Guest Blog by: Sarah Quezada When my husband Billy came to California from Guatemala, he got a job as a laborer on an underground cable construction crew. During the next couple of years, he was promoted through the company and began working as a lead inspector. His bosses loved him. He was hard working, organized, great with people, and translated for the Spanish-speaking workers at all the staff meetings (the bosses had never been so funny). In fact, the couple who owned the company referred to him as their “son.” Awkward? Maybe, but suffice it to say, things were going well. Then Billy, after repeated broken promises from the owner James, decided to look elsewhere for a job. He quickly found a company familiar with his work and willing to make him an offer, so he politely turned in his two week’s notice. This did not sit well with James and his wife. Very angry, they told him not to bother working the final two weeks. Then they did what anyone would do in their situation. They called and reported Billy as an undocumented immigrant. It was true that when James hired Billy, his tourist visa was expired and he didn’t have proper documents for living or working in the United States. Of course, that was no problem in this industry and everything was efficiently processed, so he began to work. Billy’s status was not a problem when production was high and profits were building. What James failed to notice, though, was that Billy took a week off for his honeymoon when he married an American citizen (me). He didn’t pay attention when Billy took a day off to visit the immigration-approved doctor for his physical or to sit through an interview for his green card or to apply for a driver’s license. Billy was now legally authorized to work in the U.S. Imagine James’s surprise when immigration officials told him the same thing. Maybe surprise isn’t the word. Perhaps, it is rage. So he proceeded with the next logical step. He called the primary company offering work to Billy’s construction crew and told them that Billy was undocumented. This malicious act actually had more frustrating consequences. The major corporation decided to “wash their hands” of the affair and chose not to give Billy more jobs, hurting this new company that hired him. Even when we offered to provide documentation, it was easier for them to reassign work than to approach such a volatile topic. Besides, do they really want to start looking into the legality of those working on their projects? Thankfully, many Latinos use both of their parents’ last names, so a reprinted name tag and a couple of phone calls later, Billy was back in business. However, the anger James held towards him would endure for months. Often encountering former co-workers and friends out in the neighborhoods where multiple crews worked, Billy would get updates. They told him that James talked about him all the time, that he asked the other workers about him frequently, and that he was still wildly angry. It made me sad, and a little bit scared. The man already tried to have my husband deported from the country, so what was off-limits? My heart kept coming back to the wise words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: “In a real sense all life is inter-related. All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality.” The reality is that a broken immigration system holds James in bondage. He does not know how to work alongside people he cannot control, whom he cannot threaten or frighten. He finds himself obsessed with a Latino employee who didn’t need him, who wouldn’t tolerate being lied to, and who made independent choices with which he did not agree. We are tied in a single garment of destiny. What is affecting our immigrant brothers and sisters and husbands and neighbors affects all of us indirectly. May this inter-related reality bring us together in a united stance for justice, peace, and dignity.
Sarah Quezada works with Mission Year as Director of Recruitment and Admissions. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband Billy and daughter Gabriella. Stories and reflections on their cross-cultural life and ministry together can be found at her blog, http://www.alifewithsubtitles.com and be sure to check out http://www.missionyear.org/