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By José T.

In this Carolina blue town it’s visibly graduation time. While it sure is a time of celebration, I can’t help but think that behind the smiles of more than one of these grads walking around is an undocumented youth thinking about what’s really next. Yes, for them the occasion is bitter sweet. It reminds me of my graduation at my university. It was hard. I had entered college in the fall of 2006 and I thought surely by graduation time the DREAM Act will have passed and I will be very happy, very accomplished, very secure and very ready for my next steps. Four years later the only thing I could think of, as I walked the stage, was that I was still very much undocumented. No kidding! I had successfully avoided all invitations to job fares my senior year and stopped buying ties and printing resumes. Perhaps the hardest thing on graduation day was hiding my anger, my disappointment, my frustration and insecurity from my family. I was determined not to ruin this day of pride for them. The truth was, though, I was really scared. I was scared of not having a real plan or the ability to get a paying job, other than the temporary dead end ones, without a social security number.

However, after a couple transformative moments after graduation, I reworked some of my thinking and set out to find a job… any job. But, if I was going to do this then I was going to do it on my own terms. I would let go of fear and be intentional in demanding recognition of my existence with every job opportunity. I resolved to be undocumented and unemployed. This meant I would have to learn how to drop the I-tin word on potential employers and still get hired. Yes, I know it’s really an acronym but deal with it!

And so my challenge began. Since then I’ve had several jobs, undocumented status disclosed, and have learned a few things about dropping the I-tin word. So if you are on the job hunt here are some of my suggestions. Enjoy.

Secure an interview. This is the most important thing for us because you can’t really let employers know how broken our immigration system is on a simple job application and expect them to take a leap of faith and hire you. So, securing an interview, no matter what kind of job it is, will put you in a much better position to drop the I-tin word. As a result, you will increase your chances of a job offer.

Have your ITIN on hand (here is what it is and how to get one). If needed, present it as the official document that it is.

In my experience, I usually wait towards the end of an interview, given that everything is going well, to bring up the “minor inconvenience” and explain that
it’s something that can be solved with some creative thinking from both sides.
Let them know you are more of an asset than a liability by telling them a little bit about your story from an angle of survival and highlighting your resourcefulness and critical thinking skills. Be prepared to challenge negative notions they have of undocumented people and let them know that as an immigrant youth you are just trying to survive. Reaffirm your ability and willingness to work hard.

Negotiate. This means negotiating responsibly and it is something you owe every dreamer out there because what you negotiate can set a precedent for what is
on the table for the hiring of other immigrant youth. Since you will most likely be hired as a contractor then you will most likely not be eligible for benefits such as health insurance through the company. Ask for this to be compensated with a higher pay rate.

Hold your ground. You will have to hold your ground and understand the worth of your skills as to not devalue your work. Remember, just because you only have
an ITIN does not mean you will be less of a value to the organization.

Show them a sample contract, timesheet, and check request form (usually used by companies doing contract work for a project). This can go a long way in
explaining how it can all work.

Be ahead of them and go in prepared with answers to potential questions they may have, such as, how an ITIN works, who normally uses it and what type of
identification you have.

If the employer still seems a bit hesitant after you have dropped the I-tin word, then shift your tactic and ask for an opportunity for a part time position with the possibility of full time down the road. This allows a trial period for both sides. Your employer can see that an ITIN number works just as good in their books and you can get a better feel for the support you will actually get from them.

Have references of others who have hired you and can lend credibility to what you are saying. This will ease some anxiety from that employer.

Be confident, tap into your networks (especially the active immigrant youth networks) and be willing to ask for the job! While some dreamers have

specifically been approached for an interview without even asking, this will not necessarily be the norm, though, this should let you know that it can be a very good side of being active within the immigrant youth movement.

Prospective employers could be all around you so zone in on job possibilities. Take notice of who is around you and understand that every interaction is a job interview.

Get an idea and feeling for job opportunities by researching what other dreamers are doing for work. I know more than one who is hired and actually gets benefits!

Take a well prepared resume highlighting the skills you have learned through organizing in the immigrant youth movement or whatever else you have been
involved in.

Research the company/ organization and prepare leading questions to give you an idea of the politics of the org.

Figure out who ultimately makes the hiring decision. If the person sitting across from you is pushing back even though they have indicated that you would be
great, then chances are that person isn’t calling the shots and doesn’t have the power to give you the green light. If you really want that job then keep an eye out for who does have this power and go for it.

Make sure you are getting paid. If you do get hired but your employer is not paying you the accorded amount then take it to the court system! You can do this
all yourself and legal status does not matter. Stay tuned for a blog on how to do this.

Be prepared for rejection. Not everyone will be willing to meet you half way. At the end of the day it will be more their loss than yours so move on.

The following are some paying jobs I’ve had (legal status disclosed):
•         Camp Counselor (first aid and CPR trained)
•         Assistant Director for a summer camp
•         Program Manager for a year round leadership program
•         Office cleaner

•         Gas Station attendant and cashier (right after graduation)
•         Pizza boy (hated my boss but I got free pizza)
•         Other random jobs I found on craigslist (all legit ones)  
•         Resource Specialist (Current job)

For my part, once I went on the job hunt full force, I did some cold calls, looked through craigslist ads, and made some on the spot visits to turn in resumes and applications. I was patient and always looked out for any potential job. When I heard of one, I was prepared to go talk to hiring management on the spot, lined up a few interviews and went for it. At every interview, from the pizza job to the office assistant one, I was upfront and cautiously but confidently dropped the I-tin word. I found that the beginning of interviews went well but I would be very nervous about the ITIN part.
I knew that it was going to come up. So before they brought it up I decided I would beat them to it. As interviews would come to an end I would recap my desire to work for them and reaffirmed that I would work very hard. I also let them know I had a minor “inconvenience” but that it could be solved with some creative thinking from both ends. By this point I could always tell they were intrigued and that’s when I knew it was the right moment to drop the I-tin word on them. At the end of a couple months and while being heavily involved in the fight for the DREAM Act I had two job offers!

I know that this is not an ideal situation for us as undocumented youth to go through. I must say that when our supposed “friends”, the democrats, killed the DREAM Act I was really upset but I also learned an important lesson that December. I learned that while legislation will always be important to win, most of our fight is in demanding respect and opportunities to survive in our everyday lives where it matters most. I learned that in the absence of legislation we will have to change the status quo on the ground one person at a time, if need be. This is our home and making it work here with what we have is part of our challenge. So, in this spirit, everyday is an opportunity to challenge expectations and when it comes to getting hired, our generation of immigrants has been
doing it for decades.

Recently on The State of Things with Frank Stasio, Viridiana pointed out to ALIPAC’s William Gheen that “there are no illegal alien lines at the grocery store”, countering his claim that undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes. That point was reinforced today by this article in the New York Daily News, which points out that undocumented immigrants paid $11.2 Billion last year alone, while General Electric, which earned $14 billion last year, paid exactly $0 in taxes. Aside from sales, excise and property taxes, the IRS issues undocumented immigrants 9-digit ITINs which allow the government to collect income tax from them.

The report comes from the Immigration Policy Center and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Read more on the report here.

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, “…the new IPC report serves as an important reminder that undocumented taxpayers make important financial contributions to the fiscal health of state and local governments.”

Well put.

In a plea to lawmakers yesterday, the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC laments the “Democratic leadership in Raleigh” for not passing “comprehensive enforcement legislation”. That’s probably because Republicans control both the North Carolina House and Senate.

While ALIPAC’s release focuses entirely on legislation, it blames the Democratic governor, I guess. It never mentions her by name (I won’t either, since they didn’t).

North Carolina is having a hard time with its budget, and as ALIPAC points out, “lawmakers are aiming to make billions of dollars in cuts to the state budget which will have a dramatic impact on many North Carolina citizens including teachers, health care professionals, and state workers”. However, if they’re looking for lawmaking to happen, they ought to take it up with the Republicans who are currently in charge of putting forward legislation.

