Limon was one of a few here who had heard the talk in recent weeks of U.S. immigration reform, on Telemundo newscasts or secondhand, and he said it had added extra urgency to get back into the States. The finer points of the faraway debate were not particularly relevant. But if the Americans were finally going to change their laws and offer a chance to stay, no one wanted to be stuck on the wrong side of the border.

“I think President Obama is going to give preference to people like me, whose children are American, who have never taken welfare and who don’t have criminal records,” said Limon, who has spent the past 21 years cutting grass and clipping topiaries in the beach towns south of Los Angeles. His oldest daughter, 13, is among the top three students in her seventh-grade class, he said, repeating that part of his story twice.

Limon said his only offense over the years has been unlawful reentry, meaning he has been caught multiple times by the Border Patrol after being deported, serving months in federal prison.

How many violations?

“Thirty,” he said.