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Immigration: Following a better life

Published April 9, 2006 12:44 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

WILLARD - Martin was just 22 when he followed his sister from Mexico to Utah a decade ago, a work visa in his pocket.

That visa has expired, but Martin and his wife, who have two young sons, have no intention of returning to Mexico soon. Because he is undocumented, the Tribune is using his first name only.

"One lives a little better here," said Martin, taking a break from his construction job in a new subdivision in this northern Utah community.

A drywall installer, he might make $10 a day working back home. And since most Mexican construction is concrete, there weren't that many drywall jobs to begin with. In Utah, he does the same work for about $16 an hour. He pays no taxes, but also has no benefits such as health insurance for himself and his family.

And the work is unpredictable, depending on whether his boss, a subcontractor, is able to find jobs for men like Martin. "When there's work, we work. We'll work nights and Saturdays."

His wife also spends two or three days a week cleaning houses with another woman, and that helps the family afford life here - an apartment in Midvale, a cell phone, a checking account.

Though Martin acknowledges there may be immigrants whose intent is not benign, most simply want a better life, he said.

"We're not here to cause any problems. We're just here to work."

Several years after he arrived, Martin went back home to Chihuahua, married and had a son.

Then he brought his family to Utah, where their second son was born. His 5-year-old is preparing to begin school in the fall. His second son is now 4.

Over the years, two of Martin's sisters and one brother have immigrated to Utah. They all send money home to their parents in Chihuahua, which has allowed them to remodel their home.

Like other Utahns, Martin and his family enjoy the parks when the weather is good, and on Sundays, they get together with extended family in the mountains near Salt Lake City for traditional Mexican cookouts.

Martin's family lives in an apartment now, although he would love to buy a home. The uncertainty caused by the immigration debate has him wondering whether that will be possible.

"If things are bad, it might not be worth buying a house," he says.

Even without reform, Martin is unsure where his family will live. It depends on where he can find work.

There's another thing, too.

"Sometimes," he says, "you just have to return to your homeland."







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