Hector Salomon Garay was born in El Salvador with the hope of someday being able to make it to the United States. By the time he was 25, he saved up the $1,200 needed to hire the “coyote,” who took him in a group of 34 people across the border in the middle of the night. But it wasn’t an easy journey. Throughout the course of 19 days, his group was forced to walk and swim through the river, hide in bushes and behind trees, and be crammed into small spaces, such as a single pickup truck and room that housed 64 people. Additionally, much of their time was spent waiting without knowledge of when — or even if — someone was coming to guide them on their next leg of the journey. Eventually, Salomon did make it to Houston, Tx., where he had to pay an additional $400 to make it to his final destination of Washington, D.C., where his sister resided.
Shortly there after, he was given a fake Social Security number, which allowed him to be hired in construction. He found that, as long as his work was satisfactory, no one looked into his documentation. Once his sister gained U.S. citizenship the following year, she took him to apply for his own Social Security number. Though the office personnel recognized he was in the country illegally, they were lenient and allowed him to apply. So, within four weeks, he was working legally and paying taxes.
Then, eight years later, Salomon became an entrepreneur by opening his own house painting business, while also completing a few related small jobs as needed. His work is so thorough and high quality, that he now finds himself turning away potential clients. In 2005, he was able to obtain U.S. citizenship, but he recognizes it is not so easy for new immigrants. He hears personal narratives of people waiting in daily lines at the U.S. embassy for a visa, which are often full by 7 a.m. Even the $125 application fee offers no guarantee. When people ask him for advice, Salomon truthfully tells them it is now extremely difficult to find work in the U.S., and that while he will try his best to help, he cannot assure them of their fate. Ultimately, he wishes the process could be much easier for all.