As soon as he arrived, my dad went searching for a job to meet his daily needs and to begin sending back money to his family. “Tuve que ponerme a trabajar para ayudar a los que quedaron allá. Ellos han puesto todos sus esperanzas en uno y en la ayuda que uno les puede dar. Uno no los puede defraudar.” (I had to work to help those that had stayed behind. They have all their hopes placed on me and on the help that I could provide.) He also owed my aunt’s trip money as well as rent and other essential goods. Therefore, the need to work weighed heavily on his mind.
Yet his search was not an easy one. At the time he was undocumented and was not familiar with the English language. Sometimes he had to go out searching for a job with friends who took him to various places where they felt might be hiring. The process was very complicated though because he was not able to establish a good communication with potential employees and was not able to convey to them his attributes. After many unsuccessful attempts, he was able to find a job, his first job.
“Mi primer trabajo fue en una fabrica de cartón y periódico.” (My first job was at a carton and newspaper factory). His job was very intense working under unfavorable conditions. He worked long hours with very little pay and breaks. Sometimes he worked with no food in his stomach just to be able to get the hours he needed to pay rent. “Aunque era muy pesado me toco hacerlo por mi gran necesidad.”(Even though it was a tough job I had to stay in it because of my dire need). Eventually he left the job upon finding one with better prospects. This next job was at a restaurant where he was a dishwasher, salad maker, and helped with maintenance from time to time. In this job, he was paid better and he had food included, so in that respect it seemed this job was much better.
While most of his difficulties constituted his lack of knowledge of the English language and his non-existent legal status, he did have other difficulties. One time, he tells me that he had an accident at work. He was cleaning something and fell horribly on his back. He was unable to work for many weeks. That is one of the moments he says that he truly felt alone in this country. Not only was he left to take care of himself, but also he realized that even his only family here had other responsibilities and could not care for him. His sister was busy with her own family and her job; she could not be there for him. He says the only one that was there for him, during these times, was a friend that made sure to get him his lunch and dinner and would check up on him to make sure he was doing well. During those times he also resents not knowing more about the workings of this country or the legal system because of his fear of deportation and his limited education. He did not take any legal action against the restaurant he worked for. He was unable to receive any worker’s compensation or help with medical costs of the time. Rather the whole incident resulted in the termination of his employment. “Si no hay quien lo asesore a uno, pues uno no sabe nada.” (If there is no one there to inform you, then one does not know anything.)