One day, as I was sitting on a bench in a park in Seattle, drinking a cup of coffee I had just bought from a Starbucks, overlooking the waters of the Puget Sound and watching people come off ferry boats, I saw a group of over a dozen uniformed law enforcement officers of some kind get off a boat and come walking towards me. Their offices were two floors above the Starbucks and they had to walk right past me to get to the building. Being paranoid about having police officers anywhere near me, I tried to think of a way I could leave without drawing attention to myself. It all happened so fast there was nothing I could do except sit there and act as normally as I could.
I saw from their uniforms that they were all U.S. Customs and Immigration agents. Every one of them walked within a few feet of me. They all said hello to me and I said hello right back to them. I had a tour book of the Seattle area in my hands and I kept my head down, pretending to be reading it. The last two were older than the others. They seemed to be the ones in charge.
One of the two older men stopped and started to talk to me in Spanish. He asked where I was from and I told him Michigan, since that is where I had come from and I was carrying a valid Michigan driver’s license. He asked me what I was doing in Seattle. I told him I was just visiting and that I had never been there before. He wanted to know what I did in Michigan, how long I was staying in Seattle, where I was staying, what I was doing while there and all kinds of things, like he knew that I was an illegal Mexican working without proper papers, which I was, of course, and he was just waiting for me to say the wrong thing and give him an excuse to arrest me.
He asked his questions in a nice, friendly way, but every time I answered a question he had another one for me. After answering the tenth question, I looked down at my cup, saw that it was nearly empty and said that I needed to get a re-fill. I stood, excused myself, and walked towards the Starbucks. He followed me into the store, still talking to me all the while.
I asked the woman at the counter for a re-fill and for some other things, like a roll or pastry which needed to be cooked or heated up, anything that would take her a little time to get. I then asked if they had a restroom. She pointed to where it was and I told her I would be right back.
Once I was inside the restroom, I looked for another way to get out and noticed that there was an emergency exit at the back of the room. I didn’t know if the alarm would go off if I used it or not, but I was getting out of there one way or another. When I pushed open the door, fortunately, no bells went off, or at least none that I heard. I took off running down an alley and past some railroad tracks, as fast as I could. I went back to the bus station and got on the first bus back out to the Valley and the ranch where I was working. When you are an illegal, you have to be very careful all of the time.