TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In the shade and shadows of the palm trees in the Sunshine State, Hector Anguiano and Ana Gonzalez toil away in constant fear.
Crossing the Mexico-United States southern border isn’t easy today, and it wasn’t easy 22 years ago when the couple and three small children made the treacherous trek.
“It was very scary,” Anguiano recalled. “My wife carried two kids. I carried one as well. We experienced thirst, hunger. But we were hungrier to get to the United States.”
Anguiano and Gonzalez spoke to 8 On Your Side in Spanish, with the translation help of their immigration attorney, Ernesto Buitrago.
“I violated one law entering the United States,” Anguiano said. “That’s something that I have to live with. But I would never violate any law in the United States. I try to live correctly in this country.”
After the family crossed into Arizona, they put down roots in California, Anguiano working in construction, Gonzalez, in a restaurant. But as construction gigs slowed down, Anguiano visited colleagues in Florida and saw the construction boon. He moved to Tampa shortly thereafter, and his family joined him.
But after the expiration of Title 42 and the asylum situation at the border, Anguiano doesn’t see any improvement in the decades since he crossed.
“If it was difficult before, it’s worse now,” Anguiano explained. “It’s going from penalizing an immigrant to criminalizing the immigrant.”
But the border — now more than 1,000 miles away by car — is the least of the family’s worries right now.
“When you see a police officer either behind you, or on the side, in the street,” Ana Gonzalez said through her translator. “The fear is very real.”
Gonzalez wants to visit her daughter in California or her parents in Mexico. But with no documents to her name, that’s out of the question.
“They’re currently sick and she can’t even go and visit them,” Ernesto Buitrago said on her behalf.
“I would like to give them at least one last hug,” Gonzalez said through tears.
Plus, new laws coming into effect in Florida requiring businesses to verify employees’ citizenship have both parents worried about their jobs.
“We cannot really work anymore,” Anguiano said. “Our employers are asking for particular documents they didn’t ask for before, because of this new law.”
Supporters of the new laws say this forces the White House’s hand and keeps Floridians safe.
“Until the states push back, which is what we’re doing now,” said State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia. “The federal government will never act. We’re trying to force them to act.”
By passing the law, Florida is following the steps of the federal government and its contractors. It uses E-Verify to check a worker’s citizenship too.
“Look, we can’t just sit idly by,” said State Rep. Berny Jacques. “There’s things that the state can do to mitigate the issues.”
While the parents’ path to citizenship is a long shot, the two have a daughter that’s getting her green card soon, and grandkids that will have U.S. passports.
“That’s the price you pay for coming to the United States,” Gonzalez said.
And by that calculation, living in fear is worth it.