Crossing the Fence

By Matt Leavitt

The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence. For many of us living in the United States, the day to day grind of mundane life seems like a limitation for our dreams of crossing that fence. The idea of traveling to a new world seems exotic and tempting. Yet, when we do get the opportunity to travel, we usually end up coming back to the same side of the fence. Why do we do this? While the thrill of crossing the fence lasts for a while, we come to realize that our side was pretty good to begin with. We’ve grown comfortable here.

However, there are a few who take the step to come to the U.S. without looking back. For many people, this isn’t only driven by a dream, but a need to grow and progress. This need to progress is an innate characteristic of humankind, and for some, progression can only continue through the sacrifice of leaving home behind in order to work in what to them is a whole new world. For José Gutiérrez home is almost 4,000 miles away in Trujillo Peru.

Making the transition from school to working full time and starting a family isn’t easy. This is the situation of José, age 23, and his new wife Norma. The two have been married for eight months and have recently emigrated to the U.S.

Speaking for both him and his wife, José said, “this has been a challenge, there have been difficult and joyful times. The whole process from the very beginning took a lot of time, money, planning, conversations, and more planning.” He continued “We had to investigate…do tons of paperwork, ask for help from family and friends, wait for answers, keep motivating ourselves to fight for our dream, and trust in God.”

José and his wife have been through a lot to be where they are now. It all started even before they were engaged with the two of them making plans to someday be married and live in the U.S. “We wanted more opportunities for ourselves and our future family.” explained José, “In our country, it’s almost impossible to find a balance between having a family, studying for a career, and working to provide…but here it’s actually possible.”

This is why so many people take the step and commit themselves to it: possibility. José and Norma made the decision to enter a foreign country sacrificing everything familiar to them in order to provide the possibility of growth and progression for themselves and their future children. What are some of the implications of a decision like this?

José had to take a break from his education, and for a while he and his new wife had to be separated in order to make this dream a reality. After being married for just six months, José had to come from Peru in order to establish residence in the U.S. before it was even possible for his wife to come. He said that because of this, that at times he felt like a failure, but that it has been the hard decisions since the very beginning of the process that have prepared him for life here in the states.

He recounted, “I remember that we cried and hugged while trying to tell each other that everything was going to be okay.” What they thought was going to be a six month process miraculously was over in just one month. José is now working for a young startup company and his wife arrived from Peru a week ago. The two are saving so that they can continue their education and progression towards something better than what they ever could have had.

While it hasn’t been easy, and they still have a long ways to go, José and Norma express gratitude for the opportunity that they have to be here. They believe that this decision will in the end be a blessing for themselves, but more than anything, it will allow for their children to create a different future than they otherwise would have had.

How many people do we interact with on a daily basis with similar backgrounds? How many sacrifices are made behind one success story?

“I was on the waiting list for my VISA for ten years.” stated Ysabel Escalante, another immigrant and coworker of José. “I wanted my children to study in the U.S. and get the benefits of an education here.” Ysabel continued by explaining that she has always had the goal of working in the U.S. She isn’t the only one. Many others dream of coming to enjoy life in the land of opportunity, but sadly, relatively few are able to fulfil that dream.

With the seemingly endless stream of negative comments about immigration in the political arena, it desensitizes us towards these incredible people. Encouraging words for immigrants often go unheard amidst all the negativity. We forget our own desire to cross the fence and feel threatened when others do so entering in on our lush greenery. We ask ourselves if there is enough room for all of us when we should be asking ourselves: Who put up the fences and why are they there?