I came to the U.S. in the winter of 2006. Life back home in Mexico was tough for me and my family. I dreamt of going to college and graduating but with my family’s economic status, that dream was too costly and impossible.
At least I was able to graduate high school and that is something I am proud of since I was also working at the time to help my family. I was always looking for an opportunity to have a better life as a young woman.
One day, my friend’s cousin told us that a couple was looking to employ two women in the U.S. for a year and they would cover the travel costs. My friend and I agreed to the terms without even knowing what kind of job we were being asked to do. We were just too excited to leave our little pueblo in search of a better life.
Thankfully we made the trek to San Jose, California without injuries. When we met the couple who made the trip possible, they promised they would pay us 300 dollars a month for making and selling tamales and we could live rent-free in their home. We would wake up at 5:30 in the morning to make the tamales and sell them until 1 am. Days, weeks and months went by, but we never saw a dime. The couple would threaten to call the police if we complained, and they’d instill fear in us about talking to people that could lead to us getting deported. They watched us like hawks and wouldn’t let us contact our family in Mexico.
My friend and I were tired of living like this, so we planned and escaped this nightmare. Years later, I met the father of my son, but unfortunately, he was deported shortly after our son was born. I was a struggling single mother and tried to find any type of work to feed my child and put a roof over his head. But my bad luck didn’t run out then. In 2019, ICE arrested me illegally thinking I was another person they were looking for. I was detained for many days, not knowing what would happen to my son. I felt as if my world was coming to an end.
I remember begging the officers to let me go, telling them that I didn’t commit any crime and by the grace of God, they did but they issued me a deportation order. I was referred to the Tahirih Justice Center who not only fought for me to get rid of that deportation order but also helped me apply for a T-visa. As it turns out I was a victim of labor trafficking… I had no idea there were laws that could protect me.
I was recently granted that petition and now I am legally able to work. I work for a non-profit helping other people who came to this country to look for a better life, just like I did. I help educate my community about the rights that we as immigrants are entitled to. I am making ends meet and saving money with the intention of seeing my parents again, whom I have not seen in almost two decades since I left Mexico.
Today, I feel blessed. My son is safe, I have a good job and we have a community to count on. My life experiences have shown me that after the storm there’s calm.