The Renegade Rip

Renegade Struggles: Juan

We all have a struggle, and every person has a different story. Each issue, The Rip will feature a student overcoming certain struggles to gain an education and better their life.

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Juan sits on a cooler and poses for a picture during his break at the vineyard where he works.

Juan sits on a cooler and poses for a picture during his break at the vineyard where he works.

Sam Moreno

Sam Moreno

Juan sits on a cooler and poses for a picture during his break at the vineyard where he works.

Sam Moreno, Reporter

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Meet Juan, 20, a student who has been attending night classes at Bakersfield College and working a full time job, all while being an undocumented immigrant.

Juan first arrived in the U.S. in 2010, when he was only 13-years-old.

He came with two other people, his cousin “Nacho” and his uncle “Pancho.” Juan’s parents stayed in Guanajuato, Mexico, his hometown.

“I was so scared to leave my parents, but at the same time I wanted more in life and I think my parents wanted the same for me,” Juan said.

Juan recalls coming to the U.S. with little to no money.

“My tió [uncle] Pancho probably had $2,000 in his pocket that he protected more than us. His hand would never leave his pocket,” said Juan (not his real name).

Juan’s journey to the U.S. was not an easy one. He crossed U.S. borders illegally in order to come into the country.

When Juan arrived in Lamont, CA, he shared one bedroom with his uncle and cousin.

The owners had remodeled the garage into a single unit living space, which was a studio, built within the home.

“We lived there until I was 17, a family friend let us rent this small living space. It had a bathroom and a small kitchen, so that’s all that mattered,” Juan said.

He went to Arvin High School and he would work as much as he could.

“This nice lady that my uncle met in the fields gave me a job at her taco truck. I had this job while I was in high school. The pay was very low; I’d be lucky to see $20 at the end of the night. On weekends we would stay open until 2 or 3 a.m. I had to quit once I graduated. I had to find a better job, well, the best available to me,” Juan said.

When he graduated high school, he began working as a farm worker because his previous job was not giving him enough work hours to be able to pay his bills.

“Farm work is tough, it’s hot, it’s tiring and most of all it’s not rewarding. People have died out here,” Juan said, “Last year, a man died in the field next to the one I was working at. I think he died of dehydration or something.”

Farm work is one of the few places willing to hire Juan, who has no documents.

“I want to have a better job. I want to be able to have the same opportunities as others,” he said.

As an undocumented immigrant and worker, Juan has limited job options and not having the proper documents causes him to live in fear.

“I worry that one day everything I have worked for will be for nothing,” he said, “I don’t fear that I will do something that will get me deported. I fear that laws will get stricter and I will be forced to leave this country.”

Juan wakes up before sunrise every Monday through Saturday and attends night classes at BC twice a week, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.

“I’m still doing my general education, but I worry that all the classes I am going to need to graduate are not always going to be offered at night time,” he said, “eventually, I am going to have to take a day class and in my line of work, if you don’t show up, they hire the next [undocumented] person begging for a job. No matter how long you’ve been at that job.”

Finding a job is not necessarily simple for someone with no social security card or documents. Not having the proper documents limits his options. He also does not qualify for any alternative government assistance programs available to citizens, like unemployment insurance benefits.

“Like everyone else, I rely on my job. Although it doesn’t pay much, it provides me with my necessities,” Juan said.

Juan had to save up for nearly a year, putting away as much money as he could every paycheck in order to buy his first car. He needed a car in order to be able to attend college and continue his education.

“I bought my uncle’s old beat up car, it was so run down; it was a 1995 Corolla. He sold it to me for $600,” Juan said, “I had to buy a car because I work from 6 a.m. until 4 or 5 p.m. and night classes begin at 6 p.m. usually, so riding the bus all the way from Lamont would make me late to every class.”

Juan began attending BC in 2015 and majors in automotive.

“I plan to graduate BC and stay in the right path. I want to have a good career. I want to bring my parents to live with me; I miss them,” Juan said. He has not seen his parents since he left his hometown in 2010.

“I talk to my parents whenever I get the chance to, which is usually on Sundays,” he said.

Juan is unable to call his parents as frequently as he wishes due to his parent’s lack of resources. At one point his parents landline broke and it took them nearly 2 months to purchase a new one.

“I miss my parents so much, I barely remember what they look like,” Juan quavered.

His parents stayed in their hometown in Mexico because his father was too sick to take on the “dreadful” journey of crossing the heavily watched borders of the U.S. and Mexico, according to Juan.

However, both of Juan’s parents supported Juan’s decision to leave with his uncle for a better opportunity from the beginning.

“My mom always tells me ‘God has a plan for all of us’, and she says this to remind me that I am doing the right thing in pursuing a better life,” he said. Juan fears that his plan will come to an end one day.

“As someone who has no papers, you live a life of paranoia. I don’t hate cops, but they intimidate me. A bad decision I make can negatively change the rest of my life, so I have to be careful in everything I do,” he said.

Juan strives to be a law abiding citizen.

“Just because I’m not a legal citizen here doesn’t mean I don’t act like one,” he said. Juan has never had an encounter with law enforcement, but he has friends who have been deported after being pulled over for a minor traffic violation.

“As an undocumented immigrant, you must live a cautious life,” he said.

Juan is grateful to be in this country and is very thankful for the opportunities he has received from living here.

“I remember arriving here, not knowing English. I never thought I would be going to college here. It’s truly amazing the opportunities I have been given here. So I cherish every one of them. I do go through struggles but it will be worth it in the end,” he said.

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Renegade Struggles: Juan