WBEZ | Immigration http://www.wbez.org/tags/immigration Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Global Activism: 'ConTextos' aiding children in Central America through literacy education http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-debra_gittler.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-5ec3e45c-419f-6c53-a54b-a65dded641a7">While Central American children flood into the U.S. to escape crime &amp; poverty, Chicagoan Debra Gittler works to create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity &amp; advocacy, that she hopes will help these children thrive and keep them in their home countries. Debra moved to Central America to start <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a>. The group says &ldquo;[We do] more than just develop the mechanical skills of sounding out words. We encourage kids to think deeply, to be curious, and to question their environment.&rdquo; For <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em>, Gittler tells us how her work is spreading across Central America.</span></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5ec3e45c-4188-13cc-6742-dee95fbd88c5"><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159145115&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe>When we asked Debra to tell us about the importance of her work, she wrote:</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I want to emphasize the relevance of our work in Central America, especially given the refugee kids at the border. To emphasize that the reality is, these kids have access to schools, but no education; ConTextos changes that. We are growing throughout the region and looking for greater support in our hometown here in Chicago. Those kids at the border... those are the same kids that we serve.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Just the other day, I was at a school in Usulutan, one of the areas of El Salvador that has had an explosion of violence post the gang truce. I sat with Manuel, a first grader, who told me: &quot;I have lots of family in the United States,&quot; he explained. &quot;Cousins and aunts and uncles. But I want to stay here in El Salvador. I like my school.&quot;</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Before ConTextos, Manuel had no books and his entire experience was copy and dictation. He went to school four hours a day. Now, his school is open to him all day long, he has access to books and other materials, and he has real conversations in his classroom. We read a book called &quot;Where are the Giants&quot; about hidden magic in the world. Manuel says to me (I&#39;m translating): &quot;You know--and this isn&#39;t in the news, but it&#39;s true-- I&#39;ve heard that there are fairies in Mexico...&quot;</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I asked his teacher about Manuel. She said that before, she used to scold him for his imagination. Now she encourages it. Her students are encouraged to think and imagine and explore. Classroom attendance is up.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">And this school is in the midst of gang territory. MS 18 is scribbled on the walls of the school. Manuel&#39;s photo is below.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">It&#39;s important to realize that even though we are a literacy organization-- and the only org in the region with the goal and implementation in multiple countries; whereas Africa and Asia have multiple orgs addressing the lack of resources and training across countries, Central Am/ Latin Am have NONE-- we go far beyond just teaching reading.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">At one of our schools--an area of extreme poverty where most live as subsistence farmers-- the school ran out of space for their school garden. &quot;Why can&#39;t we plant on the roof?&quot; asked one of the 5th graders. At first, the teacher balked that it was a ridiculous idea. Now they are growing basil and mint on their roof. The teacher explained: &quot;by changing how we teach-- asking questions, encouraging the kids to question-- we&#39;ve seen changes in how they approach life.&quot; These kids live in areas with plenty of problems. With ConTextos&#39; intervention, they&#39;re encouraged to think about those problems.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">That school was one of our first schools. There&#39;s now 13 schools in their network. Kids read at a &quot;1st world&quot; level. The Ministry uses the schools as models for teacher development.</p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 09:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy Morning Shift: Evangelicals and immigration http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-06-04/morning-shift-evangelicals-and-immigration-110275 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Church Flickr wallyg.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We talk about the potential impact of new oversight rules for Illinois&#39; charter schools. Also we discuss evangelicals and the push for immigration reform. And, we listen to more reclaimed soul.