Border Story

I couldve smuggled in an illegal immigrant but didnt: A tale of regret

Ezequiel related all this during what would turn out to be the last of our daily phone calls. I was skeptical about the cousin's driver's license. Ezequiel is 23; the cousin is 18. The cousin's hair is shorter than Ezequiel's, and it's not dyed. Ezequiel is a shade or two darker than his cousin.

I told Ezequiel to put his father on the phone. I asked Lorenzo if the ID looked like Ezequiel. Lorenzo was quiet.

"No," the father finally replied. And then he said it again, with the resignation that must come when you tell your kid no—no, you can't go to college, can't have a good job, can't work your way up into the American middle class, can't live in anything better than an aluminum trailer in Anaheim: "No."

He handed the phone to Ezequiel. I told him I was sorry. And then I remained silent.

I had failed Ezequiel. I was his one chance—and now I was telling him I couldn't do anything. I offered cash, but Ezequiel refused it. He was resigned to his fate; I was inconsolable. Tears welled in my eyes—Ezequiel must have sensed it.

"Thanks for everything," he told me. "Don't worry—we'll sneak back in somehow."

We hung up. I never heard from Ezequiel again. I've called his cell phone, Harvey's phone, but there's nothing.

GARELLANO@OCWEEKLY.COM

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