Posted by: kcgadiyar | March 23, 2011

Conversation with an illegal immigrant from India

I was at the airport waiting to board my flight to Charlotte today when my ears distinctly heard the word “Indian” and as it happens when you hear a familiar word in an unfamiliar setting (it happens to me when i hear any kannada words in Hyderabad or Konkani words anywhere) my ears perked up. It turned out there were 2 other Indians who were going to be on my flight. The flight was boarding so i did not actually get a chance to talk to them. As luck would have it, one of them happened to get the seat next to me and we struck up a conversation.

At the start the conversation touched upon the regular topics i.e. The World Cup, how we think India can beat Australia, where in India we are from and so on. I found out he was a Gujarati and then he asked me if i was there for studies. When i told him that i was there on work he suddenly asked in a surprised tone “This means you came with a Visa and all?” When i answered yes and asked him how he was there, he answered “I just got out of Jail”. This led to one of the most illuminating conversations i have ever had on a flight,this conversation led me to understand just how far people will go to fulfil their dreams and how many people will feed those dreams and make money. I was interested to find out more and basically conducted what was an interview with some small talk thrown in to prevent him from getting suspicious.

The conversation below is reproduced from Memory and may not be a 100% reproduction of the conversation, but i have tried to reproduce a lot of it from memory. The conversation was in Hindi, i have translated it to English (Italicized statements were made by me, the guys response is in normal text)

Where are you from in India?
A small town outside Ahmedabad, did you know India is playing Australia at Ahmedabad

Yup, at Motera, hopefully we win, so when did you come to the US?
Three and a half months ago, i left India in October. I was in jail for the past 3 and a half months

Why were you in Jail?
It was not jail per se, it was more of a detainment center. The other guy with me is from Punjab, we were both caught together.

What were you caught for?
Trying to enter the US illegally

How did you try to enter the US?
Well, we came from Guatemala. From there it is easy to get to the US border

Wait, Guatemala? How did you get there?
There are people who are agents in India, they have connections. They fly you from India via Rio De Janerio, Sao Paulo and other South American countries to Guatemala. It is Visa-on-arrival in Guatemala, so no issue of getting visa beforehand. We come on tourist visas.

From Guatemala, what is the next step?
Well, we meet another agent in Guatemala, he takes our passport away.

Do you trust the agent with your passport?
I have no choice, i need to trust him if i am to make it big here.

Go ahead, you said he takes your passport.
Yes, after that we go to this place where there are more people like me. Mostly Punjabis and Gujaratis, there were some tamilians like the people from Sri Lanka (direct quote). We stay there for some time and then about 100 or so of us are loaded into a bus and taken to Mexico. The agents pay the border guards so that they dont stop us. We stay a few days in Mexico and then on designated days a group of us tries to cross over to the US. If we succeed, we move in with our relatives and eventually get a Green Card.

If you get caught like you did?
Then we serve our time. The detainment center is not a bad place, we get a place to stay and food to eat. Lots of people from Gujarat are there, so you can speak in your own language. The deportation case will come up for hearing, but we will keep getting extensions and there will not be a result declared in the case for 8-10 years. If the verdict is not guilty, then i can get a green card directly, else i will be deported back.

How long do people get imprisoned?
Until the bail bond is posted. The bond is posted by our agent.

How much is the bond?
It depends on the judge, my bond was 45000$, but some people have got out on 500$. We pay the agent back by working here. I will work here for 8-10 years, i will earn the money which i spent to get here in a year or two and then it is profit which i will use to start a business back home

How much does the agent charge for all this?
25 Lakhs

So you earn the 25 lakhs and the bail money and pay the agent back? Where do you work here?
I have lots of people from my city here, i will work in one of their shops here to earn money. Some of the shops are in California and in New York and so on

You said lots of people, how many do you think?
I think there are over 5000 this year itself

After this point, he showed me his bail bond papers and told me that he was going to South Carolina from Charlotte for his next stop. Apparently since being released he was traveling non stop and wanted to rest. So i did not get a chance to talk to him further, but what he said in this conversation is just amazing. A true live case of human trafficking across borders.



  1. Wooooh….what a story man !!! Really dumbstruck listening to this !!! People in india really strain every sinew of theirs to get a visa to US…and lo we have this here…. this incident must be a lifetime experience for you!!

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