DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And it's time for StoryCorps now. Pedro Lopez was in middle school in 2008 when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. Lopez's mom was among the nearly 400 workers detained. At that time, it was the largest single-site raid in U.S. history. And it forced Lopez to reckon with what it meant for him and his family to be undocumented.
PEDRO LOPEZ: The day of the raid, we noticed that there was a helicopter flying around that didn't belong in the rural country sky. I wasn't too worried about it. But when I moved into reading class, Ms. Olson (ph) told us that it was something to do with Agriprocessors. And immediately after that, I realized that my mom was working. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to think. And I sure as hell didn't want to think about what was going to happen next.
I'd see adults trying to console children and saying it's going to be all right, it's going to be all right. But nobody knew what was going to happen. Nobody knew if everything was going to be all right. It was just shattering. When I said goodbye to her that morning, I didn't realize that I was going to say goodbye for a year.
Afterwards, I remember that we'd stay home from school and hid in our basement because there were stories of agents coming to the house and arresting the second parent or whoever answered the door. And we decided that the best thing to do was just close our home and not let, you know, anything in. There was no access to my mom at all for a while. And I knew that I didn't want to see her in jail. My father had to quit his job at the slaughtering house. So we went from having a steady life to one that we wouldn't know what was going to happen the next hour. I remember having to go and ask one of our neighbors if we could have water from their house because we didn't have enough money to pay the water bill.
For me, Postville, Iowa, was our little slice of home. But then I realized, is it my home? Where is home? All through this, my father told us that things were going to be all right, that we were going to work through it. We started to apply for visas. And we got word that my mom was granted one and that she was going to be coming home. During that time - and even more now - I'm always skeptical about anything.
But I remember that I was in bed. And I could hear that, you know, people were coming in from the front door. And I heard my father just break down a little bit and the muffled cry from him as he hugged my mom. And I came out of my room, going into the kitchen. And that's when I saw her. And I was like, yeah, that's my mom.
(SOUNDBITE OF ENDING SATELLITES' "WE'RE FROM NEAR AND FAR")
LOPEZ: That sad episode in our lives is behind us, but it's never gone.
GREENE: Pedro Lopez. He's 24 now and plans to apply for citizenship. He's working towards becoming an immigration lawyer one day. His story will be archived along with hundreds of thousands of others at the Library of Congress.
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