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-evangelicals-and-immigration/embed?header=false&amp;border=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-evangelicals-and-immigration.js?header=false&border=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-evangelicals-and-immigration" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Evangelicals and immigration " on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 04 Jun 2014 07:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-06-04/morning-shift-evangelicals-and-immigration-110275 Critics blast CPS immigration test question as offensive, inaccurate http://www.wbez.org/news/critics-blast-cps-immigration-test-question-offensive-inaccurate-110232 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 12.22.12 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p><em>CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the immigration test question was restored to an online &ldquo;performance task&rdquo; database. WBEZ regrets the error.&nbsp;</em></p><p><o:p></o:p><em>UPDATE: This article was updated on 5/27/14 at 5:50 p.m. with new information from Chicago Public Schools.</em></p><p><o:p></o:p></p><p>A test question for Chicago Public Schools seventh graders is being called &ldquo;offensive,&rdquo; &ldquo;<a href="http://cps299.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/chicagos-racist-test-questions/" target="_blank">racist</a>,&rdquo; and factually inaccurate by groups as disparate as the Illinois GOP and the Chicago Teachers Union.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month the district &nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/chicago-public-schools-test-question-on-immigration-causes-controversy" target="_blank">yanked the controversial question</a>&mdash;part of a new battery of tests meant to determine the effectiveness of teachers&mdash;with schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett issuing an apology for it. But WBEZ has learned that the district&nbsp;did not prohibit teachers from continuing to give the test. It &ldquo;recommended&rdquo; an alternative test, but allowed the immigration question to be administered with an &ldquo;addendum&rdquo; read aloud by the teacher.</p><p><o:p></o:p></p><p dir="ltr">The question asks pupils to read two commentaries&mdash;both opposed to undocumented immigrants becoming U.S. citizens&mdash;and evaluate the text and the authors&rsquo; biographies to determine which is &ldquo;the most authoritative and relevant to support your argument OPPOSING a pathway to citizenship.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s best to keep America for Americans and those who know how to speak English properly,&rdquo; says the first text. &ldquo;Save America for those of us who know how to behave in law abiding ways.&rdquo; The article says undocumented immigrants &ldquo;should go back to where they came from,&rdquo; and the author says he &ldquo;dream(s) of a time when we ban all new immigrants to America both legal and illegal.&rdquo; &nbsp;The author is pictured as a black man named Arie Payo, identified as a former aide to &ldquo;President Bush&rsquo;s Immigration Taskforce&rdquo; and a contributor to the &quot;Conservative Journal.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But it turns out that Payo, his opinions, his credentials and even the &ldquo;Conservative Journal&rdquo; are all made up; so is the second text, in which small business owner &ldquo;Stella Luna&rdquo;&mdash; coincidentally the title of a children&rsquo;s book&mdash;is identified as the author of &ldquo;The Dream Act is a Nightmare.&rdquo; She worries that giving citizenship to immigrants &ldquo;will increase the number of poor people in town.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Eighty-five percent of CPS students are low-income. &nbsp;Many are immigrants or children of immigrants.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Shame on CPS, shame on whoever wrote this test question. From beginning to end I think it&rsquo;s egregious,&rdquo; said Sylvia Puente, director of Chicago&rsquo;s Latino Policy Forum, which works on both immigration and education issues. Puente said working on the 45-minute test question could be emotionally stressful for children living in situations the authors berate.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The language in these is really, really offensive and disconcerting and really reinforces negative stereotypes about immigrants,&rdquo; Puente said. &ldquo;As a seventh-grade child, I would say, &lsquo;What are they saying about me? What does this say about who I am?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The controversial immigration test question was first made public on social media. CPS officials removed it from the testing lineup after a predominantly Latino school on the Southwest Side refused to give the exam earlier this month. &nbsp;The &ldquo;addendum&rdquo; the district issued to the &nbsp;immigration question instructs teachers to remind students they were tested on two pro-immigration viewpoints at the beginning of the school year and says they will now encounter two viewpoints opposing immigration.</p><p>&ldquo;That addendum was sent to teachers because a number of the tests had been printed and distributed and CPS did not want students taking the exam without the broader context,&rdquo; said CPS spokesman Joel Hood. &ldquo;We have no reports of any additional students actually taking it.&rdquo;</p><p><o:p></o:p></p><p>The district said just 32 students from two different schools were given the immigration question before it was temporarily pulled. The alternative test is about climate change.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The Latino Policy Forum&#39;s Puente questioned why the district is using made-up opinion pieces to teach kids which sources are &ldquo;authoritative.