Victims in the Shadows

The first time I saw her she was covering her face with a hooter sweater that appeared to have been very old and faded. She was not very told and her body was slim, her dress was homemade, or at least it looked like it was home made. When she removed the hood that was covering her face I could see the bruises on both side of her face, but I could not see the color of her eyes because they were cover with blood from the abuse she had sustained. It was not clear what had happened to her and I could not understand who would do such thing to another human being especially one that looked so innocent. As I asked her name she answered with a soft voice that sounded almost apologetic for her pain, she looked at me with tears of pain and embarrassment as if she had done something terrible. I could not understand her fear or her apologetic expression. I asked her what had happened and she looked at me with disbelieve as if I was speaking in a different language, she softly told me that she did not understand why he had to hurt her, that she had done nothing wrong. I could see the tears of pain and the look of disbelief as she attempted to hide them from me.

Maria was born in Puebla Mexico, a small Village where everyone knew each other’s, and from the moment you started to comprehend life you knew that if you wanted to succeed you had to leave and with weeping hearts the parents of each child supported and encouraged their children to leave especially if they wanted to go to America. Marias parents were no different but Maria could not see herself moving away to a strange country without her parents, especially her mother who’s been fighting cancer for 5 years. But times got worse for her family and the treatment that her mother needed were not available to everyone, only those who were rich had access to such medical procedures and for her mother such treatment was an unreachable dream. But Maria was determine to save her mother’s life and even at the age of seventeen Maria knew that the only way to save her mother was to sneak into United States and make her way to New York City. She was not sure why New York City, but she remembered once seen a movie were a family escape from some country and found their happiness in New York City.

Maria made her way to New York City the same way millions of other Mexican and none Mexican have done using the Mexican border as the crossing to a new world that promises dreams of success and riches un imaginable to anyone living outside the United States. Maria was taken to a temp work agency pre-arrange through the same people that guided her safe path to the United States. Maria started working at a restaurant washing dishes, perhaps by the standards of some people she was not making much but for Maria she was making enough for food and to send money to her mother who was able to get the medical treatment she needed with the American Dollars Maria was sending. The owners of the restaurant took noticed of Maria and how hard she would work, even when she was sick. Soon Maria was hired by the restaurant directly and instantly she was making more money, allowing her to send a larger amount to her mother and continued to live on the same salary as before. Now she was in charge of opening the restaurant every morning around five o’clock and by the time the restaurant was open to the public, everything was immaculate.

But Maria’s life would be change forever on the morning of Wednesday March 26, 2008, Maria opened the restaurant like she has done for the past year and as she started to walk inside the restaurant, she felt a cold hand wrapping around the back of her neck firmly pushing her against the wall, the grip around her neck was so tight that she was not able to scream and she was gasping for air. She heard a deep rough voice asking her as the grip around her neck got tighter, where is the money? Maria did not know exactly what he was asking but since she understood the word money assumed that the man was looking for the money of the restaurant, she told him in a combination of Spanish and English that there was no money that it was early. But the assailant would not reason and started to hit Maria on the back of the head with a close fist knocking her onto the floor then he started to kick her as Marias body laid on the floor defensively bleeding from the face and the back of her head. Sometime during the assault Maria lost her consciences and went into a deep sleep that took her back to her village where she saw herself running free through the fields and the country side like a bird that flies onto the Horizon just to enjoy the different colors of the sun, as its rays are filtered by the clouds.

I attempted to make Maria understand that I was on her side and her immigration status was of no concern to me. She looked at me with a blank expression and in a soft tone she told me if I could let her rest for a couple of hours and then she would answer all my questions. I told her that I would be back in two hours and with a smile she thanked me. I left the room with a sadness that I had not felt in my 20 year career as an investigator. The brutality used against Maria was not the typical behavior of a person trying to steal from a business, not that there is a written rule for stealing but it was odd to just beat someone up, especially someone as delicate as Maria. I drove back to the police station and I shared my limited interview and my observation of Maria with other colleagues and how I could not understand how someone could have acted so viciously against another human being. Jim, who was listening to me, placed his hand on my left shoulder and with a firm voice told me. The worst part is that illegal immigrants are targets for such attacks, because nine out of ten they never file a report because they are afraid of deportation. I slightly bit my bottom lip looked at the time and walked away from Jim without saying a word knowing in my heart that he was telling me a horrible truth about the crimes that were been committed against illegal immigrant because the assailant knew that it would not be reported.

It was time to drive back to the hospital and as I drove I turned on the radio and the news were been broadcast at this time and like always it was the usual about the war, presidential candidates, economy, and like every news segment it finished with the weather. AS I arrived at the hospital I walked to Marias room and I knocked on the door and waited to hear her delicate voice telling me to enter when a nurse told me that the patient that was in the room had left the hospital without telling anyone. I asked her, what do you mean? As her words took me by surprise; she looked at me and with a cold blank stare told me, she was illegal, do you really expected her to stay here long? Beside think of how much money the tax payers are going to save. I looked at the nurse with a ruthless expression and as I tried to speak the words would not come out due to my anger and disbelieve I felt, hearing those words from her. As I walked away, I could not help thinking how the media portraits the illegal immigrants and how they don’t speak about the atrocities and the suffering they endure in the name of freedom.

Victims in the Shadows

Carlos Maitin

North Bergen, United States

  • Artist

Artist's Description

This story was inspired by true events, the actual names and facts are fictional and any similarities at all are pure coincidence. But the message is true and every day hundreds of Illegal immigrants are abused and are victims of crimes that go unreported. They are the victims in the shadows. Who would help them?

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