Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Taking The Illegal Path

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Many readers of this blog never experienced living in a country where life is so unbearable that a person would do anything to land into a country where (s)he can sleep at night knowing life will be OK the next day. You're the lucky ones.

In Sydney, I had a customer who would tease me by asking if I arrived to Australia by boat. Thankfully, I arrived there legally. And yes, I know people who arrived to Australia via boat. It's an expensive and dangerous root to take. The Iraqi couple I knew lived in Greece for many years. They waited for a country to accept them as refugees without any success. So, they decided to take their chances with a boat. They were lucky to have Iraqi friends in Australia who sponsored and freed them from detention within a short time. I know it's a wrong way to arrive into a country. But, I never lived in their shoes. So, I don't understand what desperation caused them to take such a risk.

In late 90s, my Iraqi best friend and her husband tried to take the Mexican path to enter America. They were captured in Mexico and sent back to Jordan and then returned to Baghdad where they still live. That was the first time I heard of people entering America illegally via the Mexico border. Now, I hear of it all the time. It's not only Mexicans crossing the border. There are Iraqis doing it too. It has become a science. They arrive, hire a lawyer, file for asylum and wait. Most of them work cash while waiting on their immigration paperwork.

Some of these border crossing stories end in tragedy. The Chaldean community in El Cajon, Calif. was lately the center of attention by the local media after the murder of Firas Eiso, 23, by a robbery gone brutal. His murderer has not been captured yet.

Firas arrived in America last year by crossing the Mexican border. He worked at a liquor store while waiting on his immigration paper. Two of his brothers died before him. One during the Iran-Iraq war and another during the first Gulf War. He escaped to America thinking life could be easier. Unfortunately, it wasn't and his parents mourn another son.

His parents were denied visa to attend his funeral for fear they may decide to stay in this country after their arrival. I know the Chaldean community is furious over the embassy's decision. I also understand the embassy's decision. Still, arrangements could have been made here to insure the parents would leave the country after the funeral.

Lesson learned from this story: There's no safe place. Death can hunt you wherever you are. Whether Firas' decision to take the illegal path was right or wrong, the result was tragic.

So again, lucky are those who don't need to escape their countries to find safety and greener grass.

R.I.P Firas Eiso.

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