&rdquo; She pointed out factual errors even in the set-up to the question, which states that &ldquo;in January 2013, president Obama and Congress unveiled plans for immigration reform that included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">That never happened.</p><p dir="ltr">And Puente is not the only one to find inaccuracies in the question. The fact that the comments were presented as those of a high-level Republican aide irked Illinois GOP leaders.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Ironically, it probably would have taken less time to just research and cite a real Republican viewpoint than it must have taken to make this nonsense up,&rdquo; said Jay Reyes, Republican state central committeeman from the heavily immigrant 4th Congressional District. Reyes said the question is &ldquo;an unfair, uninformed take on a Republican viewpoint.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The question is one of more than 160 &ldquo;<a href="http://www.cps.edu/sitecollectiondocuments/REACHStudentsPerformanceTasks.pdf" target="_blank">REACH performance tasks</a>&rdquo; that are part of the district&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.cps.edu/Pages/reachstudents.aspx" target="_blank">new teacher evaluation system</a>. The tasks, given in all district-run schools this month, are designed to show how much students have learned this school year&mdash;and by extension, how effective their teachers are. The immigration question was being used to evaluate the effectiveness of school librarians. Performance tasks like this one count for between 10 and 15 percent of a teacher&rsquo;s evaluation this year.</p><p dir="ltr">Byrd-Bennett apologized: &ldquo;Teaching children the importance of diversity, acceptance, and independent thinking are important values at CPS. We apologize for any misunderstanding and have provided librarians an alternative test to administer to students,&quot; she said in a written statement earlier this month. She said the test question &ldquo;was intended for students to evaluate the biases, credibility and point of view of sources.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The district said a beginning-of-the-year exam asked students to consider two opinions from pro-immigration advocates. CPS said no concerns were raised about that activity.</p><p dir="ltr">The district said just 32 students from two different schools were given the immigration question before it was temporarily pulled. The alternative test is about climate change.</p><p dir="ltr">Officials said they do not know exactly who wrote the test question, but CPS said, in general, REACH performance tasks have been designed by teachers, including librarians, &ldquo;in partnership with (the Chicago Teachers Union).&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Carol Caref, who works on teacher evaluation issues for the union, said CTU doesn&rsquo;t know what revisions take place to REACH questions between the time teachers help create them and the time they become official CPS &ldquo;performance tasks.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t believe that very many eyes were on this particular performance task,&rdquo; Caref said. &quot;Because I can&#39;t believe there isn&#39;t someone who would have looked at this and said, &lsquo;Whoa.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Caref said the district has raced to get things like performance tasks in place; state law requires that student growth be a factor in teachers&rsquo; performance evaluations. But at the time the district <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-unveils-new-system-rating-teachers-97770" target="_blank">adopted</a> its new teacher evaluation system in 2012, CPS &nbsp;had no formal way to measure how much individual teachers were contributing to student learning.</p><p dir="ltr">Caref said the immigration question &ldquo;raises a lot of questions about the validity of these performance tasks&hellip;. The system is not set up to carefully do this. It&rsquo;s done in a hurried way.&rdquo; This is the second year CPS has administered performance tasks; it&#39;s unclear whether any students took the immigration exam last year.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago parent Cassie Creswell, an organizer with the anti-testing group More Than a Score, said the immigration question highlights how testing in schools is shifting education.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s pretty easy to say (the test) is racist. And to just present that to a student with no context?&quot; Creswell said the test wasn&#39;t designed by teachers to &quot;fit into a classroom discussion or as an exercise for the students where they&#39;ve had a lot of context leading up to it. That&#39;s the problem with a lot of standardized testing is that it&#39;s not really part of the curriculum,&quot; she says.</p><p>The pro- and anti-immigration test questions are posted below, along with the &quot;addendum.&quot;</p><p>Linda Lutton is the WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@wbezeducation</a>.</p></p> Mon, 26 May 2014 11:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/critics-blast-cps-immigration-test-question-offensive-inaccurate-110232 Immigrant father describes overcoming obstacles http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/immigrant-father-describes-overcoming-obstacles-110078 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/140425_Natalie Cruz and her dad Byron Cruz (1).JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Byron Cruz grew up the oldest of three kids as part of a wealthy family in Guatemala. When Byron was young, his dad died and Byron became the man of the house. He struggled to adjust to his new circumstances and was on the verge of being kicked out of high school, when he met his future wife. She helped him graduate and they married and had a daughter. But still they struggled.