- Jul 2021
Anita: Did Gerald Ford know you were undocumented?Rodolfo: No, Gerald Ford didn't know I was undocumented, no. I was still very young at that point. My mother and my family always told me, "Don't let anybody know you're undocumented.” If somebody finds out, for whatever reason, there's some people who just are plain out racist or don't want people like me in the States. Sometimes they just do things to... I don't know. That's what I understood and that's what I took in and that's what I applied to my life. It's like living a secret, it was like living a second life or whatever. It’s like, "Oh shit, why do I have to lie, why?" I guess it's neither here nor there now, right? I'm here in Mexico.Anita: That must have been incredibly difficult. I know personally, because I've had to keep secrets.Rodolfo: Yeah, I guess it's one of those things where you think it's never really gonna affect you, until you're in the back of the DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, van. You're next to a whole bunch of people you never met, and they're also in the same position. Some don't even speak English. You don't really understand how immediately it can affect you until it affects you. I never thought it would affect me. Okay, well I mean, I'm working, I'm going to school—I'm in high school—I'm doing this, this and that. Some of my friends who are students already dropped out. Did everything, they’ve already gone to prison and back and everything, and they haven't even hit their 21st birthday.Rodolfo: And I'm still good, I'm still good. I may not be a straight A student or anything, but hey man, I'm still here! Why can't I have the same privilege as you all do? Why can't I get my license? You know how happy I was when I got my license here, damn. I love to drive, that's one of my passions. Always, always, always I love to drive. I couldn't get my license over there. I remember even in high school in drivers ed, I knew what the answer was, but I asked my mom, “Hey mom, can I apply for drivers ed, so I can get my license? “She was like, "You know you can't get your license." Again, one of the primary things, I’m like damn, I'm just not gonna be able to drive all my life? Or if I do drive and I get pulled over—as a matter of fact, that's the reason why I got deported, driving without a valid drivers license.Rodolfo: I never got why the paper said, "Driving on a suspended license." I would always ask them, "If I don't have a license, why is it suspended?" They just told me, "Because you have a drivers license number, but you don't have a drivers license? I'm like, "Okay, so if I have a drivers license number, why can't I get my drivers license?" "You don't have the proper documentation." I'm like, "But I have my..."Rodolfo: One day I thought, “Well why don't I just grab the driver license number and have somebody make me a fake drivers license, and put the drivers license on there?” But see, if I get caught with it, now I'm in more trouble, and now I'm seen as a real criminal, because now I'm going around the system once again. That's why we don't want you here, because you're gonna do things like that. [Exhale] I haven't talked about this in a while. It just makes me want to…I don’t know.
Time in the US, Immigration Status, Being secretive, Hiding/lying, In the shadows, Living undocumented; Reflections, The United States, US government and immigration; Feelings, Frustration; Time in the US, Jobs/employment/work, Documents, Driver's license, Social security card/ID
Sergio: Did you ever work in the US?Rodolfo: Yeah, I worked all the time, I never stopped. One of the first jobs I had…My uncle worked at a restaurant called, Baker's Square in Chicago. It was on the corner of Tui and Pratt. I really, really, really wanted—I think I was in fifth or sixth grade—a phone. I wanted a phone, it’s called the Psychic Slide. Phones used to flip, but this one slides. I wasn't gonna ask my mom for it, so I asked my uncle. "Hey man, I know you work at Baker's Square and I know around the holiday season it gets really busy. Can I help you? Can I go?" He's like, "Well, yeah, if you want." I used to wake up like 3:00 in the morning, and I used to go and help him out. After that, I really liked making money and I really liked dressing nice, I liked having my nice haircut or whatever. My very, very first job was in Wilmette, Illinois. I was a caddie. Yeah, and then—Sergio: On the golf course?Rodolfo: On the golf course, yeah. Wilmette Golf Course actually. I remember I was always the first one there. They used to choose us, when everybody got there, "Okay, you come with me, you come with me." I used to always go there and there was a gentleman by the name of... Man, I forgot his name. Like the President, Gerald Ford, that was his name Gerald Ford! The only reason I remembered was because of the President. He used to always get there around the same time I got there. He finally asked me, "Do you want to be my personal caddie? I don't want you working anymore with all these other kids, because nobody wants to work. Do you want to be my personal caddie?" I'm like, "Yeah, absolutely." It was going really, really well and everything.Rodolfo: I got to high school, I had a number of jobs. I worked at Subway, I worked at Chili's, I worked at... What was it? Outback Steak House, but then I finally just got to the Cheesecake Factory, and that's where I stayed the remainder of my time. The remainder of my time I stayed there, and I started from the busboy and I finally ended up being a bartender. One of the head bartenders, one of the head servers, they used to pay-out people and everything. Obviously, I didn't have my social or anything, but I was a little bit older than what I really was. When I first got there, when I first, first started working I think I was like 14. Obviously you can't work that young, I think actually, I was 18, at 14.Rodolfo: I didn't see it as anything bad. I knew that if I got caught with my fake ID and my fake social security card I'd get in trouble, but that's why we're there, that's why we worked. I didn't get a fake ID to go party or go get into clubs or bars or anything. The main purpose of it was for me to be able to get a job, and so my mom wouldn't have to work all those hours that she used to work. She used to work at a Burger King, overnight. I used to barely see her, and I didn't want that anymore. I told her, "You don't have to work that much if I start working. We can help each other out, we can, we're a team.” It was only my mother and I until I turned 14, when she met my stepdad. All throughout that, it was just my mother and I.
Time in the US, Jobs/employment/work, Documents, Careers, Food services, Athletics