Once we leave Tucson, we head towards San Diego. I’ve been there already, just few weeks ago, travelling with a friend from Spokane.
It has been quite an adventure, some sort of tragicomedy.
Michelle and I depart to San Diego early in the morning. We will be staying at Brenda’s house, Michelle’s friend that has been living there for quite some time. It’s my first trip within the US and I can’t wait to visit the places I’ve only read about or seen on TV. We do not have any specific plans but to spend few peaceful days going to the beach, walking around the city and entertain some friends in the evenings.
“Did you know you can walk to Mexico from here?” my friends tell me, “You just need to get to the border, leave your car at the parking lot and cross the bridge that connects the US to Tijuana.”
Two birds with one stone! In few days I can visit two different places so I immediately suggest spending a day in Tijuana, leaving in the morning and coming back home in the late afternoon. Brenda has to work so she takes Michelle and me to the borderline and we enter Mexico with few dollars in our pockets, enough to buy us lunch and few souvenirs. There’s no checkpoint when we arrive in Tijuana, neither police nor immigration officers. I think they are not really worried about people wanted to move to Mexico illegally, therefore anybody can go there. We take a cab to the downtown area, where we find a cute restaurant where to order tacos and frozen margaritas. Michelle and I spend the rest of the afternoon strolling around the shops and getting gypped by the retailers that sell me a gold bracelet which is not gold at all, stamps to mail the postcards to my girls that are so expensive a Mexican family can leave for an entire month off of it and a sombrero to remember this day trip.
It’s 5pm by now and we decide it’s time to head back to San Diego. On the way to the States, the inspections are definitely stricter, but Michelle is American so she gets through with no problems at all.
“Where’s you VISA?” the immigration officer asks me.
“I don’t have it. It was taken away from me when I applied for the Green Card”
“Show me your Green Card then”
“I haven’t got it yet.”
“Do you know you weren’t supposed to leave the country while applying for it?”
“Well, I guess I did not, since I’m standing here now!”
“You need to speak to the special case officer then”
“Where can I find the special case officer?”
“He’s gone for the day, he will be back tomorrow”
“I’m sorry, I’m confused. What am I supposed to do until tomorrow?”
“You will have to stay in Tijuana and come back tomorrow to get your papers in order to go back to the States”.
I think I’m on the edge of a heart attack. Spend the night in Tijuana? Where? And above all, how? We do not have any money left and cannot pay for a hotel or anything else for that matter. In the meantime we have to speak to another officer, not a very friendly one, who immediately starts interrogating me: “Where are you from? What were you doing in Tijuana? When did you get here? Why did you leave the States without a proper authorization??” I feel like a criminal caught red handed. I try to tell him we just wanted to spend the afternoon here doing something different but I feel like he doesn’t really care about my explanation so I end up crying like a little baby. I guess this makes Guillermo soften up a bit so that he tells me about the time he found himself in a similar situation when he lost his papers while in some Asian country. He suggest we should find a hotel where to spend the night and come back early in the morning to fill out all the documentation needed to go back to Spokane. He’s quite worried about us since all different kind of people gather by the border at nighttime waiting and hoping to be able to enter the States one way or the other. Brenda has also joined us in Tijuana so she will be able to pay for the room with her credit card and Guillermo walk us to the Marriot across the street from his office and make us promise we won’t leave our room for any reason whatsoever, since Tijuana is not the best place for three girls to hang out.
It’s few minutes after 8pm and we still have a lot of hours ahead of us before I have to meet with this infamous special case agent. I know, most of you will think we are careless and in fact thinking about it after some time, I realize this is not one of the best choices I’ve made in my life but we leave our hotel anyway to look for something to eat and something to drink before going to bed. Luckily the night goes by pretty smooth and the next day I’m at the immigration office on time for my appointment. I have to wait my turn in a room full of people, all of us waiting to be heard and to hear what our destiny is going to be, but I’m the only non-Mexican there! Finally the call my name and after speaking to Janice in Spokane, who in the meantime has faxed all my paperwork proving my Green Card application, and after verifying that everything I said it’s true, they give me a paper I need to show to the agent when crossing the border.
“Released on PAROLE?” the agent asks me after seeing the documentation I give him “What the hell have you done?” He utters, sounding even more surprise thanI am about all this ordeal
My answer is the first thing that comes to my mind: “I have no clue! I had some tacos and a margarita. Must be quite a crime I guess!”