Yes, he’s my brother
I sit alone in a small café in South Texas. The small-town country people stroll in for their morning coffee, breakfast and local gossip.
I just listen, as I have done many times throughout my travels.
The news on the TV is buzzing of another tragic death of an “illegal alien.”
“Another illegal alien was found in the desert today, dead from apparent heat stroke and dehydration. It appears he crossed over from the Mexican border,” says the newsperson.
The locals start to opine with the ignorance that has permeated the country, empowered by the rhetoric and tweets of a man who claims to be presidential.
“Damn illegals, how stupid can they be? Shit, every day it’s all over the news, how they die out there. Boy, they’re beyond stupid.”
Others continue with the same bigoted, racist comments.
I’m done listening. The look of disgust fills my face as I look at all of them and start to walk out.
“What’s with you, you act as if he was your brother.”
I turn and say, “He was.”
“You fools, you sit here acting as if you’re better. Have you even bothered to look at my brother back in the kitchen, who prepares your coffee and breakfast. For some of you he also prepares your lunch and dinner. The stupid one is the one who did not see my brother washing your dirty dishes and sweeping and mopping the filth you leave behind. Stupid is the one who does not know that most of the food you eat here, at home and buy in the grocery stores was planted, pruned and harvested by my brother and sister.
“It is my brother who has slaughtered the beef, pork and poultry you enjoy, and he does so in the filthiest conditions that you would never dare to be in. It is my sister who cleans your house, washes your dirty clothes and takes care of your children. It is my brother out there in the 100-plus degree temperature cutting your grass, fixing your roof and repairing your roads.
“Yes, he is my brother and I will cry for him.”
Those who do not suffer will never truly understand.
As I drove away, I saw a group of Latino men, whose ages ranged from the late teens to their 60s. They were cutting and pruning trees at a nearby home.
I stopped and introduced myself, curious on how they were treated in this small town.
It was the elder of the group who spoke up, all in Spanish. His words have given me passion to fight even harder for my brothers and sisters who remain undocumented in our country.
“Señor, almost every day, they call us names and keep telling us we’re going to be deported. They keep telling us that when Trump builds his wall, we will never come back. They are both ignorant and stupid. Señor, in my home, El Salvador, where my wife and grandchildren live, they survive on the money we send, so they will not suffer. Do you have any idea what it is to have no food, no medicine or worse, no money to see a doctor when you need one? That is the daily suffering of the poor of my country. I will die before I let that happen to my family.
“I say to Trump, build a corral, a cage and put animals in there, and give them no food, no water, no medicine nor anything to keep them alive. Build that fence as high and as strong as you want. Now put the food, the water and the medicine outside that wall, the cage or the corral and leave. When you return, those animals will be on the other side of your wall or they will die trying. That is us.
“This is the greatest country in the world, and we know that. It has all the food, clean water and medicine to save our families. That is why we come and will always come. The wall, build it and we will still come, to save our families, even if we die trying. We have no choice as we will die a slow suffering death if we do not try, and so will my wife and grandchildren.
“No, senor, we do not fear death, we fear the suffering of those we love, just like you”.
Many do not understand the passion of the undocumented, because they have never been without the necessities to survive. They have never been hungry.
Passion is being the son of a mother who at 14 years — a child — left her own mother and siblings in a small mountain village in the state of Jalisco, Mexico, to travel north, to the land of milk and honey.
Passion is knowing she had no choice, because her father has died, and Mommy cannot feed everyone and needs help with money.
Passion is traveling alone, scared of what may happen, not knowing whether you will live or die, not knowing if you will ever marry and have children of your own, and your worst fear — will you make it to Los Estados Unidos and find work to send money to Mommy?
The ultimate fear was the swim across el Rio Bravo (the Rio Grande), with its deep and treacherous water. She was only a child.
It did not matter, she had to try.
Build your wall if you wish. We will come or die in the process. We will have children and they will be doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, writers and laborers.
That is your fear.
We will never quit, we will fear no more.
My mother was not an alien, she is human — she is an American.
Yes, he is my brother, and I will cry for him.
Luis Roberto Vera Jr. is the national general counsel of the League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC.