Many immigrate for employment, children
MILFORD — Ashley, who was born in this town 16 miles southeast of Worcester, is in many ways a typical American 5-year-old: She loves Looney Tunes characters, Hello Kitty and Silly Bandz, the latest children’s fad in colorful rubber bracelets. She is shy around strangers and excited to enter kindergarten in the fall.
But unlike most American girls her age, Ashley speaks little English. Her parents, originally from Chimborazo Province, a region of Ecuador tucked between mountains and active volcanoes, entered the United States illegally eight years ago.
Ashley’s parents are among the estimated 150,000 to 250,000 undocumented immigrants living in Massachusetts. They came to Milford, a working-class town of about 27,000, for a better life, said Ashley’s father, Manuel, 29, who asked that his last name not be used because he is not here legally. Like many of his neighbors, Manuel said he has no intention of returning to South America.
For many of the Ecuadoran parents who gathered to play volleyball one recent evening on Milford’s Fino Field, the overwhelming priority is to ensure their children’s future.
“I’m going to stay,’’ Manuel said in Spanish. “It’s better for my family.’’
Manuel and his wife left their then-1-year-old son, Brian, in Ecuador with relatives when they came to the United States. They have not seen him for eight years.
Maria, a woman sitting on a hill overlooking the volleyball court as her husband played, said she likes the location but does not feel included in the Milford community. Even though she left four young children in Ecuador with her mother-in-law when she left for the United States three years ago, she has no intention of returning home.
“There’s no work back in Ecuador,’’ Maria said in Spanish. “There’s not much money.’’
Not far from the volleyball court, Victor, 5, sat with his mother. Victor was born in Milford shortly after his mother, Asistena, entered the country illegally.
Victor, who will enter public school in the fall, clung to his mother’s leg. She boasted that he speaks English fluently and joked that he is such an American he would rather eat McDonald’s than traditional Ecuadoran food.
Although she has not yet decided if she will eventually return to Ecuador, staying in Milford, she acknowledged, would be better for her son.
“If I stay here,’’ she said, “it will be for him.’’