Welcome to Coyote Inn

As the storyline of Billy in construction continues, so do the West Side Story references. Again in the song America, the girls croon about their new country: “Skyscrapers bloom in America. Cadillacs zoom in America. Industry boom in America.”

The boys retort: “Twelve in a room in America!”

After a month in construction, Billy realized several workers were living at the company rent-free. He inquired and soon moved into a room filled with bunk beds and twenty other construction workers.

Many of his new roommates had arrived in the States via coyotes. Coyotes are paid guides who smuggle migrants across international borders. Hiring a coyote is a monumental risk. Some are decent and will help you arrive safely at your destination. Others may exploit you for profit or personal gain or may be mixed up in drug smuggling, and they are incredibly dangerous.

Of course, choosing to cross the border on your own is often a higher risk, so many migrants rely on coyotes. Many travelers, though, cannot afford the fee (sometimes $3,000) for the coyote on their own.

Enter the construction company… offering to pay it in exchange for a promise to work for them until the debt is cleared. They deducted smugglers’ fees from the workers’ paychecks. Somehow, though, the guys were never able to pay it off. Instead, they lived in "Coyote Inn" as it was called and continued working for the company.

It wasn’t long (although this is so bizarre to me) before Billy was promoted to general manager at this construction company. The work days got longer. He was now at the office by 5am and leaving at midnight… often seven days a week.

Even still, since he lived on the premises, the owner would sometimes wake him at 2am to open the gate for arriving trucks. Billy recounts that these vehicles were often filled with electronics. Shady? Um… yeah.  

Billy worked long days and came back to sleep in a room filled with guys drinking, doing drugs, and watching porn. Everyone deals with hopeless situations in their own way. Billy’s desperation led him to seek out a closet in the warehouse. He pulled everything out, pushed his mattress into it, and basically jumped onto his bed from the doorway.

He lived in that closet for one year.

Though his non-work hours were few, Billy began partying and drinking heavily. Sometimes he would pass out drunk in the parking lot, and the guys would bring him into the building.

I’ve heard it said life is like a game a Dominoes. We spend time carefully balancing our game pieces and creating our own  world. And immigration… is someone slamming their hand down on the table. Everything falls.

But even in that messy pile of Dominoes, God does not let His children go. Billy was still attending church every now and then, and we are so grateful for Faith Community Church. A sweet group of Christians there loved Billy through these crazy times and helped him stay connected to his true identity.  

Billy eventually left that construction company and worked briefly for another one. When their paychecks weren’t clearing, he moved on to work as an independent contractor installing satellite TV.

By now, a couple family members had also come to live in the States, and Billy was setting up new Dominoes. He was still hanging out with friends from church, but no longer partying or living in a closet. Soon, he again decided to visit a pastor friend of his at a church in South Los Angeles.

There he would meet me for the third time… but the first one that I remembered

P.S. I've been writing a (very long) series of posts about how my husband and I met and began dating and how immigration was involved in our experience. You can start at the beginning here or begin at the stories about my husband's immigration experience here. Next post we'll be back to our relationship and the unique ways immigration continued to surface. Click here to read it!

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