Mike is one of Tijuana’s newer immigrants from the United States. He moved here during the twenty-first century. He recently found himself involved in what the law broadly refers to “human trafficking”. In our local slang, he was a coyote. Or, as he says, “I helped people get into the U.S. without all the red tape.”
Mike had been a salesman in southern California who was “transitioned” into a commission-only job. He came to Tijuana because he couldn’t afford the place where he used to live. He wound up near the Otay crossing because, as he says, “the rents are low and we’re real close to the border”. Unfortunately for Mike, sales jobs were still far away.
“I tried a lot of jobs. Another gringo in the Zona Norte hooked me up with a telemarketing gig, a boilerroom in Mira Mesa, but I couldn’t meet their sales quotas. I walked the streets of Bonita for a remodeling contractor, telling people they had mold in their homes in order to get them to sign up. I started a website but it isn’t making any money. I went to Telvista because they said I only need to speak English, but that wasn’t true – I also need to permission to work in Mexico!” Mike hasn’t bothered to do any immigration paperwork.
“One day I was walking down Calle Coahuila and a chicano from Sylmar came up to me asking if I wanted a job. All I had to do was drive somebody else’s car across the border and they’d pay me a thousand dollars. ‘What’s the catch?’ I asked. The guy said it wasn’t anything illegal or dangerous but Juan would be the one to explain.”