Cesar is an undocumented immigrant who lives in Riverside, California. He was born in Mexico and crossed the border on foot when he was 16 years old. On the journey, he was robbed, nearly died of dehydration, and was almost caught by border patrol agents. He works odd jobs and hopes to move toward citizenship one day. Although Cesar told me his full name, I have chosen to use only his first.

“Everyone struggles. They need to get a job, pay for bills. We do as well. We worry about our family. We worry about our future.”

It’s important people put a face to the issue. We’re not just numbers. We’re not just 11 million people living here illegally. I’m a student. I’m a son. I’m a brother. I work for my community. People need to see that undocumented immigrants are human beings who are struggling. We don’t ask for much, just the ability to work and be a productive part of society.

When I think about peace, I think about being able to do what every other person does without thinking that I’m going to get deported or I’m never going to see my family again. Mexico is still part of me, but it’s nowhere I want to be. Right now, I’m keeping myself busy. I fix cars. I work in construction and cleaning yards. I work in restaurants and places where I’m sure they won’t check my status.

I try to be a good citizen. I pay my taxes through an ITIN number because I don’t have a social. I try to go to school and live a normal American life. Every now and then I hang out with my friends, go out to eat, have a drink, talk to pretty girls—just try to be normal.

Cesar’s full podcast

Discussion Questions

  • What fear, if any, inhibits your ability to live a “normal” life? Does that affect your ability to experience peace?
  • What is your opinion of immigration reform?
  • Who is someone you know who has immigrated from another country? How is their life experience different from yours? How is it similar?
  • Imagine you are Cesar. Would you want your last name to be known? What would your reasoning be either way?
  • How strongly is your sense of peace linked to your sense of belonging where you are?

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