First Days In America: Driving Like An American

Jul 1, 2017

"This dragon is my pet; he’s my companion. He goes with me while I’m traveling from my jobs and to my home. He is my only company," explains Alejandro Lugo.
Credit Perla Gomez-Silva

Alejandro Lugo is adapting to driving in the U.S. In his hometown of San Salvador, he says he’s used to getting away with things.

“People don’t follow stop signs, they don’t respect red lights, they don’t respect anything,” he says.

In El Salvador, Lugo explains, he didn’t trust the police. So, he didn’t stop if a policeman tried to pull him over.

“In my country, you’d be scared to pull over for a cop because you’re not sure if they’re actually policemen or thieves,” he says. “You would rather be considered a delinquent and not stop than to get shot.”

Driving around in Reno, Nevada, Lugo is afraid of getting pulled over by a cop. He is driving without a license.

“I’m scared that I would get taken away,” he says.  Even though people say that doesn't happen, I don't know that for sure. They might take me away, detain me and turn me over to ICE [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement],” he says.

The state of Nevada issues driver licenses to undocumented immigrants like Lugo. When he first arrived in Reno he began the process of getting his license, but the current political climate has made him change his mind.

“I don’t want to be registered anywhere as undocumented, because that might get the attention of immigration authorities,” he says.

The best protection against getting pulled over by a cop, Lugo says, is driving carefully. He makes sure to drive only when necessary. On average, he spends 5 hours per week in his car, driving from one job to the next. The only other time he drives is when he goes to the grocery store.

“There are a lot of places I would like to drive to and spend some time there, but because of the situation I could get in, I prefer to stay here in the city,” he says. “I prefer locking myself in my room, waiting for the next day to come so I can go back to work.”

*Lugo’s name has been changed to protect his identity.

Read the rest of this story here.

This story was produced during the NPR Next Generation Radio program, in partnership with the Reynolds School of Journalism at UNR and Reno Public Radio.