Time to Breathe (Confessions of an Alien)

Beyond Deadlines is proud to serialize Mr. Romy Morales’ first book “Time to Breathe (Confessions of an Alien).” It is a personal account of a Filipino immigrant in the United States. It is a must read for those who wish to migrate to the U.S. Come let us join Romy in his journey and see what is in store for us.

 

romy morales

THE stories about the widespread immigration hitting the headlines today, more than ever, is brought about by wars in Syria, Africa, and Asia, and the worldwide terrorist acts of al-Qaeda and ISIS. The worsening conflicts around the globe are driving people to move to other countries as immigrants in a bid to survive and better themselves. As the world globalizes and the global economic condition worsens, the volume of immigrants has risen to an alarming level never before seen.

To date, the United Arab Emirates, due to its openness to immigrants; has registered the highest level of immigrants in the world at 88 percent followed by the United States with 19 percent or about 42.2 million people.

Russia and Germany are tied at 9.6 percent followed by the Sunni Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with 3.9 percent. This volume brought the percentage of immigrants vis a vis the local population of the kingdom to 15 percent.

In the U.S., immigrants have concentrated themselves in California (10.5 million), Texas and New York (4.5 million each), Florida (4 million), New Jersey (2 million), and Chicago (1.4 million). These immigrants, in their desire to better their lives and their families, have braved the unknown trying their luck as an alien in a country so culturally different from their own.

In the process of their struggles, they entered into new level of challenges that in some cases are even much worse from the condition they ran away from.

Beyond Deadlines is taking pride putting into print some selected chapters of Romeo Morales’ Time to Breathe (Confessions of an Alien) for immigrants to read. It’s a mind-boggling journey and struggle of an immigrant in the U.S., probably the second best personal account of an immigrant ever to come out after the publication, almost seven decades ago, of Carlos Bulosan’s America Is in the Heart. That literary piece shows the world that immigrant life in the U.S. then, as it is today, is not as rosy as it seems to be.

Immigrants in America are met with “hostility, racism and low-paying jobs.” The hostile condition in the 30’s that Bulosan found himself to be when he went to the U.S. is comparable to what Morales have endured in that same North American country.

Morales’ experience is smacked with certain degree of similarities with the ordeals and sacrifices (low salary, exploitation, injustice, discrimination, etc.) that Bulosan went through. Simply put, things in U.S. did not change since the 1930’s. The conditions are the same and in some instances may have worsen.

Time to Breathe could be an eye-opener to those who continue to view the U.S. as the land of milk and honey and job opportunities.

Time to Breathe (Confessions of an Alien) are available in book form — soft bound (5.5 x 8.5 inch, 408 page-memoir, perfect binding), and electronic or digital format (eBook) at Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027 (323-660-1175 to reserve a copy) or through an email at emailko0210@gmail.com It is also available at www.romeomorales.info. Copies could also be obtained by contacting the author through his Facebook account (Romy Morales). It’s availability at Amazon.com will also be announced soon.

PROLOGUE

After toiling for years as a reporter of a Manila newspaper, I realized I won’t be able to give my family and myself a better future from the salary I earn working regularly almost 24/7.

Tired and bored searching for stories in every corner of the metropolis as a police reporter and later as a foreign affairs journalist, I finally decided to get out from my self-incarceration in my profession and seek the field of dreams that I dream of for so long.

Believing that North America is going to become my cure-all solution to my financial difficulties and professional stagnation, I left the Philippines with a heavy heart and few hard-earned Philippine peso that I could spend while I steadied myself as I face uncertainties abroad.

I first flew to Canada in the hope that my experience as a journalist was enough credential to find employment. With Canada having opened its doors to immigrants, I decided to try my luck in that country. However, I have, at the back of my mind, the United States of America as my alternative and final destination should my Canadian venture fails.

When I left Manila for a 16-hour trip to North America, some 10,000 miles away, I thought it would be a breeze transiting from the U.S. to Canada. But upon landing at the U.S.’s Minneapolis on my way to the Maple country, I was unnecessarily subjected to meticulous inspections. Immigration officers examined all travel papers and, in some cases, even subjects new arrivals to harsh interrogation.

In my case, I got past immigration without any hassle but as I was retrieving my baggage, customs officers (they were wearing uniform similar to the policemen) singled me out from the crowd, scrutinized my bag for barred items like dried salted fish (tuyo) or fish sauce (patis). They asked intrusive questions like where I bought my plane ticket and how I paid for it.

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The queries made me slightly quiver, fearful and anxious expecting that at any moment that they would rebook me on a flight back to the Philippines. Finding nothing that would allow them to detain me further, I was allowed to proceed. What pisses me off in that instance was that my final destination, at that time, was Canada not the U.S. I’m just an airline passenger in transit.

Without any working visa or work arrangement in Canada, I plunged head on to that country only with a tourist visa and a determination to make my job-hunting adventure work. Soon, I was able to land a job but it didn’t last long. My first attempt to seek employment and permanent residency in Canada was a total failure.