</p><p>Byron sat down with his daughter Natalie last week at the Latino Cultural Center at UIC. He told her about life in Guatemala when she was a baby. &ldquo;I got to the point that I had one good pair of shoes but if you would flip the shoe you would see that the shoe has one big hole. One day it was raining and I was walking a lot, I was going back to home and I saw you and I thought: I don&rsquo;t want my daughter to live in this way.&rdquo;</p><p>He decided to move to the United States in order to provide a better life for his family. Byron worked in the U.S. for six months, before sending for his family. He didn&rsquo;t know how to speak English and became frustrated when he was blamed for something he didn&rsquo;t do at a job. He went to school to learn English and wound up going to college. Their family grew and became more stable.</p><p>Byron sees himself as a Guatemalan-American. He tells his daughter, &ldquo;I always think about the day that I die, what is going to happen with me. And I wish that they take my ashes and divide it into the two countries because half of my people is over there but the other half is over here.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 25 Apr 2014 14:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/immigrant-father-describes-overcoming-obstacles-110078 Protesters want Obama to end mass deportations http://www.wbez.org/news/protesters-want-obama-end-mass-deportations-109982 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/protest1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than 200 people, including groups of children, are staging a two-day march drawing attention to mass deportations of undocumented immigrants. The protesters want the Obama administration to end the practice by executive order.</p><p>The march, which began this morning at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in downtown Chicago before heading west. It is an extension of this past weekend&rsquo;s National Day of Action against deportations.</p><p>As of this month, around 2 million undocumented people have been deported since Barack Obama took office, which is approaching the record set by his predecessor, George W. Bush.</p><p>Immigration reform advocates have shifted their focus recently&nbsp; to putting an emphasis on the number of mass deportations. Previously their priority was pushing for immigration reform legislation. An immigration bill passed the U.S. Senate early last year but has stalled in the House since June).</p><p>&ldquo;Two million (is) too many,&rdquo; says Rosi Carrasco, with Organized Communities Against Deportations. &ldquo;It is possible to stop deportations with the organization, determination, and strength of our community. President Obama can use his executive authority to avoid that detention centers continue to profit from human suffering.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago-area protests will continue into tomorrow. Lawrence Benito is executive director of the Illinois Commission for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and he says the focus on mass deportations highlights the continued frustration he has with Obama -- who he said pledged to pursue immigration reform as an agenda item he would tackle during his second term.</p><p>&ldquo;He promised our communities that passing immigration reform would be a priority,&rdquo; says Benito. &ldquo;Instead he has prioritized enforcement. He can remedy the situation while Congress debates immigration reform, through administrative relief.&rdquo;</p><p>Advocates want the president to take the same approach he did in 2012 when he ended the deportation for so-called &ldquo;Dreamers,&rdquo; young people who were brought into the country with undocumented relatives.&nbsp;</p><p>Marchers began their demonstration at ICE shortly after 10 a.m today. Their route wends through the city, including a stop in the heavily Latino South Side community of Pilsen, before decamping tonight in the western suburbs.</p><p>Tuesday&rsquo;s events are scheduled to start at the Broadview Detention Center. That is where more people are scheduled to take part in civil disobedience protests.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 12:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/protesters-want-obama-end-mass-deportations-109982 Morning Shift: Leadership likability and the CEO gender gap http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-07/morning-shift-leadership-likability-and-ceo-gender <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/by Kumar Appaiah.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We explore what makes a well-liked boss - and whether people prefer male or female CEOs. Plus, we take a look at the complicated question of why segregation in Chicago Public Schools continues.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-leadership-likability-and-the-ceo-ge/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-leadership-likability-and-the-ceo-ge.