The Hidden Life of an Undocumented US Immigrant

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Date: Aug. 20, 2014
Publisher: Getty Images, Inc.
Document Type: Video file
Duration: 00:00:02
Length: 399 words
Content Level: (Level 4)

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Like millions of illegal immigrants in the US, Sylvia has spent decades building a life here until her undocumented status was discovered by the authorities.
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For Silvia, this is a big day. After five years of legal proceedings, she's reached her final hearing. Today, immigration officials will tell her if she'll be sent back to Mexico, a country she left more than 20 years ago to make a better life for herself in the US. After two hours of waiting, the verdict is given.

Ten minutes ago, the immigration authorities told me I'm out of options with my case, that there's nothing else I can do. They've given me two weeks to leave.

It was along this beach that Silvia and her husband first entered California back in 1992. At the time, the border wasn't as well guarded. There were fewer patrols and no fence. Once they were in the country, false papers were easy to obtain. For two decades, Silvia lived what appeared to be a normal American life. She got a job at a hotel and had three children. But her past caught up with her when a colleague reported her to the authorities.

The only thing I said to the police was that everything we have we've got through our own hard work. We've never done anything wrong.

An estimated 11 million people live in the US illegally, at constant risk of deportation, even while large parts of the economy depend on their low-paid labor.

It's a system that in some perverse way works in the sense that you have people in the country without papers, but it's a flexible, disposable, expendable workforce. If they live here for a long time, have kids here, work here, pay their taxes, but then all the sudden the enforcement becomes differ.

Silvia is on the receiving end of this enforcement and is preparing to leave her home of 20 years. Her two sons are staying put. As they were born here, they have American passports.

I'm going to stay here and keep studying and go to college, and I have to support my little brothers so they can go to school here and help them become something better here. And we're going to be visiting my mom every once a week.

Silvia is moving to Tijuana, a few minutes' drive from the border. If there is a silver lining for her, it's that she'll get to see her husband for the first time since he himself was deported from the US three years ago.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|CT3208640186