Profiles in unemployment: The immigrant
CHRISTIAN AGUILAR, 19, Mexican construction worker
In the boom years, Mexican illegal immigrant Christian Aguilar thrived decorating homes in new subdivisions across the sprawling Phoenix valley.
“I was never without work. I earned enough to live, pay the rent and the bills, and even save a little,” said Aguilar, 19, who is from the troubled border city of Ciudad Juarez, south of El Paso, Texas.
But when the economy slid deeper into recession last year, he and his gang of decorators started to have their hours cut, and then they were gradually let go.
“They laid me off for two weeks, then that stretched out to a month, now I haven’t worked since last August,” said Aguilar, who earned $12 an hour under the table.
Almost 12 million undocumented immigrants live and work in the United States, many like Aguilar in low-skilled jobs that have evaporated in the recession.
He now touts for work at a day labor center in Phoenix — a fallback for many undocumented migrants — and counts himself lucky if he’s hired one or two days a week.
“The most difficult thing is that you are worrying that you will be turned out of your house if you can’t pay the rent,” said Aguilar, who lives with his parents.
With the economy still in decline, he and his family are thinking of leaving Arizona to try and find work elsewhere in the United States.
“If we leave, it will be for another state like Colorado, New Mexico or Utah, but not Mexico,” he said.
“Where I come from, they’re going through a very difficult time at the moment, with violence and drug trafficking.”