Like many undocumented women in the U.S., Luisa cleans houses for a living, an occupation she is grateful for. She said she values hard work and understands that regardless of what she has to do, work is the only way to get ahead. According to Luisa, however, her hard work is simply not enough in the eyes of many.
“There are various points of attacks we immigrants have to endure, but the one I hear most often, especially now with the proposed immigration law is ‘They don’t pay taxes,’” Luisa said. “What they don’t realize, however, is that every day, whether I am buying a pack of gum or a candy bar, I am paying taxes.”
Even little contributions like that, she said, help the economy in one way or another.
“What upsets me is that there is this misperception that we get everything for free—that we are simply given things, that we ask the government for everything when it simply isn’t true. Any benefits I do receive are for my children, who were all born here and who, as American citizens, have the same rights as other citizens.”
Luisa’s husband, Celso, sat next to her holding their young son who slept in his arms. Every once in a while he would nod his head in agreement with his wife, while simultaneously rubbing his son’s back. For a while they said, after the April 27 tornado, their status as undocumented immigrants was, understandably, not everyone’s first concern.
“My boss is in the construction business,” Celso said. “He had a house on 15th street where the tornado hit that was badly damaged, so he took me and the rest of the construction workers over to his house to repair it. While we were rebuilding, he set up an advertising sign for the construction company in the front yard. Slowly, people began showing up, asking for his help in the rebuilding process. Most of the reconstruction work that has been done on 15th street was done by all of us at his company—we fixed roofs, chimneys, windows, everything.”