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Illegal immigrant: 'We're here to stay'

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LAWTON, Okla._ One illegal immigrant says the trek from Mexico to the United States was a risky but worthwhile journey.

As the country continues to deal with an influx of migrants coming across the border, many of which are children, Maribel Chavez says she can relate.

Chavez remembers that cold October day in 1997 when her feet touched American soil for the first time.

“Every time that I remember this, it happens, I cry, because it was hard,” says Chavez.

It was the end of a three-day journey. She was happy to have made it into the U.S. alive. Chavez escaped from Mexico’s poverty and violence. She was a 15-year-old young girl in search of freedom and an education in America.

“My parents weren't able to give me school,” she says. “I was 15 years old and I wasn't able to go to school."

But she would soon find out school was out of the question. She needed to earn money, partly to pay a smuggler $3,000 for getting her up North safely.

Her 17 years in America have been spent traveling cross country, from Mexico to Minnesota, then to the fields in Idaho where she remembers cleaning onions and potatoes, to Colorado, and now she works in the restaurant industry in Lawton.

“We were thinking of a better future,” says Chavez, of herself and other illegal immigrant friends.

She says a better future is exactly what many undocumented children, now flooding across the U.S. border in never-before-seen numbers, want as well. Chavez believes the kids being detained, like the more than 1,100 living at a temporary shelter on post at Fort Sill, are confused.

“They’re not even happy right now. They are probably scared of what's going on."

Chavez, 32, is living the American dream with a boyfriend and three children, but she is still in the country illegally. So is her boyfriend. She doesn’t qualify for citizenship until her oldest son turns 21.

Chavez fears being deported but believes she deserves to be an American citizen. She already accomplished one of her main goals; giving her kids a stable upbringing.

“What makes me happy is seeing them grow up here happy, healthy, and secure.”

She admits being an illegal immigrant is tough, as she is living a life in limbo and facing criticism everyday, but she says there's no where else she'd rather be.

“…Seeing people who just don't like you because of your color, your language, my accent … but we're here to stay."

 

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