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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My Work with Illegal Aliens


Undocumented immigrants (or illegal aliens) in the US are very diverse, and do not solely consist of Latin American people as so many of us are led to believe. There are people from Canada, Asia, Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Islands who are in this country without papers, thus the original meaning of WOP, which was directed at Italian immigrants who at one time were stereotyped as being without papers. 

Many of such immigrants go unnoticed by authorities because they are not Latino. Jaime, a Peruvian friend, also goes unnoticed by immigration because he is “Afro” Peruvian and does not fit the stereotypical profile of a Latino. I never knew that a girlfriend who comes from a West African country was also undocumented until she started pressuring me to marry her for a green card. She even offered me a measly $6K to take her up on this charade.

In San Francisco, one of the many sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants, where social service agencies not only made a commitment to protect these immigrants from the US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), but to also provide them with various services, such as housing, food, and employment assistance. One such company hired me to assist all of their marginalized clients, most of whom are on some type of public assistance, with jobs and careers. However, the undocumented immigrant clients presented big challenge.

These immigrants were five times more motivated to find employment than the American-born clients. The illegals seldom displayed any of the flakiness I so often experienced from the others who were often no-shows for appointments. On one occasion, I organized a job search workshop, and bought coffee, pizza, and other refreshments, and no one showed. I ended up feeding to the rest of the staff. When the time came to give workshops in Spanish, however, I had a full house of participants, and this full house primarily consisted of undocumented immigrants. 

Many of them found jobs paying under-the-table, and others became successful in building their own businesses. Silvia, from Brazil who speaks limited English, but fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, developed a successful housekeeping service where I helped with the marketing. Her last words as she hugged and saw me for the last time were, gracias por todo (thank you for everything)!