Young, Educated and Illegal: Her Story
She is 18 years old, attends junior college and works part time at a private insurance company. She was born in Mexico and speaks perfect English, drives without a license and is encouraged, even pushed, by relatives to hurry up and find a husband.
“She” remains unidentified because her employer asks that neither of their names be revealed, for fear of immigration officials obtaining their identities. I will call the student “Rosa” and her employer “Carla” for this story. Rosa lives in America illegally and is paid under-the-table by Carla, who owns the private company.
A girl turns to avoid the camera, just as Rosa doesn't want her identity to be revealed, for fear of being caught.
As many as 300,000 people attend Huntington Park's annual carnival, bringing business to the shops along the famous Pacific Boulevard.
Photo: La Opinion
Rosa resides in California because her parents moved here when she was an infant, and an error in paperwork prevented her from getting citizenship. If Rosa applies for citizenship now, she would have to wait seven years before she could obtain full benefits, unless she marries a citizen.
It was Huntington Park’s annual Carnival Primavera, and Carla was standing with her husband outside of her small, unassuming office building handing bright yellow insurance advertisements to passersby on Pacific Boulevard. “Insurance? Insurance?” Carla asked the mobs of people who were pushing strollers with crying children and eating tacos sold from a nearby booth. She paused to explain to me the pressure of Rosa’s situation and that she disagreed with the idea of Rosa marrying so young.
“Can you imagine? You’re barely 20, right? Can you see yourself getting married now?” Carla exclaimed to me. She believes it is an unfair burden for a girl of 18.
Carla never felt this pressure because her parents immigrated to Huntington Park before she was born, so she has always been a citizen. She decided with her husband to remain in the city she grew up in and run her business, not something one would predict in a town blighted by poverty and unemployment.
“My family told me to get an education so I never have to pick fruit," Joe, Carla's husband, chimed in. "But not all immigrants can do that. Many break their backs for $6.75 an hour, doing the jobs white people aren’t going to do,” he added. “White people don’t know what they’re talking about, no offense. They need to come down here and talk to people and see why they’re here.”