I dont want to talk with my mom most of the time because it just makes me feel depressed, Armando said. It just makes me feel worse.
Hed sometimes refuse to eat, knowing that his parents and sisters were struggling to put food on the table.
Armando walked back to his old house recently after a conversation with his mom. He walked along the same street where he use to ride his green mountain bike for hours. He looked at the front door where his mom used to say goodbye to him when he left for school.
He thought about what shed said on the phone: If only it could be like it was.
Armando has grown angrier over the last three years. He said he was mad at himself for not being able to do more for his family. Hes mad at his parents for the expectations they put on him. Hes mad at the country for creating the system his family is caught up in.
One afternoon last spring, he was walking into Walmart when a little Latino boy came out of the store riding in a buggy pushed by his father.
It makes me happy because the kid is happy, he recalled to a friend. But it makes me sad because I dont want the kid to ever have to feel the sadness one of their parents is probably undocumented and I dont want them to ever have to go through what I went through.
Juan Cruz lay on his bed in Mexico. He was smiling while throwing his youngest son, Juan, 4, up in the air. The little boy screamed and told his father to stop, yet couldnt stop giggling.
Opposite the bed were photos of all the kids, taken when they were students at Shamrock Gardens Elementary and Windsor Park Elementary in Charlotte. Cruz grabbed Armandos baby photo from a shelf.
He was a chubby baby, Cruz said, smiling.
I miss him, he said. I wish we were together. I know its probably hard for him to live far from us, but its the only way.
His mom worries that her son is growing more distant from her the longer theyre apart.
Talking to a reporter whod met her son, she rattled off questions about her oldest child: How big is he now? Whats his favorite thing to do? Does he think about us?
She worries shell never see him again.
Hes changed, his mom said in Spanish. Hes not the same boy anymore.
Proponents of greater immigration enforcement largely support the mass exodus of those who are in the country illegally. They say the parents are responsible for gambling with their childrens future by sneaking into the country illegally, knowing that they could be deported.
In a clear indication of the perilous path the immigration bill faces, many House Republicans think that if the government allows such people to stay or deportees to return, as in the Senate bills proposal it would only provide incentives for more illegal immigration.
For Armando and his family, the argument on Capitol Hill is about their life, and the future of a family that had made its way in Charlottes growing immigrant community.
His mom and dad press him to do more to help them return. They want him to send money. They want him to finish his degree and get a good job. They want him to take the rest of his sisters to the United States. Valeria joined him last spring. Shes several years behind in school, and Armando is trying to help her improve her study habits.