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-leadership-likability-and-the-ceo-ge" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Leadership likability and the CEO gender gap" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 08:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-07/morning-shift-leadership-likability-and-ceo-gender Chicago man loses 200 pounds to give back to Little Village http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/chicago-man-loses-200-pounds-give-back-little-village-109972 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/storycorps.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Miguel Blancarte, Jr. is a proud resident of Chicago&#39;s Little Village neighborhood. A first generation college graduate from Brown University, he now works at a law firm specializing in immigration.</p><p>Miguel says the one thing he&rsquo;s always struggled with is his weight. It wasn&rsquo;t until his doctor warned him that he wouldn&rsquo;t live past his mid-40s that he knew something had to change:</p><p>&ldquo;Honestly the thought of losing anything more than 30 pounds was just not a reality to me,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But Miguel managed to lose not just 30, but 200 pounds in all. He then ran his first ever 5k race to to raise money for Enlace, the local community center that provides health and social services in Little Village.</p><p>To hear how he lost all that weight so he could give back to his community, check out the audio above.</p><p><em>Meredith Zielke is a WBEZ producer.</em><br />&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/chicago-man-loses-200-pounds-give-back-little-village-109972 Morning Shift: What does our favorite food say about us? http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-03-21/morning-shift-what-does-our-favorite-food-say-about <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Plate Phil Romans.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We take a look at the state of our plate as we talk with the man behind the annual tome, Eating Habits in America. Also, the sounds of bhangra pioneer DJ Rehka.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-what-does-our-favorite-food-say-abou/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-what-does-our-favorite-food-say-abou.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-what-does-our-favorite-food-say-abou" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: What does our favorite food say about us?" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 08:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-03-21/morning-shift-what-does-our-favorite-food-say-about Chicago to Mexico, by bus http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-mexico-bus-109747 <p><p><em><strong>This story is made for your ears. Please push play above! </strong></em></p><p>Every week, hundreds of people board coach buses in Chicago and travel to Mexico. I used to live in Mexico, and have taken the 2,000-mile trip nearly a dozen times to and from Zamora, Michoacán. On my most recent trip, I brought a tape recorder along, and made this audio travelogue.</p><p><em>Your attention please. Everybody with your tickets on your hand! </em><em>Por favor, todos tengan su boleto en la mano, que ahorita se lo voy a quitar!</em></p><p>The soundtrack of a bus trip to Mexico consists of the driver on the public address system, the 45 other passengers and their snores, cries,the rustle of plastic bags, cell phone conversations, back-to-back movies shown on the six screens suspended from the ceiling, the bus driver&rsquo;s radio, and always, the drone of the bus engine .</p><p>Every time you start one of these trips, you consider the variables. And you hope. Sleek paint jobs and tinted windows mean these buses almost always look better on the outside than they do on the inside. The small amount of legroom can be alarming, and uncomfortable. Other variables: the temperature, the smells.</p><p><em>How lucky are we? </em>I ask our driver.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Oh, beautiful, beautiful! We got Wi-Fi, we got a switch where you can recharge your battery. </em></p><p>The driver tells me his approach to the job: make everybody happy. His immediate strategy involves 80s music on the radio (for him) and back-to-back movies (for us). <em>Lethal Weapon 3 </em>is in progress as we board. It&rsquo;s repeated later in its entirety, for those who boarded late.</p><p>Chicago is connected to a world of small Mexican towns that most people have never heard of. If I want to visit my mother-in-law in provincial Mexico, I can walk to a bus station in my Chicago neighborhood and buy a direct ticket to Zamora, Michoacán (well, they call it a direct ticket, you&rsquo;ll see what that means).</p><p>The ride takes 48 hours, two days and two nights. And, no, there is not a sleeping car.</p><p>Like most people on the bus, my family of five is here for one reason: during peak travel seasons, it&rsquo;s a lot cheaper than a plane.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/INSIDE.jpg" title="Variables inside the bus: legroom, temperature, smell. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div><p><em>Welcome and good afternoon, ladies and gentlemens. Thank you for choosing El Expreso. I&rsquo;m sorry for the de-late. </em></p><p>The names of the bus lines traveling to Mexico are meant to make you think the trip will fly by. There&rsquo;s El Conejo, the Rabbit. Tornado. We&rsquo;re traveling this time on El Expreso (right.)