Under the Radar

Frederick News-Post reporter Nancy Lavin interviewed three undocumented immigrants who live in Frederick. The interviews, conducted through an interpreter, are intended to highlight their experiences in light of local, state and nationwide discussion about immigration enforcement. The people are only identified by their first names as a condition of the interviews. These are their stories.

Seeking refuge from violence

In her native Guatemala, Lidia was aboard a local transit bus when a group of gang members ambushed the bus and killed the driver. 

Bus driver killings had become a common occurrence there, often used by local gang members as a form of extortion. But it was the first time Lidia had been a passenger on one of the targeted buses. She was seated directly beside the bus aide, who was also killed.

Lidia said she had a nervous breakdown. She feared the gang members would hunt her down and kill her, too, because she saw the crime.

So she fled, taking her baby, who was 8 months old, with her as she traveled north toward the United States. She had considered applying for a visa, but when the "trauma" happened, she didn't want to wait.

When she crossed the border, she was caught and detained for a few days before federal officials released her. That was in November 2014.

Awaiting the court hearings that will determine if she gets deported, Lidia has remained in the U.S. She's built a life in Frederick, where she lives with her husband and son, who just turned 3. She lives a normal Frederick life, shopping in local stores and seeing local doctors. She takes nightly classes to improve her English.

Her biggest wish, she said, is to become a legal resident, improve her English and find work as a nurse, which was her job in Guatemala.

She's afraid she'll be deported, a fear that intensified with the 2016 election cycle and new president. 

But even recent anti-immigrant comments and policy proposals aren't enough to make her consider returning to Guatemala, an environment far worse than anything she's faced here.

Reuniting with family

Isabel entered the U.S. six months ago with a tourist visa secured in her native Costa Rica. But the visa has expired, and she's still in Frederick, where she lives with her daughter.

Her daughter immigrated to the United States first; Isabel followed. Isabel was diagnosed with breast cancer, and hoped her daughter could help care for her if they were together again.

Since moving to Frederick, she's found work in child care and gets medical treatment through a local foundation that offers health services. She also recently started taking English classes. 

Her daughter, who taught social studies in Costa Rica, now works cleaning houses.

They both envisioned a better life in America, but have found it hard to make that dream a reality. It's hard to find work, Isabel explained. 

She also disagreed with perceptions that immigrants take jobs away from Americans. Immigrants are hard workers, too, she said, and they're often willing to do dirty jobs that Americans won't — cleaning houses, for example.

Both she and her daughter plan to apply for citizenship, but haven't yet.

She was unaware that Frederick County, through the Frederick County Sheriff's Office, has partnered with the federal government on immigration enforcement through the 287(g) program. Trained deputies and correctional officers perform certain functions of immigration enforcement with oversight from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Isabel hoped that as long as she was careful— avoiding anything that would attract law enforcement's attention — she could avoid deportation. Asked if she was afraid, she answered in a single word: yes.

Pursuing the American dream

Alan had no documentation when he crossed the border from his native Mexico into the U.S., but he was not caught. He's remained under the radar of federal immigration officers and local law enforcement since he moved to Frederick three years ago.

He came in pursuit of the American dream: a better job, education and more opportunities. 

Alan has learned enough English to speak conversationally, enough to get by in his job in landscape and construction. Many of his co-workers are also Spanish-speaking immigrants, which helps, he said.

His boss knows he's undocumented, but has supported him. Alan works hard, as do his immigrant co-workers. But the American workers do, too, he said.

He doesn't want to be deported, but he isn't too worried about it happening. He noted that there are many other undocumented immigrants living in Frederick. 

He still is cautious, though, especially when driving. He knew of Frederick's participation in federal immigration enforcement, and doesn't want a traffic stop to lead to his deportation.

The longer he's stayed here, the harder it has become to even consider what life would be like if he was forced to return to Mexico, where corruption and gang violence abound.

A few times in Frederick, he has felt discrimination because of how he looks, and the language he speaks.

He recounted a trip to McDonald's with a friend, a fellow Hispanic immigrant. The cashier walked away, refusing to take their order.

His friend called after the cashier in English. Alan smiled as he recalled the shock on the employee's face at hearing his friend's perfect English. They were able to order after all.

Follow Nancy Lavin on Twitter: @NancyKLavin

Nancy Lavin covers social services, demographics and religion for The Frederick News-Post.

