the coyote to find herself in Central America for four months, and then in Costa Rica in a hotel for month. The hotel told her to leave, and the coyote took her to San Andrés Island for another month. She was then moved to San Salvador where she spent two months in a hotel where the coyote was well-known. The coyote brought Martha a new passport in a different name with a picture which was not of her. He had tourist visa papers and then flew her to Miami using that passport. A bribe passed hands and they left the airport to spend the night with the coyote’s family only to fly to New York where no identification was required.
Martha became a live-in housekeeper for two years when she started working with her sister. She married a United States citizen, became pregnant, and filed papers for legal immigration. Eventually receiving her green card, she has made the United States her home.
Her younger brother decided that he wanted to re-enter the United States. He stayed with a family in Mexico for a brief time while he found a coyote to take him to Laredo, Texas illegally through the desert. He then went to live with the older sister and worked and lived in the United States for almost ten years before going back to Colombia.
Martha’s second sister knew a person who makes false papers. She went to the United States Embassy with falsified papers around 2007 and was issued a tourist visa. She came to New York, and her older sister agreed to sponsor her while she applied for a green card. She worked, applied for a green card with the family she worked for confirming her income, and was issued one after a twelve-year process.
As the political and crime climate in Colombia eased, Martha’s second brother wanted to visit the United States, He had an accounting career and had retired. He went to the United States Embassy, requested visas for himself, his wife, his son, and his daughter to visit family. They were granted visitor visas and stayed a month. He and his wife came a second time and stayed almost six months, and his sone came to the United States for his honeymoon.
Martha’s father and mother came to the United States using visitor’s visas returning as required to Colombia.
Their journeys reflect the search for employment and safety using both legal and illegal means. The conclusion being that the United States gained one citizen, two legal residents, employees, and visitor traffic and revenue.