</p><p>Every two-day bus trip starts with a little welcome speech. And every speech includes some variation on this rule:</p><p><em>El baño. Favor de usar el numero 1 si es posible, porque el numero 2 está un poquito fuerte y no queremos que vaya un olor fuerte en la estancia.&nbsp; </em></p><p>Do NOT use the bus bathroom&mdash;basically, unless you&rsquo;re dying. Absolutely no Number 2.</p><p><em>We do not want strong odors on the bus</em>, the driver says. <em>Hay que tener mucho respeto por las demás gentes. </em></p><p>From the moment you buy your ticket, you&rsquo;re stepping into a different world, a world you do not control, a world where things will not go as planned, small things and big things.</p><p>The 1 pm bus leaves at 2:30 pm. That&rsquo;s not too bad.&nbsp; The Wi-Fi? Actually&hellip; no Wi-Fi.</p><p>Last year, we were stranded for 20 hours in Matamoros. Another time, one of the side windows of the bus just fell out. The driver went back to look for it on I-35&mdash;no luck. So we just kept going, the 100-degree Texas heat blowing through the bus all the way to Dallas.</p><p>These bus companies have been sued over accidents; I try not to think about that when I buy the tickets.</p><p align="center">* * *</p><p><em>Please do take advantage of this stop, because the next stop won&rsquo;t be until Jackson, so it&rsquo;s quite a ways. Go ahead and take advantage of it. </em><em>Aquí 25 minutos. 25 minutes. </em></p><p>If you do this trip a few times, you get to know all the stops: Effingham, Illinois; Matthews, Missouri&mdash;that&rsquo;s where we are right now. The sound of the bus is everywhere. Even when you&rsquo;re not on it, it&rsquo;s idling nearby. We look pale, dazed under the fluorescent gas station lights.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MATTHEWS%20TRAVEL.JPG" title="Matthews, Missouri (Credo Duarte)" /></div><p>Next will be Jackson and McComb, Mississippi; Lafayette, Arkansas; Houston, Beeville, and McAllen, Texas. And on the Mexico side: Monterrey, Matehuala, San Luis, Celaya, Zamora.</p><p>We pack the TA Travel Center bathroom. We brush our teeth, line up for the toilet, spray deodorant, change the babies. Little by little you get to know where everyone is from, where everyone&rsquo;s going, places that have sent generations of immigrants to the Chicago area, mostly: Michoacán, Zacatecas, Jalisco. The college student from Beloit is going to Durango.</p><p><em>Yeah, so it&rsquo;s like, another 13 hours after Houston. I don&rsquo;t even know&hellip; I get motion sickness, so I&rsquo;m like half awake, half asleep the whole ride. </em></p><p>She&rsquo;ll come back in a week, do this all again but in reverse.</p><p>The lady from Guanajuato, I feel like I know her life story. (Would this ever happen on a plane?) How her daughter got married at age 16, how she made a deal with God to get her immigration papers...</p><p><em>&hellip;Y agarré a mi niño y me pase a la recámara. No lloraba, pero &iexcl;se imagina todo lo que estaba pasando! Que de una manera y de otra y no había manera de pasarme. &nbsp;Y yo agarré y me hinqué y yo le dije, &lsquo;Señor, tú sabes&rsquo;&mdash;ahora sí como que lo obligué&mdash;&lsquo;tú SABES que yo TENGO que estar con mi esposo. Yo no sé como le vas a hacer, pero tú me vas a llevar.&rsquo;&nbsp;&nbsp; Y al otro día, que me dice la prima, &ldquo;Oye, &iquest;por qué no sacas otra vez tu pasaporte&hellip; </em></p><p>8 hours down, 40 to go.</p><p>The movies stop and the lights get turned off at 11:30 pm. The clatter of the bus over the highway is rhythmic. Snores follow, the click click of video games continues.&nbsp; Low voices talk on phones with girlfriends back in Chicago.</p><p align="center"><strong>* * *</strong></p><p>While the bus companies in Chicago sell you &ldquo;direct&rdquo; tickets to little towns in Mexico, that doesn&rsquo;t mean you&rsquo;re riding the same bus all the way. In Houston, we all get off.</p><p><em>Si se encuentra Marcela Gálvez, puede pasar a la Taquilla Número 2. Marcela, Marcela Gálvez&hellip;</em>(And continuing over the PA system: &iquest;<em>Tú eres Marcela? &iquest;Es tu mamá?</em> )</p><p>And that&rsquo;s when I meet Eliseo Orejel. He&rsquo;s traveling with his wife and three kids. They&rsquo;re from LaGrange, and it just so happens they&rsquo;re also travelling to Zamora.</p><p>Eliseo is surrounded by suitcases.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Here--everything, up to there. Because we&rsquo;re allowed 400 pounds. Two 40-pound bags per (person), and we&rsquo;re five. I&rsquo;m like 345 pounds. But more than half of this is staying over there, so&hellip;.</em></p><p>Eliseo&rsquo;s kids like the bus.</p><p><em>Do you think we&rsquo;re going to have any adventures on this bus trip?</em> I ask. They immediately know what I mean by &ldquo;adventures.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Yes! I think so!</em> They say. They recount past adventures. <em>Like, one time a wheel popped. We could just feel like the bus was getting lower on the back. And it took a long while. And then it popped again.</em></p><p>I can top that! One time I actually <em>drove</em> the bus. Well, it was a passenger van at that point, but still!&nbsp; The driver wanted to make some extra cash by dropping a señora off at her out-of-the-way village, up in some hills. &nbsp;It was rainy season, and we got stuck in the mud. So I drove, the driver and my husband pushed, and our kids watched from the edge of the muddy farm field.</p><p><em>Los que vienen de Chicago! Las personas que vienen de Chicago! Van a ir con Flecha Roja. Aquí a la Ventanilla 3.