They take your blood pressure, manage your debts and serve food at your banquets.
There are more than 750,000 undocumented people who have legal permission to work in the United States through the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a band-aid solution applied by President Obama in 2012 for working-age young immigrants who were illegally brought to the country as children.
Now, hundreds of people who qualify for the DACA program in Santa Fe are among those at the mercy of President Trump's decision whether to rescind the program at the behest of 9 state attorneys general, who have threatened to sue the federal government if it didn't begin to phase out the program by Sept. 5.
Ending DACA would make good on Trump's campaign promise to "immediately terminate" the program.
One Santa Fean who would be affected is Roxana Guillen, who works as a medical assistant at La Familia Medical Center. A significant portion of the clinic's clientele is undocumented, and Guillen feels like her personal experience helps her connect with patients. Despite the risks that come with speaking out, she says she's in a unique position to advocate for undocumented people.
"I don't know what exactly is going to happen, and I don't know what position I will be put in in the near future, but I want to be the best person I can be for the community I'm serving," Guillen tells SFR. "I feel like coming out with this; I can say I am undocumented, but I am helping my community as well. I have done nothing wrong and this is what I'm doing."
Guillen received her work permit six years ago, and has renewed it every two years since. It costs $500 just to apply. That's a steep price for people who are often working to support not just themselves, but their family members as well.
Still, the jump in income that comes with legal permission to work can have a major impact on a person's quality of life. Hugo Medina, who works as the accounts receivable coordinator for Santa Fe University of Art and Design, juggled a full-time job at a fast food restaurant and other part-time jobs at local eateries in the evenings for over a decade, including weekends, to support himself and his family.
"You get used to it," he now says, adding that before DACA he was afraid to apply for better jobs because of his legal status. "It becomes your daily routine, you have to work and you have to pay rent and the bills."
Medina fears for his family's future if DACA is terminated. Each person permitted to work under the program has to submit tax forms and other application materials to the Department of Homeland Security, meaning that an agency now detaining people at a record pace could reference the addresses listed on a person's DACA materials for easy prey.
Medina takes comfort in the fact that there are 39 states whose attorneys general have not submitted letters urging the president against DACA, and New Mexico is one of them. He believes political leadership in these states should speak up. So too, he says, should the large institutions, like universities and corporations, that reap the benefits of undocumented people in labor, taxes, tuition and other material assets.
"Tell congressmen and representatives, have them understand our situation," he urges. "Tell them about our parents' situation, of other people who are dealing with legal status in this country. We come to work and are successful and have a life."
For Hali Calzidillas, a DACA worker who is set to begin a paralegal fellowship at the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center in two weeks, it's critical not just to advocate for immigrants who qualify for the program, but for all undocumented people in the country.
"It's not just about me having food on the table and a job," she argues. "It's about quality of life, access to legal help, access to affordable housing—all those things that make life equitable."
Recently, members of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project—a legal aid nonprofit named for the DREAM Act that would provide a path for permanent residency for the DACA-eligible population, should it ever pass in Congress—created 1,000 emergency "tool kits" primarily for teachers to distribute to students.
They include a summary of DACA and the threats to it, ideas for how to raise awareness about the program, and materials for mailing letters to elected officials, including postcards featuring images of DACA recipients in Santa Fe. Allegra Love, an attorney and the director of the project, says the educational format of the tool kit is meant to spread awareness of the program fast.
"We need more people engaged than have been engaged," Love says. "And they need to be engaged quickly. There's not a ton of time for educating. We need a massive public outcry."
Others are less optimistic. Ana Juarez, a server at the Four Seasons Resort Rancho Encantado and a DACA recipient, is already preparing for the worst.
"You can learn more things about Mexico, and what you can do if you ever get deported," she says. "If there's nothing we can do to change the president's mind, we'll have to prepare to have different lives."
Editor's note: The number of attorneys general threatening to sue the Trump administration has been updated to reflect the most recent accurate account.