Juan F. Soto

I came to the U.S. in 1984 because I wanted to improve my economic status. To achieve that I had to hire a coyote (smuggler) to help me cross the Tijuana- Los Angeles border. I traveled in the small trunk of a car along with two others. It was already May and the heat was unbearable. When we arrived in Los Angeles, so the coyotes could talk to our relatives, we waited inside a garage. It was very hot inside and we barely fitted standing. There were guards who threaded us to remain silent because they were afraid we could get caught by the local police.

I worked in the fields, dealing with the high temperatures, excessive sweat mixed with pesticide dust and dreadful housing conditions such as houses that filtered the sun through their walls and the moon at night. Sometimes, these houses lacked primary services such as sewer and potable water. One time, when I worked in the fields, they delayed our checks for several weeks and threatened us with losing our jobs if we said something. Secretly, I organized my co-workers and we went on strike; we got our money back and then we started looking for other jobs. It was very hard because there were people who worked for only three meals a day, but we finally got work.

I could apply under a section of the 1986 amnesty. Since then, I’ve worked in factories, some of them in really bad sanitary conditions, but I know about other people who work in worse ones, such as a warehouse where the floor is always wet and there are a lot of electronic cables spread around the room. These conditions have caused at least three accidents where employees have been accused of negligence when the reality is the total opposite. These kind of events encourage me to continue in the struggle for a fair legalization and better working conditions for all people, because I will never forget that I’m also an immigrant and that we’ve always suffered to obtain a decent life.