Caregiving on the Border

What is it like during the migration: Chat For Caregivers

I am a retired educator, and upon retirement, I started caring for my parents in El Paso, Texas May 24, 2018. I am a long-distance caregiver, and taking care of Mom & Dad was easy in the perspective of the following years. It has been 5 years since, and I am reflecting on the current political situation. Living in El Paso, I never thought of our maids being a product of illegal immigration. Growing up, we had maids taking care of us, living with us, and they were all living across the border in Mexico. I never gave it a thought until now.

Caregiving on the Border
Driving the Cart

Caregiving on the Border

While Caregiving Mom and Dad, there eventually came a time when I needed help. Dad was receiving an honor for Legends of the Sun Bowl at the Sun Bowl game in 2020, and he wanted me to walk with him across the field. I couldn’t go because I had to take care of Mom. She had hurt her shoulder and couldn’t raise it. Dad was placing her nightgown over her head. She raised her arms too high and felt a sharp pain. The doctor advised her not to move it, surgery was out of the question because of her age, and her arm was placed in a sling. Caregiving was becoming a challenge.

I asked my brother to go with my Dad to the Sun Bowl. He agreed, and instead of walking with him, he dropped him off. Four days later, he fell at home and fractured his hip. I needed help. Brother has always been there for the parents, lived with them for several years before I came, but never had to do things for them except maybe drive them to different events. Dad, a retired sports editor, is a freelance writer and writes a column twice a week in the local weekly paper. Brother drove Dad to his interviews, book signings, and UTEP football and basketball games. 

Hiring a Caregiver

After Dad fractured his hip, I had mentioned it would be harder to care for them both before he came home from rehab. His doctor gave me a number to call an agency recommended by their insurance. The girl we hired for Mom was wonderful. She has a “green card” and a work permit. She spoke limited English but understood the language. Mom is bilingual and bonded with her. She lived with her boyfriend, the head custodian for an apartment complex. Going back and forth over the border was fine. She and Mom bonded.

My Cleaning Crew

I also hired a carpet cleaning company and found out the husband and wife were illegally living here under the radar. I hired them to clean the carpet and the house weekly. Very cheap labor, but the husband was deported midway through 2021, and his wife continued to clean. Immigration caught up with him. Their children are citizens. His daughter is in San Antonio going to school/college, and his son is in high school but sowing his oats. He’s been in trouble and had a baby last year. While he was in Juarez, his father called me and proudly announced he would be a grandfather. The husband returned with this latest wave of migrants. El Paso is 75% or higher Hispanic. 

Legal vs. Illegal Immigrants

It is essential to ensure that caregivers who work in the United States are legally authorized to work in the country. If the caregivers I hired are illegal immigrants, it could put myself, my parents, and the caregivers themselves at risk.

Mom’s caregiver came from an agency. The girl I hired revealed and showed me her green card in our discussions. She had to wait five years before she was considered legal. Many in the community are outraged that citizenship comes so easily for them after having to take the test and go through all the legal hoops to become a citizen. Mom’s 95-year-old friend is German and came to the States after WWII. She is a US citizen, not because she married a soldier. She actually went through the process. 

Hiring at the Racetrack

I am also reminded that years ago, we trained horses at the local track, and my husband hired grooms for the horses. When Border Control came by, they would run and hide. Border Control made frequent inspections. Word spread quickly. Mobile phones were nonexistent then. Yes, we were questioned, but we never gave them up—cheap labor, grateful folk, and ready to make life easier for themselves. Thirty-five years later, the policy changed under Obama.

Teaching on the Border

As a teacher, I had a classroom of 16 students with limited English for one year. It was an immersion classroom. To continue teaching this class the following year, I had to take a bilingual test which I still needed to pass. I couldn’t translate a Spanish passage. Therefore, I was not considered bilingual. My parents raised us to speak English, and they spoke Spanish when they didn’t want us to know what they were talking about. My older brother and I eventually learned some out of “necessity.” 

The parents in the immersion class didn’t involve themselves with education and rarely attended school events. The involved parents were here legally. Most don’t vote and are very conservative and religious. Border control was and still is active in El Paso. El Paso was considered one of the safest cities consistently until recently.

My parents live two miles from the New Mexico/Mexican border and 10 miles from downtown. I eventually had to hire another caregiver to care for Dad. This caregiver was hired through the agency and was born and raised in El Paso. The work ethic between the two was so different. She felt entitled, and the other was grateful to have a job.

The Immigration Debate

I’m not against immigration, but the current situation here is inhumane. Controlled border immigration is humane. It’s compassionate and considerate of the human condition. Currently, South El Paso is a tent city. Too many came across at once, and it was chaotic. The City did not have government-funded rooms available for the influx. The administration didn’t consider that. The living conditions are inhumane. The officials were frustrated and needed more communication with the administration. 

Things will surely change with the current state of affairs. As I write this, The Durham report was released, and we are on a fast track for change.

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About desertturle

Anita Henson aka Winnie. A retired teacher, and caregiver for my loving parents, wife, and mother. Married to Greg "Tex" Henson.
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