• Hispanic speaker shares immigration story

  • “It was the worst thing knowing you have no control.”

    • email print
  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Carlos Vides, member of the Greater Kansas City Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said he hit the lowest point in his life in 2002 when he was deported back to Honduras for being an illegal immigrant.
    “Everything that kept running through my head was my wife, my kid, everybody crying because when they put the handcuffs on me, it was devastating,” Vides said. “It was the worst thing knowing you have no control.”
    Vides shared his story during the Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth National Hispanic Heritage Month luncheon Sept. 19 at the Frontier Conference Center.
    The eighth in a family of nine children, Vides said he went to school up until sixth grade, before going to work as a brick layer when he was 13. At 14, he went to work as an electrician to make more money, he said.
    “The job was also a little bit easier,” Vides said.
    When he was 15, Vides said he was working on a house where its owner told him about his journey to the United States. The man said he worked as a dishwasher at Red Lobster for five years and returned to Honduras with the money he earned, built a house and bought a car, a television, a bicycle, a refrigerator and shoes. Vides said this made him realize something.
    “I can do this,” Vides said.
    After the man told him he needed to plan how he wanted to go to America, Vides said his mom gave him a pig to raise and he eventually sold it for 250 pesos. He then started for America.
    “The trip was not easy,” he said.
    At night, Vides said he slept wherever he could and worked every few weeks to earn some money before continuing on his journey. Three months later, he crossed the Mexico border at 4 a.m. into Brownsville, Texas, two months shy of his 16th birthday.
    Now that he was in the United States, Vides said his mission was to make it to New York where he said he knew many Hondurans settled.
    To get there, Vides said he went to Houston, and then to Alexandria, Va., where he learned English.
    “My goal was to learn 100 words of English per day, and I did that,” Vides said.
    At the end of 1990, Vides said he made it to New York and began working at Dunkin’ Donuts where he cleaned the kitchens.
    “They liked me very quick,” Vides said.
    When the manager realized that he could speak English and was friendly, Vides said he was offered a job in the front of the store serving the customers.
    Page 2 of 3 - “Life is good now. I have money, and I have all the hours I want,” he said. “My intention was that I kept moving, I kept learning.”
    Vides spent six months learning at Dunkin’ Donuts and eventually became assistant manager, then manager and then was running a Dunkin’ Donuts by time he was 17-and-a-half years old.
    During this time, he said he was approached by one of the managers about whether he had his immigration papers. When he said no, Vides said his co-workers took him to apply for his papers.
    “I knew that I didn’t qualify,” Vides said, “but I talked to the lawyer and applied for papers. … I went to court, I fought and the judge said to me, ‘We’re not going to deport you. What we’re going to do is we’re going to deny what you’re asking for, but if we catch you somewhere, we’re going to deport you.’
    “So, I just became a good citizen,” he said.
    In 1998, Vides moved to the Kansas City, Mo., and began working as a baker at Price Chopper. It was in Kansas City that Vides met his wife, Michelle. After 90 days, they were married, and Vides went to work at a car dealership to support his wife and growing family.
    In early 1999, Vides said his wife applied for his papers, but they received no response.
    For two years, Vides said he continued working, eventually becoming the No. 1 seller at the car dealership. Finally, in late 2001, Vides said he received a letter asking him to come to the immigration department for his green card interview.
    “I thought, ‘I got everything. I’m doing everything right,’” he said. “Then, I go to immigration to get my green card. I’ve got my wife, my kids, everybody with me because this was a big moment. But, instead of getting papers, I got locked up. I had handcuffs put on me, my hands behind me, and they took everything.”
    Vides said he was locked up for one day before he was moved to an undisclosed location where his wife found him three days later. From there, Vides said he was given two choices: remain in the U.S. but stay in jail until he becomes legal, or sign papers and get immediately deported back to Honduras. Vides signed the papers, and was deported two days later.
    “My brain was shut down,” Vides said. “At this point, I’m broke and worried about my family.”
    While his wife found work and fought for his papers back in the U.S., Vides said he looked for a job in Honduras, eventually finding one at a car dealership. For 14 months, Vides said he worked, sending what money he could to his family, before finally returning to the United States in May 2003, but this time as a legal immigrant. Now, he said he travels around the United States telling his story in hopes that it will inspire others.
    Page 3 of 3 - Katina Paynemontague, Mission Command, Capability Development Integration Directorate operations specialist, said she was truly inspired.
    “I’m thankful that he had the courage to come in and talk to us about it and share his story because I think a lot of time, we miss what it really means to come to a country like the United States,” Paynemontague said. “If you’re legal it is a challenge, but being illegal and being able to overcome it and succeed is phenomenal.”
    The next CAC and Fort Leavenworth observance luncheon will honor National American Indian Heritage Month at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 14 at the FCC.
  • Comment or view comments