(45) comments


I've been posting here since 2008 and the immigration issue is far and away the most discussed subject. And the most used phrase is "don't you understand ILLEGAL" or something similar. The arguments on both sides never change. I can guarantee that in ten years nothing will have changed. And once again Kelly Alzan wins the argument, saying "illegal immigrants are here to stay".


This is a bad idea. What needs change is ALL NEW BOA AND MAYOR in the next election. The law is the law, so stop wanting to change it...................


How come we have so many people in the U.S. that know whom the undocumented immigrants are but will not and do not report them. Isn't this collusion? Report them and we will not have this problem.


I can agree, but that will only work if the government does something about them. The real argument is that law enforcement already knows who a lot of the illegals are, but cannot (or will not) do anything about it.


I'm glad they are here, because I don't want to pay $10 for a tomato. So no, I'm not going to turn anyone in.


Go up to Wolfsville and turn onto the Stottlemyer Rd., when in season the man there will sell you a whole bushel for $10 of very beautiful tomatoes.


Illegal immigrants are here to stay. They're needed. They're they backbone of our country today.


Immigrants are here to stay, you know the legal ones, illegal immigrants should go home, and come back across the legal way.


They're needed? For what? To provide cheap labor for businesses that don't want to pay a reasonable wage?


build the wall


jersey, you mean along the coast line of the Atlantic, Pacific and along the Canadian border, as well as the Mexican border? And what about the 40% that simply overstay visas? Build the wall, waste money, you must be a Democrat.[tongue_smile]


start putting hefty fines on those that hire the illegals


or.......implement a system so employers know beyond a shadow of a doubt as to who is legal and who isn't. Perhaps something like the U.S. govt should brand tattoos on the documented individuals?


yes, it is called E-Verify. It already has been implemented but not mandatory yet.


In the late 70s and early 80s if an employer hired an individual who did not have a 'green card', that employee was fired on the spot. That was the LAW! I know because I worked in a manufacturing company in Human Resources.


Today, employers ask for certain id. Applicant shows it. Employer photo copies. Responsibility fulfilled


You truly don't believe that many of their employers have no idea they are using bogus papers or are not asking at all and paying under the table do you?


This is the whole article? I wouldn't really call this a 'look' into their lives.


I thought that same sentiments


Not only that but it doesn't explore the true costs/benefits for each example they have here. Lidia - Crosses the border illegally bringing her baby (who we will have to educate and probably give reduced or free breakfasts and lunches when in school (which is slowly replacing day-care with all day kindergarten). Was she unmarried in Guatemala or did her husband come with her or did she get married to someone else in the U.S.? Is her husband here legally? Do they receive any social services? Do they specifically generate a net benefit for this country or a net cost? Isabel - enters illegally to come to live with her daughter who is in all likelihood in this country illegally (based on information from the article) and split their family up before coming here. She is working. How did she obtain employment when she is legally not allowed to work? Fraud? Someone else's SSN? What is the source of funding for the local foundation that helps her with her medical services? They publish a statement that "...she also disagreed with perceptions that immigrants take jobs away from Americans..." well, some studies show that they do and that low skilled and unskilled labor is disproportionally impacted by illegal immigration. Heck, early in life, I worked jobs where I had to pick up trash, deal with a dead skunk and clean human waste off of outhouse walls for minimum wage ($3.10/hr at that time), but I developed a skill because I didn't want that level of income for my life. Pay me enough and I would be willing to continue to clean human waste off of outhouse walls (a stinky, but low stress job). Alan - crosses illegally and obtains a job illegally. Likely through fraud. His employer knows he is here illegally yet still employs him (a violation). Is landscaping so distasteful that no Americans will do that for money? No. I do it for free on my own property because I'm too cheap to pay someone else a decent wage to do it for me. So the business owners exploit many people's desire to have a manicured lawn at cut rate prices because they are lazy and cheap. He drives. How did he get his driver's license? Fraud? How did he get insurance? Does he even have insurance? What would happen if he got in an accident where he was at fault? Regarding discrimination, if someone spoke to me in Spanish expecting service, I'd probably walk away too, to get someone who did speak Spanish. Now if they spoke to me in French, I could possibly help them. If he felt he was discriminated against, then compare it to how Mexicans treat illegal Americans in their country (or anyone else foreign, legal or not)? Does his employer pay him in cash or does he knowing provide the federal government with false information. Does he take out social security? How can he if Alan isn't here legally? What social security number is being used? How does he afford housing on just the salary of an unskilled laborer? All of this is missing from the article and should also be considered before anyone starts declaring their community a sanctuary. And if you want a diverse community, then we need more people from India and Asia for example since they are under represented in the U.S. compared to their percentage of the world's population. Finally, if it is for humanitarian reasons, we need to help those from portions of the world that are much worse off than those in central America or better yet, help them solve their problems in their home countries since we shouldn't allow corrupt politicians and crime bosses run countries in a way that may adversely impact our country and certainly adversely impacts tens of millions of people in their countries.


