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Rose Anne's Story

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Rose Anne Amaya is a second generation Mexican-American living in Chicago. Her grandparents came to the United States from Mexico sometime in the 1920s and her father was born here in 1933.

Eventually her family made its way to Chicago from Texas. Despite her heritage Rose Anne's view of immigration between the United States and Mexico is complicated. Fifteen years ago a violent event up-ended her personal life and in the process changed her position on immigration policy.

She relays her story in the latest installment of our ongoing series Chicago Matters: Beyond Borders.


When we got here it was so strange to us.  Cause we came from you know a little town that went so slow; they are still back 10 years, you know, and they come to a place where it is so fast pace.  It was just so different for us.

I was 15 when I got pregnant and 16 when I had my oldest son Raleigh.  And that was in 1972.  We raised them up in Pilsen, up until 1987 when we moved to Bridgeport.

Oh my God, it was scary.  You know, we lived right in the heart of the gangs and all that was going on.  You know, it was like…there was always a fight going on; somebody screaming; somebody shooting; somebody, somebody doing something, you know. 

My two older ones, they saw a lot of that.  …especially my oldest one, he found comfort and safety in the little boys that were part of a gang. 

I had kind a started to see little signs of Raleigh being involved with gangs…  You know, like the different clothes that he was wearing and only wearing certain colors. And so I tried to steer him a different way, but my life was in shambles too.

I had gotten involved in the alcohol and I got involved in...  All the things that my parents did, my dad did, I did.  The alcohol, now I don't know if my dad did drugs, but I did.  Finally, in 1989, I decided, I don't want this anymore.  This is not the life I want for my children.  And once I made the change to go at it alone, he started to see I want different for myself also.

But they would not let go.  It's easier to get in than to get out, you know. 

The life that he was living was not life.  He said, “I can't go anywhere. All I can do is come home or go downstairs,” to visit his aunt, my sister.  And that was his life.

And if Raleigh wanted to go somewhere, we would have to drive him, literally someone would have to drive him to wherever he wanted to go, because he couldn't walk anywhere. He was about 16.

He started to go to Victory Outreach, which was in the Pilsen area.  And he was so different.  He would say, “Well Mom, I am doing street evangelism with them,” and he like doing all that, he'd talk to people about how their lives could be turned around.  And he was excited about that.

It was June 28, 1991.  And he left home that evening because they were going to have a play that Victory Outreach was sponsoring and I said, “ I don't want to go and I don't want you to go.”  He said, “Mom I told them I…I promised them that I would be there.  So I have to be there.”

So he managed to go to Pilsen on a bike. He didn't come home that night.  He did call my mom and he called my sister…he called like different people on the 28th.

Raleigh was talking to a girl that he knew.  She was with a boy and he had just finished beating her up. And Raleigh was talking to her. And the boy saw him from his apartment, called some of his so-called boys that this guy was hitting on his girlfriend.  And then Raleigh saw them coming towards him and he started to run.  Well some of them cut him off in an alley by hitting him on his legs and broke his knees.  By that time they're shooting at him, he fell and as he was going down the bullet hit his juggler vain. 

I made it to the hospital and they were working the paddles on him. 

When I saw Raleigh laying on that gurney, he had a way of sleeping that one of his legs would hang over.  And when I saw that and I saw them trying to bring him back and I said, “No,” because I saw he was at peace. And he was at home tonight. Not here on earth but he's at home. And he's at peace.

We got the call, I would say about a week later.  And they…what the detectives told me, was that they had, these guys had all driven away in a van.  And then knowing that the police were looking for them, they abandoned the van. It was just luck on police part that these guys left the van, but forgot their wallets. 

Then, we went through two years of court.  Then on the day they were going to sentence him he tells the lawyer that he did not understand any of the things that were going on.  He's Mexican, he doesn't understand English and so then he asks for an interpreter. 

I…I could not believe it.  How could they have not caught this earlier, instead of going through two years of trial, and they not know that he did not understand what was going on. 

Shortly, thereafter it took another two years.  Before he got convicted.  And what we were told is that once his was done serving his sentence here, that immigration would be there to pick him up to take him back to Mexico. 

He had committed murder in Mexico. He paid somebody to get him across the border to come here.  He hadn't been here that long and he did it again.

When this happened and all that was going on, I thought to myself, “How could it be that someone that has committed such a heinous crime in Mexico is able to come here and do it again?”  How can it be that we can not secure the borders or we could do something to prevent this from happening to someone else?

I have nieces and I have sisters that are married to gentleman from Mexico.  And they are all for, “Let them all come and let them all…they've been here, they've paid their taxes.”  I don't agree. 

It angers me.  Because you know if we want to be here, then we should abide by the law… 

I say these laws were put in place for a purpose.  And if there's people that have broken the law and have gotten here illegally, then, whether you've paid your taxes or whether you've not paid your taxes whatever it is, you have to abide by the laws. 

We've all paid taxes that doesn't we've paid the price, you know.

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