More Than a White Picket Fence

Writing Wrongs Author Carlee Nilphai

Carlee Nilphai. Photo by Max Gondolfo.

Writing Wrongs is a community journalism project in which college students explore various social issues. Last year’s issue, “Untold, Unseen, Unheard: Perspectives on Immigration,” contains interviews with immigrants detailing their lives and goals for the future. This is a summary of a piece Carlee Nilphai of Millersville University originally wrote for the book.

Immigration to America

Maria Mondragon lived in Mexico City with her family. In 1997, she realized she was pregnant. Her environment was filled with crime and violence. She still remembers an incident in which a young man was killed because he couldn’t pay what his captors wanted. Her pregnancy made her realize that she had to leave for America, to ease the financial burden for her family and to protect her child.

Maria’s brother paid a $500 fee for her transport in a one- or two-day trip across the border. The trip actually ended up being a three-day trek across the desert from Mexico City to Anaheim, California. Maria traveled with sixteen other men and women and shared a single gallon of water in a cramped, smelly truck. Many times, they had to walk in the pitch blackness of night with nothing but a lit cigarette lighting the way.

Settling Down

After moving between several cities in California, Maria came to Reading, Pennsylvania to see her brother. She worked in a restaurant as a busser until her daughter, Angelina Cortes, was born. She moved to Salt Lake City Utah when Angelina was two and stayed with members of the church. Maria soon married an American and had two other children. The couple separated after seven years.

Angelina’s Journey
Writing Wrongs Angelina Cortes Immigration

Angelina Cortes. Photo by Max Gondolfo.

The marriage helped both Maria and Angelina assimilate into American culture, but the downside was that Angelina’s stepfather did not allow her and her siblings to speak Spanish. She was not able to embrace her Hispanic culture until she moved back to Reading. She and her mother took a trip back to Mexico City to find that connection with her heritage.

Angelina is now in college majoring in anthropology, and Maria is also getting her degree while maintaining a steady job. They are worried about the uncertain future of DACA, as they believe differences are what makes humanity great.


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To read more stories like Maria’s, buy the full 2017 issue of Writing Wrongs here.


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