Two undocumented immigrants, a 61-year-old man, left, and 37-year-old woman, right, talked to The Frontier about their experiences in America and Oklahoma. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

Two undocumented immigrants, a 61-year-old man, left, and a 37-year-old woman, right, talked to The Frontier about their experiences in America and Oklahoma. DYLAN GOFORTH/The Frontier

He’s wearing blue jeans and a black jacket; she has her hair in a ponytail and is wearing a yellow sweatshirt. Nothing about them stands out as they take their seats in an empty upstairs room at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center.

He first came to Tulsa back in the 1970s. Over the years he would travel back and forth from Green Country to his home in Zacatecas, a state in the center of Mexico. One year, more than a decade ago, his son was injured in a motorcycle accident. Job opportunities back home were scarce, so he came back to Tulsa on a Humanitarian visa – a visa that allows you to come to America for an emergency. When that visa expired, he stayed.

She came to America “like so many of us do,” she said, laughing – implying but never saying she crossed the border illegally. After a little more than a year in Texas, she found her way to Tulsa, in a home near Pine Street and North Sheridan Road.

He’s 61 years old. She’s 37 years old. They, and their families, live in Tulsa illegally.

On the week of President Donald Trump’s inauguration, they spoke to The Frontier through a translator about America, Tulsa, and their hopes and fears of living under Trump’s rule.

Trump has famously promised to build a wall stretching the length of the United States’ border with Mexico. He’s referred to some Mexican immigrants as “bad hombres.” He’s said that he would send all the estimated 11 million undocumented Mexican immigrants back to Mexico. And he said that he would end the process of giving legal status to American-born children of undocumented Mexican immigrants.

“At the beginning (of the general election,) I thought Donald Trump was going to win because there were a lot of controversies with the (Hillary) Clinton campaign,” the 61-year-old man said. “When Trump started to talk about kicking us out, about kicking the immigrants out, fear came into my heart, for the simple fact that there are millions of undocumented immigrants here, and sending us all back would be the death of Mexico.”

For the 37-year-old woman, her primary fear is about her son. He was only four years old when she brought him to America, and he now resides here under DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a policy under former president Obama which allowed young people brought to America as children to work and stay in the country, though it offered no direct path to citizenship and can be abolished by executive order.

And that’s what scares her. In 2015, Trump called Obama’s DACA policy “one of the most unconstitutional actions ever undertaken by a President.” He later said he would rescind Obama’s proposal to extend DACA.

“What about my son’s future?” she asked. “And not just my son but others? If he takes (DACA) away, what happens to them?”

For the 61-year-old man, he said an end to DACA would be fatal for his 17-year-old son.

Donald Trump appears at a rally in Tulsa in January. Dylan Goforth/THE FRONTIER

Donald Trump appears at a rally in Tulsa in January. Dylan Goforth/THE FRONTIER

“If he goes back to Mexico, it would be fatal,” he said. “The crime rate there is really high, and taking him there, the only easy way to earn money is through drug dealing.

“My imagination tells me, though, that he can’t go to Mexico. He has no understanding of it, or where he lived there or where he’s coming from. His life is here.”

The man described deportation as a bus trip that takes you across the border and leaves you. If you crossed over into America as an adult, it’s possible to find your way to friends and family. If you came to America as a child, would you even know what to do next?

Is America what you expected?

Her first American experience was in Texas, where she lived for almost two years before moving to Oklahoma. For her, the Sooner state has been a much more pleasant experience.

“Oklahoma is very much different from Texas,” she said. “I like it here. I’m not scared of the police, where in Texas it was much more strict.”

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office and the Tulsa Police Department say they do not stop individuals based solely on the suspicion that they are undocumented.

“The people in Oklahoma are very friendly,” she said. “I’ve found some racism, but I’ve encountered some really good people. … There’s more hope here.”

For the 61-year-old man, he said he’s encountered a little bit of everything in his time here. He works as a painter, and said a former employer once stiffed him on a $2,000 payment.

“He said if I sued him they would call immigration on me,” he said. “But not everything has been bad.”

Overall, America has been good to him. He said that in Mexico, he never had a vehicle, and had very little ability to sustain himself and his family.

“I lived with hunger, I had no resources,” he said. “Here, at least, I eat three times a day, I have a roof over my head. And the most important thing is the hope my son has because he’s in school.”

When the 37-year-old woman was young – “I’m still young,” she said with a laugh – she dreamed of coming to America, she said. She heard stories that you could come to America and quickly get a good job making good money, and easily buy vehicles and a house.

But after a decade here, she works in a pizzeria kitchen.

“I didn’t think I would work in a restaurant or a kitchen,” she said. “I thought I would work in an office. When I got here I realized that wasn’t so easy for me, because I didn’t speak English. But still, we are able to give my kid things he wouldn’t be able to get in Mexico, and that’s what matters.”

What do they do now?

They both agreed there’s little they can do as they wait to see what steps Trump takes on immigration law. The 61-year-old man said he’s begun to save a hundred dollars or so each week as a precaution. The 37-year-old woman said she won’t necessarily change her day-to-day routine, because she doesn’t think the process of deporting undocumented immigrants who’ve committed no other crime will be as simple as Trump seems to think it will be.

Even most policy analysts seem to agree with that. The sudden loss of 11 million undocumented immigrants would be a dramatic hit to most local economies.

“Anyway, I don’t think 11 million of us will go with our heads down and arms crossed,” she said. “We Mexicans, we fight.”

She said she doesn’t fear interactions with police. But President Trump has threatened to have cities begin to take part in the deportation process. Many mayors across the nation have said they will not comply with such an order, but she said that even so, it would make her uneasy.

“I would not want to come out of the house, or take my kid to school,” she said. “What I’ve heard is that won’t take place in Oklahoma, they won’t let it happen here. But we’ll see.”

For now, they’re uneasily clinging to the lives they’ve created here in Oklahoma. And they say that they will do whatever it takes to continue providing for their families.

“You can build all the walls you want, you can build a giant, steel wall,” the 61-year-old man said. “People are still going to come through. The person who wants to come will come. I think the Mexican people, we have a lot of education, and also a lot of poverty … we have so much wits that we’ll get to where we want to be to feed ourselves.”

Translations of the interview were done by Jordan Mazariegos, of the Community Action Project.

Click here to learn more about DACA.