Here to work. Unlinked many FNP commenters


Wait, aren't you posting here too? Oh the irony!


Did you know that it costs >$600 to obtain a green card? Did you know that one must have his green card for 5 years before even applying for citizenship? Did you know it costs over >$850 for an application? That's after paying ~$200-$400 to learn to read, write and speak English (requirement for applying). Close to $2000 for proper paperwork and that's on top of the cost of getting here.
Did you know that it took First Lady Trump ten(10) years to become a US citizen? And money was no issue for her. Nor was she fleeing an unsafe environment.
Just imagine living in El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico or Honduras, subjected to daily violence, drugs and poverty.......what would you do?


This is all assuming they can adjust status based on a US citizen or legal permanent spouse or child over 21. If you entered the US without inspection (illegally) you cannot simply "get legal" as some have stated. If you don't have a relative you can adjust status through you have to leave the country for 3 or 10 years and wait to reapply for a visa. The monetary cost is not an issue in most cases, the process of legalization and the current immigration law which is outdated and not reflective of the current situation in our country is the problem.


".....what would you do?" Get to the U.S. as fast as possible no matter what![whistling]


I know, it's a victimless crime right? No. How much do they pay the coyote smugglers to bring them across the border? A 2014 Daily Mail article says its a $6.6 billion a year industry costing each illegal immigrant $4,000 to $10,000. So it seems financially it would pay to wait. Again, illegal immigration hurts low skilled/unskilled labor the most keeping those wages depressed adding to the cost to the rest of us for the social safety net programs they need. Obey the law. We have it for a reason. We have an oversupply of low skilled/no skill laborers. We need to adequately manage the economy. Even with legal programs, there are adverse consequences. Companies are also pushing to raise the limits for the H1b program claiming they can't find skilled workers yet they have American workers train their H1b replacements to cut their costs to make up for poor management. My brother lost a decent paying Electrical Engineering job to an H1b worker when the company was experiencing financial difficulties and cutting costs. The H1b employee wasn't hired because the company couldn't find skilled labor but was hired to simply cut costs. My brother spent several months training the new employee before he finally lost his job. He is now finally working for a large company that is paying a proper engineering salary for someone who keeps up on new technologies and has over 30 years experience. Other costs...The Dept. of Commerce/Bureau of Economic Analysis has a study showing the personal transfer of wealth (not institutional transfer) from immigrants in this country to other countries was over $37.5 billion (only about $766 million coming in from other countries). in fact that money makes up significant percentages of many central America country's GDP, Costa Rica only 0.8%, Mexico 1.9%, Guatemala 9% to a high for El Salvador of over 15.3%. Those countries have a financial incentive to keep up illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is a crime with victims.


Emplooyers who hire illegal workers should be jailed. They are breaking the law as well.


How is an employee to tell who is legal and whonisnt?

Let's not forget the police department out in the north west that not too long ago employed an undocumented Latino as a police officer.


It's called an I9, duh. It has to be completed for every employee. Along with documentation which is difficult to fake.

Make no mistake, the employers know exactly who is undocumented. They are the ones who work for slave wages with no benefits.


I agree!! I'm so tired of Immigrants and some Americans saying that "immigrants work hard on jobs that Americans won't take!" That is not true! Americans work VERY hard! We just want to be paid fair wages for our labors. Immigrants who first come here will take low paying jobs, because they're undocumented, and this is all that they're able to do. Once legal, they demand fair pay for long hard labor hours, just like Americans do. Once they experience this high economy, and low wage paying jobs, they quickly start demanding to be paid even more than Americans!
Stop bashing Americans, to cover up the fact that the wealthy and the greedy corporate owners don't want to pay fair wages, to Americans or immigrants. They pit us against one another, so that we can't feel the wool being pulled over our eyes!!


Actually the documents are, while not easily faked, available for the right price to almost anyone with the dinero to pay for them. Just ask an illegal who the counterfeiters are, they know, and they are all but indistinguishable from the real think.