As I spent more time in that country, my prospects for better jobs dwindled and so was the hope to work and stay legally. Thus, I wasted no time, packed my travel bag and boarded a plane out of Canada bound to my original, and may I say, preferred destination – the U.S., the land of the free, the home of the brave, and better opportunity, at least that was what I thought.

America here I come!

People don’t just move to a strange land unless there are compelling reasons for them to do so. Resettling elsewhere and leaving behind families, friends, neighbors and fellow workers for us Filipinos is truly emotionally painful because of our camaraderie and clannish character. Nevertheless, I went away, thinking that I would better my life.

Soon I found out that the road to the “land of milk and honey” is not paved with gold but with thorns. It was for me, a venture saddled with faux pas, setbacks, disappointments, failures, and just about every misfortune one could think of. It did not take long for me to realize that I started my journey using the wrong foot. It is not easy for a tourist like me to legalize my immigration status once I become an illegal alien in the U.S. The process entails getting a lawyer and an employer, options that did not really auger well for me at that time. It is not as easy as eating an American pie!

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In the Philippines, they paid me a salary enough to survive but not to carry a family comfortably. However, despite the low pay, life is bearable because I was in the company of family members, relatives, and friends.

I left my homeland and the newspaper publication where I used to work because of the unhealthy atmosphere that was demoralizing us workers. There were constant changes in the editorial body and reshuffling of assignments, and these movements have caused concern among the staff.

Normally, individual merits are the factors in beat reassignments but the entry of the Philippine Commission on Good Government, which was created to take over offices suspected to be owned by political allies of the former Marcos government, drastically changed the management policy and structure of our publication company.

There were staffers, who were reshuffled to choice beats because they were close to the executives of the publication. These unwanted developments had disturbing effects on me and some of my colleagues and I supposed it affected our performance. I feared that I might be shown the exit door sooner than I expected.

During that time, poor performance could result in unfavorable consequences—getting fired would be the worst. Thus, instead of beingaxed,” there were those who just left. Finding another job was not that easy then. Unemployment was high, competition was strong and only the best, the gifted, and those with connections prevailed.

In short, there were not enough jobs for everyone. So there was a struggle for survival! Even college graduates could hardly land a job. Those who didn’t have the necessary education and experience were even in a more disadvantaged predicament. Worst, if there were jobs available, they didn’t pay much too.

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In the newspaper publication where I had worked, the paper’s management changes like one changes an underwear. The constant reshuffles were due to changes that occur now and then in the government. Being a sequestered company, the tenure of the top management and the editorial boards were co-terminus with the president of the Republic.

With a shaky government, it seems suddenly that every Tom, Dick and Harry had an interest in managing a sequestered publication. Even those who didn’t know anything about publishing or putting out a newspaper found themselves in the job. Politics catapulted them to choice positions. Sometimes because of political maneuvering in the government by some vested individuals there are sudden changes. And the changes went down the line, even to the rank and file, which really made everyone edgy.

We feared that overzealous executives would totally siphon our source of income and eventually the newspaper company would fold up. To make the matter worse, there were also predators lurking in the sidelines waiting for the an opportunity to grab our company. It was so hard to get a job, so easy to be booted out. At the flick of a finger of analmighty in the company,” one could easily become jobless.

I didn’t wait for that to happen. When reshuffled to a new assignment which I thought was personally demeaning, I made my move and told myself it’s time to get out of the country just like many of my compatriots who seemingly had gone on an exodus to the ‘promise land’”.

Before I decided to leave my job and native land, I first went job hunting in neighboring Asian countries like in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Then I went to Europe, Greece and Italy, countries that I visited when covering the foreign affairs beat. Most of the offered jobs i.e. construction, computer programming, healthcare and even in care giving – did not fit me. With respect to my profession, I didn’t find any opening.

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Ah, there was this one. I was offered to be a broadcast journalist for a Hong Kong television station after a Chinese colleague from the former Crown Colony recommended me. However, I didn’t pursue that opportunity since I had a wonderful squeaky voice that would surely turn off television viewers. Have you heard a chipmunk broadcasting news? Well, that could be me!

Flying by plane from the Philippines to North America is safe. Unlike the immigrants from Latin America, where they have to cross borders that separate Mexico and the United States amid the scorching heat of the desert sun, the treacherous rivers and deep valleys; coming in to the U.S. by plane is definitely the safer route. Of course, there are those who take much riskier means— crossing in tunnels constructed by drug smugglers, travelling by boats on the high seas, or being smuggled inside cargo containers aboard a ship or an airplane and I have nothing but admiration for these people. For whatever route or means we took, we have the same goal in mind—to get into the mainlandby hook or by crook.”

