More than twenty years ago, I moved to Los Angeles from Hawaii to live with my godparents. One day they decided to go on a tour to Tijuana, which is on the border of the United States and Mexico. I told them that I did not have the proper documents to leave the United States, and if I left the U.S. I would not be able to come back. My godparents advised that I shouldn’t have a problem; since I had a Hawaiian accent, the INS would assume that I was Hawaiian, so I could come back to the U.S. I was convinced. Thereafter, we did go to Tijuana for a one-day tour and had a nice time.
In the afternoon on our way back to the U.S. at the Custom and Border Protection (CBP/INS), I was stopped by an INS officer and asked for my papers. Having good faith in my godparents’ words, I had not brought any papers with me—not even my passport. The immigration officer asked me to get out of the car, but he let my godparents pass. He led me upstairs into a CBP/INS office.
Frightened, I entered the room, and saw that I was not the only one who was detained in the office. There were so many Mexicans trying to cross the U.S. border without papers, just like me.
I sat and waited — hoping my godparents would bring my legal documents here so I could be freed the next day. Even if that were the case, I still did not know if my papers were valid for me to reenter the U.S.
I was sitting right there, very calm and mindful of “Namo Guan-shr-yin Bodhisattva.” I imagined that Guan Shr Yin Bodhisattva standing on a cloud and coming down to help me out of this mess. I prayed to the Bodhisattva that if I was destined by fate to stay in the U.S., then Guanyin would help guide me through all this; and if not, then I would be deported back to Taiwan with no regrets.
As I was dream-thinking and praying, one of the CBP/INS officers came and asked, “It’s dinnertime. Are you hungry?”
“Yes, I am and want some dinner.”
It’s indeed very strange that he did not ask anyone else but me. Then one of those young Mexican men overheard our conversation and asked the officer if he could go to have some dinner, too.
There, on the American side of the border was a Burger King; on the other side, on Mexican soil, stood many Mexican restaurants.
I asked the officer, “Can I go to Burger King to have dinner?”
He replied, “You are very smart. If I let you go to Burger King to have dinner, that means I am letting you go free right now.” (He couldn’t let me go free because the Mexican man was also following me.)
Then he said, “No, you stay on the Mexican side of the border to have dinner.” Oddly enough, since I could not speak Spanish, the Mexican man following me helped me get a quick dinner at a Mexican restaurant.
Before the immigration officer let me go to have the dinner break, he told me that afterwards, I had to come back and report to him, nobody else but him. After I finished dinner, I came back to look for him and found him downstairs. He told me to go upstairs where I was before to wait for him for a few minutes. Still, the Mexican man was following me everywhere.
After a few minutes of waiting upstairs, he came, asking me to follow him into a little office. The Mexican man wanted to follow me in, but was turned down—only I was allowed. I panicked and did not know what I was going to face or what he was going to do.
In the small office, he sat down behind the desk, and I on the other side.
The first thing he asked was: “Do you have money?”
I thought maybe he was asking for bribe money for setting me free and answered, “Yes. My godfather will give you money if you let me go. He is a doctor and has a lot of money.”
“That’s not what I meant. I meant, if I let you go, do you have enough money to get home?”
Getting excited on the prospect of going home, I said, “Yes, I can take a taxi home.”
He said, “So late now at night, it is dangerous for a young woman to go home in a taxi. Let me take you to a bus stop so you can take a bus home.”
“I’m going to let you go, but you have to follow my instructions. When you go downstairs, go through the lobby. On the other side of the lobby, go through the big entrance door. Walk out of the entrance door, do not turn around and look for me. Just keep going, not too far away there is a big tree. Walk to the other side of the tree, so you can’t be seen from the INS Building. But remember: do not turn around to look for me! I will come and get you.”
It was so dark that evening. As soon as I walked out of the INS Office, although very nervous, I made it to the tree. A couple of minutes later, the officer came to get me, leading me to his car and driving to the bus station.
When we got to the bus station, I asked the ticket lady, “Is there any bus available from San Diego to Los Angeles?”
“Yes, there is one more bus.”
I then asked her how much the ticket was and was told that there was a special discount for this bus, 50% off. It is hard to believe that a bus ticket would ever have such a huge discount.
I took out my wallet and emptied it out. It turned out that I had the exact amount of the discounted price. My goodness!
With the ticket in hand and ready to get on the bus, I saw the officer talking to the bus driver: “There will be an immigration checkpoint on the road between Los Angeles and San Diego. When you reach the checkpoint, tell them that this girl is already cleared, no need to check her papers again.”
Just before getting on the bus, I asked the officer for his name and phone number and added: “When I get home tomorrow, my godparents will call you to thank you.”
He gave me his information.
I said thanks and then bade farewell to him. As the bus drove off, I waved to him until I couldn’t see him anymore.
When the bus got to the checkpoint, it was strange that on that night, it wasn’t open, so the bus went straight through—all the way up to Los Angeles. Thereafter, I transferred to a local bus to get home. It was miraculously inconceivable that the single bus ticket could transfer me to the local bus without any extra payment.
When I got to the bus stop near my house, it was around 3:00 a.m. I needed to make a phone call to my godparents to ask them to come to the bus stop and pick me up. Since I had emptied out my wallet for the bus ticket, I was left penniless to make the call. So I went to the payphone and fumbled through the coin return slot to see if I could have any luck. By the blessing of Buddha, there was a dime—enough for me to make the call.
My godparents were amazed at how I had managed to get out of the INS office and traveled this far, almost home. The next day when we tried to call the officer to thank him, we discovered that there was no such person. For sure, this was Guan Shr Yin Bodhisattva helping me, just like the story of E Shr Yun (a story about a response from reciting the Great Compassion Mantra which was related by the Ven. Master Hua).