La Lucha: Undocumented 17-year-old tells tale of resilience


Bryan Mena

Alberto stands in front of Tippi Teas on Stanton Street, he is an undocumented immigrant who has been in the United States for the past five months.

Bryan Mena, Entertainment Editor

Editor’s note: Alberto’s last name was omitted in order to preserve his identity.

Alberto, a 17-year-old undocumented immigrant, works seven days a week begging for money and cleaning windshields in El Paso, primarily so his elderly mother in Ciudad Juárez, Rocío, can survive. 

Alberto was born in Santa Bárbara, Mexico, and has two sisters, 17 and 22-yearsold, that live with him in a downtown El Paso refuge. 

According to the Migration Policy Institute, Texas has an undocumented immigrant population of roughly 1,600,000; 71 percent of that population is from Mexico and 15 percent are between the ages of 16 and 24. 

Alberto’s family moved from Santa Bárbara, a small town of less than 10,000 people, to Ciudad Juárez after his father passed away when he was only 3 years old. 

Cuando falleció mi papá, nos venimos a vivir a Juárez y luego empezó a batallar mi mamá un poco. Ya está un poco grande de edad, tiene como 74 años y no puede trabajar,” Alberto said. “Entonces yo soy el que hago la lucha para llevarle de comer a mis hermanas y para que yo coma durante el día. Ando limpiando carros, haciendo diferentes actividades para ganarme una moneda humildemente. Hago cualquier diferente trabajo para ayudar a mis hermanas y a mi mamá más que nada.” 

(When my dad died, we came to Juárez, but then my mom started to struggle. She’s a bit older, she’s like 74 years old and she cannot work,” Alberto said in Spanish. “I am the one making the effort to bring food for my sisters and so I can eat throughout the day. I’m cleaning cars and doing different activities to earn money humbly. I do any kind of work to help my sisters and my mom above all.”) 

According to Macrotrends, 34.8 percent of the population in Mexico made less than five U.S. dollars and 50 cents in 2016, considered the poverty rate. 

Throughout the week, Alberto is usually seen wearing a large backpack with a gas station windshield wiper in one hand and a water bottle filled with liquid soap in the otherHe has been in El Paso for the past five months. 

Nos trajeron unas personas,” said Alberto. “Tratamos de conseguir trabajo para mandarle dinero a mi mamá.” 

(Some people brought us,” said Alberto in Spanish. “We try to find work to send money to my mother.”) 

Alberto said he wanted to be smuggled into the U.S. to make more money to support his mother. He is typically able to deliver about $10 to his aging mother through the help of a woman he calls Pati. 

“Lo mando con una señora que se queda en el lugar donde me quedo. Cuando va para Juárez, le hablo a mi mamá y se acerca a la mitad del puente y ya la señora se lo da,” he explained. 

(I send (the money) with this lady who stays where I stay. When she goes to Juárez, I call my mom and she goes to the middle of the bridge where the lady gives it to her,” said Alberto in Spanish.) 

In Februarymore than 66,000 migrants crossed into the U.S. from Mexico in between official ports-of-entry and were then apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents, according to Vox. 

Around midday Oct. 12, the 17-year-old walked into Tippi Teas, a local tea house on Stanton Street, to ask for spare change or offer to clean customers cars for any amount. 

He went from table to table to gently make his plea, until he made it to my table where he agreed to have a conversation about his journey.  

The young undocumented immigrant said he usually frequents businesses in the downtown area to ask for change, but that some of them immediately kick him out. 

“A veces me corren o a veces hay personas un poco duras. Me hablan un poco feo pero yo los bendigo,” explained Alberto. 

(“Sometimes they kick me out or sometimes the people are slightly harsher. They talk to me a bit meaner, but I still bless them,” said Alberto.) 

Nonetheless, Alberto said that people in El Paso have been generous to him, giving him money and sometimes clothing. He said his goal is to eventually find a job. 

Bryan Mena may be reached at [email protected]