What Can You Do With a Work Permit?

Not all foreigners need an employment authorizations document (work permit). Foreign investors, executives, managers, and asylees are among the groups of foreigners who can work incident to status. Meaning, they do not need to request a work permit from the federal immigration agency.

First Steps: New Immigrant Jobs

For those who get a work permit, the smorgasbord of the American economy is open to them. Perhaps they come with dreams of a middle class life, a home and safety they could not afford in their country, but that requires years of work. Three decades before my mother purchased her house.

In Cuba, she was a science teacher. She speaks both English and Spanish and holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from American universities. Despite this, my mother’s first job in the United States was sewing tablecloths. In the steaming summer of 1973, my mother approached the manager of a factory in Hialeah. Wise move: even today, Hialeah is 96 % Hispanic.  The manager asked her if she knew how to use a sewing machine and she looked him dead in the eye and said, “Of course.”

Of course, that was a lie. My mother had never sewn so much as a handkerchief. Of course, however, she had two preschoolers and aged parents waiting at home to be fed. A Jamaican woman worked beside my mother, who still remembers her musical accent. The friend watched my mother pull at the needle. They were paid by the piece and the machine made short stitches. “Do you like making money?”

“Yes,” my mother replied innocently. The lady hmphed and loosened the tension on my mother’s sewing machine. By so doing, she increased the length of the stitch and gave my mother a living wage. Dignity.

Lies, Theft and Deception

The first time my mother told me about her factory job, I focused on her lie about work experience. I was once chased away from an elementary school lunch table with screams of liar, liar.  The humiliation stung me into righteousness: mistruths are unforgiveable.

No longer. Although lawyers depend on separating fact from lies, I no longer see falsehoods as a lack of good moral character. When you need to feed your children and your parents, what will you not say to get the money? What Central American countries and frigid detention centers will you not endure?

My first job was selling concessions at a movie theater. My black polyester pants and white cotton blouse constantly smelled of popcorn grease, as did my hair. We could eat any candies that were broken. I am glad the manager did not ask who broke the candies. I would have lied to keep my minimum wage paycheck.

I have never known anyone not to lie. Whether through words, silence, or actions. “Our marriage is fine” when it is not. “I do not mind if you work late” when he does. “Let me introduce you to my friend” when she is a lover. I forgive myself. I forgive my mother. I forgive everyone.

Disclaimer – These entries are based on real life events. Family member names, when used, are real. Client names are changed for privacy.

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