“Over thirty states have enacted significant immigration enforcement measures with comprehensive enforcement legislation passed in places like Georgia, Arizona, South Carolina, and Oklahoma.” said William Gheen, probably quoting himself. “These states report gradual, humane, and significant declines in their illegal alien populations. North Carolina needs to follow their example. Those state’s [sic] are no longer paying billions in taxes for illegals.”

Totally humane. This was humane, too. So was this. Oh, yeah, and this? More power is exactly what police need.

Tax revenue is something states receive, not pay, and those states are receiving billions in revenue from undocumented immigrants. While ALIPAC admits that undocumented immigrants do pay some taxes (hey, credit where credit is due), “they collectively consume much more than they pay in tax resources through their use of food stamps, unemployment, welfare, educational resources, law enforcement resources [and] medicaid”. Except that the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA 96) requires proof of citizenship for public benefits, so undocumented immigrants don’t get any of those things. And while they leave out that (also since 1996) the Internal Revenue Service has been issuing Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers to undocumented immigrants for the purpose of paying income tax, there’s no service that undocumented immigrants have not rightfully paid for.

Just to hammer things down, a 2007 study carried out by the White House Council of Economic Advisors determined that undocumented immigrants pay (on average) $80,000 more than they use in public services.

There’s some info to take to Raleigh.

Representative George Cleveland (R – Onslow) has introduced HB 11, a bill that would ban undocumented immigrants from North Carolina’s public universities and community colleges. The NC DREAM Team is asking for opponents of this bill to call Speaker Thom Tillis (R – Mecklenburg) and urge him to prevent the bill from making it to the House floor (call 919-733-3451).

Yesterday a member of the NC DREAM Team sent an e-mail expressing their disappointment in the legislation. “It is saddening that one of our state’s representatives would go out of their way to deny a segment of our state’s population the right to educate and better themselves,” said Ian Smith-Overman, the member who sent the e-mail. “I believe your decision to sponsor this bill is short-sighted at best and vindictive at its worst.”

Rep. Cleveland responded within five hours. “I find it revolting that an American thinks that we should financially support people that cannot legally work in this country through taxpayer subsidized education,” he said. “If you feel so strongly about this issue find an illegal and pay for their education at a private university.”

The response from Rep. Cleveland demonstrates that he is not aware that the North Carolina Department of Revenue collects income tax from undocumented immigrants using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, or ITINs, which have been issued by the Internal Revenue Service since 1996. The NC DREAM Team believes that undocumented immigrants not only have a right to attend public post-secondary education in North Carolina, but should also only pay in-state tuition as tax-paying state residents.

While the North Carolina economy depends heavily on immigrant labor, particularly in the agriculture and meat-processing industries, the state has continued to march toward policies that harass the communities working in those industries or prohibit their economic advancement through education. In the past ten years, agreements between immigration officials and local police departments that expand police power such as 287(g) and Secure Communities have continued to proliferate across the state; drivers’ licenses are no longer issued to immigrants without visas; and undocumented youth who most often had no say in their migration to North Carolina as minors are forced to pay out-of-state tuition and register last in community colleges.

Yesterday we demonstrated our vigilance for education rights in front of the NC Legislature. The legislature has answered by following South Carolina and Georgia and proposing to ban undocumented youth from community colleges and universities. The new legislature is wasting no time in showing that recreating a two-tiered society in America is one of its top priorities.

This is nothing short of segregation. This state collects tax revenue from undocumented immigrants using ITINs issued by the IRS, which gives them a material right to the seats in class they have paid for. But before that, they have a right to be educated as human beings.

Our state insists on using undocumented immigrant labor and taxing undocumented immigrant wages, but also claims that undocumented immigrant youth cannot sit in the classroom.

Call House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) at 919-733-3451 and ask him why tax-paying, hard-working immigrant youth shouldn’t be allowed to go to college in North Carolina. Tell him you never want to see this bill make it to the floor.


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