By Terry Greene Sterling
Terry Greene Sterling enters the anxious ghettoes of Arizona, the gateway for almost 1/2 the nation's undocumented immigrants and the state that is the least welcoming towards them, to tell the tales of the lads, girls, and kids who've crossed the border.
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Additional resources for Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona's Immigration War Zone
After that, they may share a bed with an older sibling; but all bedding, including that of the parents, may be in the same room. Beyond waiting until it is dark and everyone has retired for the night, the adults can do nothing to ensure privacy during coitus. The sexuality of children is taken for granted by the Gypsies, and between birth and the age of eight it is even encouraged. A squalling baby girl is asked with mock concern if she wishes a husband, and a baby boy may be offered a wife. In some groups, the penis of a little boy is pulled gently during play with the women; little girls are flirted with by the grown men and encouraged to walk provocatively.
Okay, okay, you'll get it-just look at the baby now," the Gypsies pleaded. Several more go-arounds occurred before I intervened. Ten dollars changed hands, and the doctor examined the patient. After the visit, I discovered the Gypsies, in revenge, did not intend to pay the other ten dollars. Each new experience adds to the general feeling of resentment: the many times sheriffs came by and made the band break camp and move to the next county while a woman was in the middle of childbirth; the places where the local people would not allow the Gypsies into food stores but insisted that the Rom pay dearly for foodstuffs they could neither choose nor see (the food was rotten); and so on.
The Gypsies are also familiar with people "on the take" who accept Gypsy bribes and hang around for more favors. Other people with whom Gypsies interact habitually are tradespeople. The first two groups are slightly unsavory. The third entertains prejudices against the Rom, expecting them to steal; to compensate, they overcharge the Rom, act suspiciously, and treat them roughly. We who live fully within the American culture know that Gypsies are most apt to meet and interact with a special stratum of the population, not with a representative sample.