</em></p><p>Mexico has a great bus system. The buses are modern. They run on time. Most everything is computerized. These international immigrant buses hand out paper tickets. They oversell seats. They never know how many people to expect, or what their final destinations are.</p><p>After an hour or so in Houston, we are issued new handwritten paper tickets. And we&rsquo;re on our way, though for some reason Eliseo, the guy going to the same place we are, is not on our new bus.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/HANDWRITTEN.jpg" title="" /></div><p><em>Bienvenidos al autobus Flecha Roja...</em></p><p>Our feet are swollen from sitting so long. People doze. Behind me, a señora talks on her cell phone. &nbsp;</p><p><em>Next time I&rsquo;m going by plane,</em> she tells someone.</p><p>The granddaughter traveling with her gets on the phone next, with an older sister. &nbsp;Then there are miles and miles of Vanessa, age 9:&nbsp;</p><p><em>I&rsquo;m so lucky, Lupe&mdash;because you can&rsquo;t touch me. I&rsquo;m all the way over here; you&rsquo;re all the way over there. You can&rsquo;t do nothing. </em></p><p><em>I&rsquo;m bored! </em></p><p><em>Oh, um&hellip; did you find those little ligas to make the bracelet? It&rsquo;s so HOT in here.</em></p><p><em>Lupe, oh! I saw a Marilyn Monroe shirt! It&rsquo;s pretty&hellip;I can&rsquo;t&mdash;I&rsquo;m on the bus! How can I buy it? I&rsquo;m on the bus!</em></p><p>One thing about traveling on these bus lines: Every time we pull into a station, we wonder two things: what will the next bus be like&mdash;are we trading up or down? And when will it leave?</p><p>When we get to McAllen, it&rsquo;s dark already.</p><p><em>Bueno, sí. Buenas noches. Vamos a bajar de esta unidad, se les va a entregar el equipaje, y ésta unidad se va a retirar, y se va a acercar la siguiente unidad, en la que van a abordar&hellip;</em></p><p>Things don&rsquo;t go well. Not everyone fits on the next bus, we&rsquo;re told. Or perhaps it is the luggage that does not fit&mdash;there are conflicting stories. The official says he&rsquo;s only boarding to three cities.</p><p><em>Ahorita se van a subir aquí: Irapuato, Salamanca y Celaya. Tengo otro autobús, no más necesito despachar este primero&hellip; </em></p><p>It does not matter that other destinations, including ours, are practically next door to these three cities, he&rsquo;s only boarding to these three cities. The family from Salvatierra has been told there are no buses there until morning.</p><p><em>&hellip;que para Salvatierra van a salir hasta mañana. &iquest;Cómo lo vamos a hacer?</em></p><p>He promises he has two other buses in the wings, but nobody quite believes him, and nobody wants to sleep in McAllen.</p><p><em>Aquí tengo tres autobuses! Le digo! Los estoy acomodando. </em></p><p>Finally, another bus does show up&mdash;and so does Eliseo Orejel&mdash;the guy with the 345 pounds of luggage.</p><p><em>Nos volvemos a encontrar! What a mess, now it&rsquo;s REALLY messed!</em> he greets us.</p><p>As we get underway, the passengers debate which bus line is the worst.</p><p><em>&iexcl;Ésta es la línea más garra esta que hay! </em></p><p>At this point, we&rsquo;ve been traveling 30 hours. We&rsquo;re 6 hours behind schedule. This is our third bus. &nbsp;And that is the context for what happens next.</p><p align="center">* * *</p><p>The driver gets on the loudspeaker.</p><p><em>OK, aaah. &iquest;Me escuchan? </em></p><p>Can you hear me? The driver asks. We&rsquo;re right on the border now.</p><p><em>OK, &iquest;Me escuchan? </em></p><p><em>&iexcl;Sí! </em>the passengers shout.</p><p><em>OK. Damas y caballeros, ah bueno. Aquí es una revisión fiscal. Aquí vamos a bajar con los oficiales de la fiscal, de aquí de la aduana. Me da pena decirles, me dice el oficial que vamos a bajar todo, todo el equipaje que traigan en las cajuelas, todo lo que traigan aquí arriba del autobús también, vamos a pasar a revisión, allí adentro de la banda. </em></p><p>Ladies and gentlemen, he&rsquo;s says. We&rsquo;ve come to a fiscal checkpoint. I hate to tell you this. But the customs official has let me know that we are going to have to take everything&mdash;everything&mdash;off the bus. Everything we have in the compartments underneath the bus, everything inside the bus. And we&rsquo;re going through customs.</p><p><em>Pero, me hace un comentario. Me dice que si le juntamos una cooperación, evitamos bajar todo nuestro equipaje. Ya es a consideración de ustedes. </em></p><p>However, the bus driver says, the customs official has mentioned something: If we take up a little donation, he says, we can avoid customs completely.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Ya eso, ya es a consideración de ustedes. No sé si ustedes quieren, nos juntamos una cooperación para entregarle al oficial, para que no bajemos todo nuestro equipaje. </em></p><p>This kind of shakedown has happened on every bus trip I&rsquo;ve ever taken to Mexico.</p><p><em>How much already?</em> one passenger shouts.</p><p>The driver suggests a $5 donation per person, which passengers revise to $5 per family. We&rsquo;ve been charged $20 per family before, but if you go higher than that, people without much luggage&mdash;or people without anything that might interest a customs official&mdash;start to grumble.</p><p><em>Ténganlo a la mano y yo lo recojo. Ténganlo a la mano.</em></p><p>Have your money out, the driver says. I&rsquo;ll come by to collect.