How do you know this Tony? Do you have personal knowledge of how easy it is to get fake immigration documentation? Where do you get your inside information? Have you ever seen a side by side comparison of real vs. fake documentation? How did you know the difference? Are you or anyone you know employers of immigrants? Will a legal immigrant work a job that pays lower wages with no benefits?


News101, who are these American workers who will be working these minimum wage jobs? Your children and grandchildren?. That is certainly something to aspire to.


NO, it's called an I-9 form. and its does not verify anything.

The I-9 form is nothing more than a formality. We have an entire 4-drawer steel file cabinet dedicated to I-9 forms. The employer obtains documents as required. Employer fills out the I-9. Makes a photo copy of the ID supplied by new hire. And its all filed and put away. That's it. It goes no further.

OK, so then how bout E-Verify? Well, E-verify is nothing more than a digitized I-9 form. E-verify is only as accurate as the applicant is honest. So now you're scratching your head saying "huh, what is Kelly talking about". So, all an undocumented immigrant has to do (whom is about to be e-verified), is use his/her brothers. sisters, cousins, legal credentials.

Again, folks, keep in mind, a police agency out in the north west, employed an undocumented latino as a police officer. Police agencies has a much broader capability to conducting and verifying backgrounds than Paul the Painter or Carl the carpet installer


NEWS10, this thing about employers not wanting to pay fair wages is long a thing of the past. nothing more than a myth. immigrants legal and illegal, know, that if they don't do the work - the work isn't getting done. Period.

I was hiring last June. All my applicant wanted no less than $17 per hour. to start. That is NO small pay. Ok, so if inexperienced, new hires want $17 per hour - just imagine what out experienced, trained, and long time employees are earning [wink]


"slave wages"?

just those two words alone demonstrate that you do not know what you're talking about.

1) what is your definition of "slave wages"?
2) there are MANY jobs that have never offered benefits. ever. Not in the 1960's. Not in the 1980's. And still not today.


PHY: "How do you know this Tony?" I am a person responsible for hiring. I work with the HR department when I make a new hire> "Do you have personal knowledge of how easy it is to get fake immigration documentation?" I have never obtained one personally, but have seen a few, and know something is wrong when different people apply and have the same documentation. "Where do you get your inside information?" I would not say inside, but I have personally observed the situation. "Have you ever seen a side by side comparison of real vs. fake documentation?" Yes often "How did you know the difference?" see above, but do not know if both are fake. "Are you or anyone you know employers of immigrants?" Not intentionally, but based on personal observations it is not always possible to determine who is legal verses not. "Will a legal immigrant work a job that pays lower wages with no benefits?" Possibly, but we do not knowingly hire them if they are illegal, and have never attempted to lower our cost by employing people illegally. Hopefully that will put your suspicions at ease. Not all employers who employee illegals do so knowingly and as Kelly states the I-9 is nothing more than the photocopying of documents, that could be real or counterfeit.


That's what I figured, you are in the business of hiring immigrants. I too am fairly familiar with the immigrant hiring process. Both my wife and my daughter worked in the equine industry where many of the workers were immigrants. That was the only way they could get get decent help, all the American workers who applied were alcoholics, druggies, ex-cons or some combination of the three. They too, took the papers of the immigrants saying they were legal, like Kelly said, at face value and looked the other way. But it wasn't hard to figure out who was illegal. They were single males who spoke little English. And employers of illegal aliens know they are not going to get in trouble, they just say "well their papers looked good to me". Employers just have to assume that all the immigrants are legal. Like Kelly says "how do you tell the difference". So how does ICE and Sheriff Jenkins tell who is illegal? They must have a way. Why don't they clue in employers?


Agree, employers know who is undocumented.


Again, phy, you're speculating.

I love when people think that one's command for speaking English is a sure sign of residency status. That's not the case at all. Ever hear if H2A and or H2B? If so, then you're well aware the participants majority don't speak English.

And how bout the undocumented that come here as children, attend FHS, they speak English.

So, really, you think you know but really you don't know


Kelly, that has been my first hand experience. Most legal Hispanic immigrants that have waited in line to get here have made the effort to learn some passable English.


"difficult to fake"? what year are you in?


Go tell Rotary.


Yes they are breaking the law.


Jailing them is too expensive, just hit them with heavy fines that more than eliminate the incentive to hire people who legally are not allowed to work.

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