Filipinos would spend huge amount of money to get supporting documents or get a fixer secure a U.S. visa while our brothers—the Mexicans, the other Latinos including other nationals also wanting a better life—pay human smugglers to bring them to the United States. With these nonstop emigration to the U.S., so far, the Filipino legal emigrants are on a see-saw fight with the Indian and the Chinese1 for the top spot in numbers while the Latinos, who are coming in trickles have surpassed the blacks in terms of population, this not counting the illegal and undocumented immigrants already in the

1 Aaron Terazas, Filipino Immigrants in the United States. September 8, 2008. Immigration Policy Institute. (Brian Martin, 2004) Migration Information Source. Fresh Thought, Authoritative Data, Global Reach. Retrieved 8/21/2012 from http://www.migrationinformation.org/ usfocus/display

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country estimated to be around 11 to 12 million.2

I entered the U.S. of A. on a journalist visa. Initially, I was in legal status in my newfound country for a time but wasn’t lucky enough to find a company willing to sponsor me that would allowed me to work in America without becoming an illegal alien. Needless to say, I ended up becoming one of those unwanted people in America who have those unsettling ‘illegal alien’ tags, working illegally to survive.

Illegal aliens have few rights and are marginalized in a lot of things they do, particularly in relation to the job market. They usually end up doing odd jobs like providing care for the elderly and the infirm, working long hours in restaurants, factories, automobile shops, nightclubs or bars, picking fruits in farms, and gardening. It was a difficult situation that I found myself in, much more difficult from the problem I ran away from. I am sure many illegal face this kind of situation. There are very few lucky ones who find themselves doing entry-level office works.

Even with an impressive resume, an undocumented immigrant, more often than not, does not stand a chance. Without a legal status, that person is just another illegal alien. In a rare situation where an illegal is hired, the illegal is surely to be underpaid and exploited. The illegal would suffer from almost unending tears and disappointments.

There were some who “helped me” by giving me a job but they took advantage of my helplessness due to my illegal status. Understandably, in some instance that is because of the attendant risks involved in hiring illegal workers. But most of the time, employers just want to turn the situation in their favor.

2 Illegal immigrant population of the United States. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ illegal_immigrant

It was an unfortunate arrangement for me. The set-up between the employer and employee is not fair; more work for lesser pay. In Los Angeles, I didn’t know I would experience disappointments even in the hands of Filipino employers.

Because of the sensitiveness of this matter, I changed the names of many of the characters, modified their identities; in some instances, even altered the locations of the establishments or street names so the privacy of those who had been involved with me could be protected.

Even the dialogues I used were not exactly those that had been said, but in a way, it is the essence of what actually was said. If by chance some characters or events I tried to hide may still be identifiable or knowable, I am sorry, for that is as much I can do to protect them. I only wanted to present an account of what really happened. Exposing their identities or maligning them was never my intention.

On the same note, I cannot fault those who helped my when I need shelter or food but later on stopped being generous. Like a beggar, I could never be choosy. If they have given me space in their house or crumbs of bread as meal, I am counting that as a big favor. I am pretty sure other undocumented immigrants had the same experience. As matter of fact, all immigrants have their own story to tell, one way or the other.

America is not a paradise, contrary to what many perceived it to be. There are opportunities, yes, but those opportunities are also available in other countries. Only the U.S. has a stronger attraction to would-be immigrants. People from all walks of life keep coming to this country despite the many stories of heartaches and disappointments. It defies reason why people want to go here.

With its gargantuan problems on immigration, the America government is getting tougher, particularly on illegal immigrants. The roads to legalization are no longer that easy to traverse. Immigration laws are becoming stricter to discourage immigration. There are countless immigrants who have been on illegal status for many years, some as many as 20 years or even more. Many had spent a fortune, hoping to legalize status, only to see their hard-earned money disappear in thin air. One could just imagine what these people have gone through living as illegals.

There are those who lost hope and either they returned home or resign to their fate by continue living in uncertainty in the U.S. of A. The unlucky (or lucky) ones gets arrested, detained and deported, feet and hands shackled like common criminals. Still others get past their productive years, became old, got ill and died with the dubious tag as illegal aliens.

What these undocumented immigrants are going through are no ordinary ordeals. They undergo mind boggling sufferings, many times frustrating and sometimes traumatic. In trying to achieve the so-called American dream, the undocumented immigrants suffer from the ill-effects of separation from their loved ones, children growing up without their parents, broken family, and the shattering of the valued bond of matrimony. It destroys the very core of life and living. It sucks!

For as long as poverty and joblessness continue in the Philippines, the exodus of Filipinos to foreign countries will continue. And as long as the Philippine peso remains pegged to the American dollar, I believe the United States will continue to be a magnet for Filipinos migrants as a destination (legal or otherwise). If in my search for a better life places me in a miserable position, there is no one to be blamed but me. What had pushed me to take this journey is desire to work, to live, and to improve my lot. I only want to live the comfortable life like what the rest dream of, even if I had to become an illegal alien.

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To be continued…

 

4 Comments

  1. Janet Ducayag says:

    Just starting to read but I could feel the diificulty and hardship you have been through. I love and admire you Mie! Good luck and God bless.

  2. Kleo Kannangara says:

    Is there a way of ordering the book from overseas?

  3. Kleo Kannangara says:

    Like the soonest, I mean, without waiting for the availability through Amazon.com…

  4. Romeo M Morales says:

    Thanks for your interest Kleo. Send me a message at emailko0210@gmail.com so I can ship it to you. Romeo

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