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/BRIBE.JPG" title="However, the bus driver says, the customs official has mentioned something: If we take up a little donation, he says, we can avoid customs completely. (Credo Duarte)" /></div><p>Once he&rsquo;s been through the bus, the driver steps out into the cool Reynosa air&mdash;he and another guy in a button-down shirt compare big wads of cash. Inside the bus, the passengers shake their heads and joke.</p><p><em>Welcome to Mexico! &iexcl;Te están dando la bienvenida!</em></p><p>When the driver comes back, we drive right under the checkpoint with the giant red letters that say MÉXICO.</p><p>Incredibly, we change buses two more times after this, including in Monterrey, where a young official tries a trick I have never heard before:</p><p><em>Miren, salidas a Moroleón, Guadalajara, Celaya, Morelia, Cuernavaca, Acámbaro, no hay nada. Está todo lleno aquí en la ciudad de Monterrey. No hay nada hasta para el día 3, 4 de enero&hellip;</em></p><p>He tells us there will be no buses to any destination for 10 days. &nbsp;So when one appears only two hours later and our names are called, it feels like a gift!</p><p><em>Felipe Ortega! Rosa Nuñez! Linda! </em></p><p>Oh, and the LaGrange family going to the same place we are? Not on this bus.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/WINDOW%20SIGN.jpg" title="(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div><p>As we get further and further into Mexico, the frustration in the bus dissipates. Along with all the delays there are also homemade tortillas at a roadside restaurant. Barbacoa tacos. Soup. The warm sun. And the thought of piñatas and weddings and quinceañera parties, all the family waiting for us.</p><p><em>It&rsquo;s been a pretty good trip</em>, the guy in front of me says.</p><p>The bus official at our very last stop &ndash;51 hours down, 4 to go&mdash;sees it like this:</p><p><em>Lo bueno es que ya va a llegar a su destino. Que tenga buen viaje, y bienvenida a México. </em></p><p>The good thing is you&rsquo;re almost there. Have a very nice trip. Welcome to Mexico.</p><p align="center">* * *</p><p>I was not going to tape on the return trip to Chicago. But I could not help myself when this happened&hellip;</p><p><em>BBBBBBEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. &nbsp;BEEP. </em></p><p>Buses inside Mexico are equipped with annoying, piercing alarms that sound every time the driver goes over the speed limit. These international immigrant buses don&rsquo;t usually have those alarms. But yep, we got one.</p><p><em>BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP.</em></p><p>All night long, no one complained.</p><p>I feel that&rsquo;s a very Mexican response, I tell my Mexican husband.</p><p><em>What would be the point of complaining?</em> he asks. <em>The driver can&rsquo;t do anything but go slower. And we don&rsquo;t want to go slower.</em> But he agrees: if this had been a bus full of gringos, they definitely would have complained.</p><p>The bus beeped all the way to northern Mexico. It was still dark, but ahead I could see a long, thin line of lights running left and right across the highway&mdash; the border.</p><p>The thing about taking the bus to Mexico, you actually physically feel the distance between the two places that make up your life. You feel the border&mdash;with its checkpoints and flashing lights and immigration officials with their walkie-talkies.</p><p><em>Hello, Sir. 10-4, 10-4. </em></p><p>On the way back to Chicago, the bus drivers put on classic Mexican movies, heightening nostalgia for the place we were leaving behind, the narrow black highway stretched out like a thread between Mexico and Chicago, the bus moving along it.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/TORNADO.jpg" title="(WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div></p> Fri, 21 Feb 2014 08:24:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-mexico-bus-109747 Mexican father gives Chicago sons big surprise http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/mexican-father-gives-chicago-sons-big-surprise-109539 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/storycorps jose jose.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>For 11 years, Jose Franco Rubio has lived apart from his children. They&rsquo;re here in Greater Chicago, he&rsquo;s in Mexico.</p><p>So Franco Rubio decided to give his three sons a surprise: Bulls tickets. But he didn&rsquo;t tell them he planned to fly in and join them just minutes before the game.</p><p>He and his oldest son, Jose Franco (who&rsquo;s nicknamed Chema), came into the Chicago StoryCorps&rsquo; booth to talk about the big surprise.</p><p><strong>JOSE FRANCO </strong>(SON): We haven&rsquo;t seen each other for 4 years.<br /><strong>JOSE FRANCO RUBIO</strong> (FATHER): It&rsquo;s been so many Christmases, so many Father&rsquo;s Days &hellip; I haven&rsquo;t been with them&hellip;</p><p>Franco Rubio said he and his children have stayed in touch by phone and Skype, but it&rsquo;s not the same. His children had visited him in Mexico, but his financial picture hadn&rsquo;t allow him to visit here until recently.</p><p>Last month, Franco Rubio boarded a plane to Chicago.</p><p><strong>FRANCO RUBIO</strong>: I was so excited, I was just like a 2-years-kid, jumping around and telling everybody.</p><p>To find out how Franco Rubio managed to surprise his sons at the United Center, check out the audio above.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Sat, 18 Jan 2014 10:14:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/mexican-father-gives-chicago-sons-big-surprise-109539