Friday, March 26, 2010

The Burger King employee who saw Mary Jane.

My hands began to sweat profusely. I wasn't sure if standing up was a good idea. There we were, a bus full of immigrants, some of us undocumented, coming back from a successful rally and march in Capitol Hill, wondering why St. Louis, Mo. cops had stopped our bus. 

We'd been back on the road to California for a day and a half. All of us tired and confused. A second patrol car pulled up next to the bus and we began to panic. The kids in the front leaned against the windows to get a better look. 

I will not forget the faces of these cops. What could have possibly gone through their minds as their eyes scanned a bus full of sleepy brown faces? Were they with us or against us? 

After being interrogated by the cops for about twenty minutes, the bus drivers got back on the bus and asked everyone to calm down. The youngest of the two took a deep breath and informed us that an employee from a Mt. Vernon, Ill. Burger King we'd stopped for breakfast called the cops on us. The employee had allegedly seen one of our bus riders smoke marijuana. 

"It's a federal offense to transport marijuana across state lines," the bus driver informed us. Adding that if found out that we indeed had somebody carrying marijuana, we could all get arrested. 

Arrested. The word just kept lingering in my head like a bad migraine. Was this really happening? Was this the end of a historic ride across the country in the name of comprehensive immigration reform? 

We all began to look at each other suspiciously. Who would jeopardize our ride like that? Who in the right mind would put undocumented children at such risk? The answer was easy of course: None of us. 

We'd been together for nearly a week. We'd shared our stories and food recipes. We'd kept each other entertained with songs and bad jokes. We'd put up with loud snorts through California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania all the way to Washington, D.C.  We'd seen each other cry and scream outside Captiol Hill when President Barack Obama pledged to create a bipartisan consensus on the issue this year via a giant screen. We'd argued, laughed and farted in front of each other. In other words, we'd become a family.

How was it then that something like this was beginning to separate us. Divide and conquer, that's what they call it que no? But our faith and love for each other was much greater than any possible treat surrounding our bus. Men and women quickly reached for their rosaries and began to pray. 

I leaned against my window and fought the impending flow of tears. Crying, it seemed, would be a sign of weakness. Something that said, you've won. I've surrendered. I saw the patrols cars drive away and plugged my iPod headphones into my ears. I said nothing else and just fell asleep. 

*These are pictures I took with my laptop moments before the St. Louis, Mo. incident:

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