Poem: “Valentine’s Day at Casa del Migrante”

By Bob Peterson
February 14, 2004

Saint Valentine
was not looking over
Juan Torres today
as he landed in
downtown Tijuana
dropped off by la migra
after getting pulled over
a few days earlier by
San Jose police for
driving without a license
 — a license he cannot get
because he is undocumented —
leaving his construction job
to go home to his two daughters
Cinthia aged 9 in fourth grade
Karely aged 8 in third grade
both citizens of the U.S.A.
born in California,
the police zapped their
computer connections with the INS
and Juan was no longer
staring down the headlights
of a San Jose cop
but rather turned over
to bright lights of the 
Border Patrol
where he was 
imprisoned for two days,
then flown to San Diego
with 200 other deportees
and finally bused to 
downtown Tijuana
and dumped 
in a place he’d not been
for 12 years
when he first crossed over 
having left his home in Michoacan
at age 20 “to get a better life.”
Pushed off the bus 
in the middle of the night
cold, hungry
Juan climbed into an
abandoned car in a futile
attempt to stay warm
shivering he abandoned
the car and sneaked into a church
resting a few hours 
until the sun came up
when he learned from someone about
la Casa del Migrante
where he now sits 
telling me 
his story over a plate of
frijoles, papas, carne asada y arroz
saying how he talked by phone
to his daughters
and they said. 
“We miss you, Papi…
so much!”
Juan looks down at his plate
and then into my eyes
and says “I miss them so much too.
I’m going back
but now you have to walk 
for two straight days and one night
to get there.
“Good luck,” I say 
and shake his hand.

Bob Peterson is an editor of Rethinking Schools magazine and teaches 5th grade at La Escuela Fratney a public elementary school in Milwaukee, Wisc.

Spring 2006