A Chat with Juan, an Undocumented Immigrant Worker (and a DREAMer)

Feb 17, 2014
7:33 AM

Recently, I met a a young man, about 23 years old or so, and he was doing construction work on our bathroom.

Juan shared that he was here “sin papeles,” which translated means “without papers,” aka undocumented. Juan is one of over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Juan spoke with me about immigration, life, work, and the opportunities that many take for granted in the United States. At one point during our conversation, Juan even said to me, “I want to become the superintendent for one of these buildings.”

How many people do you know that have such a clearly defined goal? He’s not “stealing” our jobs, he’s not trying to hurt anyone. He wants to continue to earn an honest living, provide for his family and advance his career. Just like you and I do. Why would anyone have a problem with Juan achieving his personal goals? His success doesn’t hurt you in any way.

Juan told me that he has been here a long time—he pays his taxes, he works very hard, (as I witnessed myself) and he’s an honest citizen of this society, albeit an undocumented one. Juan said that he has been offered stolen social security numbers, and stolen identities to get over on the system. However, he refused to take part of these schemes. He wants to do things the right way.

Via America's Voice

Via America’s Voice

As Juan continued to share, he began describing some of his frustrations with the current immigration system. He expressed how he works very long days, full time, overtime, and much more. He said that he always pays his taxes on time, and that he even has to pay more money to Uncle Sam at the end of every year. He stated that he does everything necessary to live by the laws of the U.S. He believes that the only thing he’s done “wrong” in the eyes of the government, is that he entered this country with his parents as a child without any legal documentation. He passionately told me that he is proud to have been raised here: living in America is all he knows, this is his way of life. I feel calling him anything other than American is just not right.

Here are some other points Juan made in respect to pursuing the American dream as an undocumented immigrant in this country.

  • Juan hasn’t seen his extended family for decades. He cannot leave this country at all to visit his family because he won’t be able to get back in.
  • Juan pays taxes using a special number that he was given. However, for all of these years that he has been working, none of them will apply towards his social security. He also mentioned that he has never received one cent back for his taxes. In fact, he often owes the government more money at the end of each year.
  • Juan said that his bosses abused him in terms of the hours he worked, withholding owed pay, and other employment violations. However; since he is undocumented, he cannot complain to anyone about it.
  • Juan stated that he was paid a quarter of what the job is worth. He said that not only is he better at the job than his documented colleagues; he manages and teaches them what to do while being paid less than them.
  • Juan pointed out how he observes so many people in this country that are here legally, with so many opportunities available to them, yet they do nothing positive with their lives. Instead of thriving in this land, they choose to lead lives of crime and destroy their communities. Meanwhile, he’s thinking of how far he could go if he had those same opportunities.

It was very informative for me to get this personal and deep insight into the life of a person in this situation. What are your thoughts on this topic?


6c7b36e3dbc384b78dc831884d4fe595Angel Rodriguez is the publisher of NYCTalking.com, a page that “covers current affairs, business reviews, fashion advice, opinion and commentary, along with random musings from time to time.” Angel is a Bronx boricua, poet, rapper, and a US Air Force vet. You can follow him on Twitter @arodomus