After the bell rang, Miss Ehlis, my English and social studies teacher, began to take roll. She was interrupted by a knock on the door. When she opened it, I saw the school principal and a man behind him. As soon as I saw the green uniform, I panicked. I felt like running, but my legs would not move. I trembled and could feel my heart pounding against my chest as though it too wanted to escape. My eyes blurred. Miss Ehlis and the officer walked up to me. “This is him,” she said softly, placing her right hand on my shoulder.
“Are you Francisco Jiménez?” he asked firmly. His deep voice echoed in my ears.
“Yes,” I responded, wiping my tears and looking down at his large, black shiny boots. At that point I wished I were someone else, someone with a different name. My teacher had a sad and pained look in her eyes. I followed the immigration officer out of the classroom and into his car marked border patrol. I climbed in the front seat, and we drove down Broadway to Santa Maria High School to pick up Roberto, who was in his sophomore year. As cars passed by, I slid lower in the seat and kept my head down. The officer parked the car in front of the school and asked me to wait for him while he went inside the administration building.
A few minutes later, the officer returned with Roberto following him. My brother’s face was as white as a sheet. The officer asked me to climb into the back seat with Roberto. “Nos agarraron, hermanito,” Roberto said, quivering and putting his arm around my shoulder.
“Yes, they caught us,” I repeated. I had never seen my brother so sad. Angry, I added in a whisper, “But it took them ten years.” Roberto quickly directed my attention to the officer with a shift of his eyes and put his index finger to his lips, hushing me. The officer turned right on Main Street and headed toward Bonetti Ranch, passing familiar sites I figured I would never see again: Main Street Elementary School; Kress, the five-and-dime store; the Texaco gas station where we got our drinking water. I wondered if my friends at El Camino Junior High would miss me as much as I would miss them.
“Do you know who turned you in?” the officer asked, interrupting my thoughts.
“No,” Roberto answered.
“It was one of your people,” he said, chuckling.
I could not imagine whom it could have been. We never told anyone we were here illegally, not even our best friends. I looked at Roberto, hoping he knew the answer. My brother shrugged his shoulders. “Ask him who it was,” I whispered.
“No, you ask him,” he responded.
The officer, who wore large, dark green sunglasses, must have heard us, because he glanced at us through the rear-view mirror and said, “Sorry, can’t tell you his name.