Jorge has already been deported once from the US. His crime, a very serious one according to US authorities, was to work at a car wash.
“There’s not slavery like there was before, but there’s more deaths now,” he said. “They make slaves out of undocumented people, and once the work is done, they kick them out of the country.”
He’s lived more than eight months in the shelter, helping construct a dormitory for unaccompanied children and preparing to make the dangerous journey north to be with his wife and three kids, who are still in the US. He stayed longer than he planned to at La 72 because he believes in what they’re doing and because he wants to help others like himself on their journey.
“Here they give people help, a roof to sleep under, food, security, and they treat people in a dignified way,” he said.
After a lack of work forced him to leave Honduras, a country where 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, Jorge came to the US seeking a decent life. His dream is to someday have a house for his family. While Americans fantasize about owning mansions with palm trees and 12-car garages, Jorge has something simpler in mind:
“I want a normal house, where a normal family can live. A house with two rooms, one where I can live with my wife and another room for the kids. One that has a kitchen and a space where we can relax. A safe place, where nobody can treat us badly.”
Safe places are hard to come by in the US for people like Jorge. When he lived in the country before, he was unable to live a normal life for fear of being caught by la migra (immigration cops) and deported.
“You can’t go to a nightclub. You can’t go to the park, because you’re scared they’ll catch you…You can’t listen to music because you’re scared the neighbors might call the police,” he told me. “I didn’t take my kids to the park. We would only go out on Sundays, to Burger King or the mall and then back to the apartment.”
Jorge’s favorite movie is Sin Nombre, a dramatization of migrants heading north, the same route that he took before and will take again. He also likes to read, favoring nonfiction tales of the hardships migrants face in the US. And, in a grave breach of Latin American custom and tradition, Jorge prefers basketball and baseball to soccer. The way Jorge sees it, there’s a deep injustice in the US’ treatment of its immigrant population.
“Most of the country’s income is coming from undocumented laborers. They work in construction. The majority are exploited at work. If they’re hurt, their insurance won’t pay. They just use us when they need us. Once the work is done, they turn us over to migration,” he said. “I think the treatment has to change…we have rights as human beings.”
The change has to come from above, Jorge believes, and immigrants searching for justice should turn to religion as the solution.
“To change the world, we can only ask God to touch the president’s heart so that he ends the corruption,” Jorge said.
Despite his former (and future) status as a criminal in the eyes of US immigration authorities, he lives by a strong ethical code supplemented by the Catholicism that guides him.
“First of all, you shouldn’t touch anything that’s not yours…Don’t mix yourself up in problems. And ask for guidance from God.”