Content warning: The stories throughout this issue may be especially activating for some readers. Many of these pieces involve descriptions of traumatic experiences including sexual violence, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, queer/transphobic violence, in addition to the violence of states and false borders.
Hello, I’m Lunar Ramires, an immigrant. Three years ago, I met an agent back in Mexico who promised to bring me to the United States and help me get a housekeeping job. I was so excited! It seemed like a dream come true. She arranged everything and helped me get the travel documents.
In two months, everything was ready, and I came to the U.S. There were about five of us girls and we were all psyched that we had a chance to start living here and that we would be able to help our families back in Mexico. On arrival, we were put in a house with other girls. It was like a dormitory, but we were told it was temporary until they could secure jobs for us. They also took our passports and told us it was for safety purposes.
After a week, we were separated, and that’s when I was brought to San Francisco with three other girls to start working. On arrival we realized that we were not going to do household chores but instead had been brought to a brothel. We were really angry and disappointed, but the owner of the brothel threatened us and said we had to pay her back for our documents and transportation, a cost she calculated to be around $500 per person. She said she would give us back our passports after we had paid it.
There was nothing we could do but comply. I worked my ass off trying to clear my debt so that I could get my documents back and go look for a decent job—but last July, during routine HIV testing, I was found to be positive
The owner threw me out on the streets, and I have been living out of dumpsters since then. It’s been hard to get food and the HIV medication I need. I can’t go back to Mexico because I don’t have my documents or any money.
I am just taking each day at a time hoping things will change and I get a better life. I’m surviving on the streets doing any kind of job that can feed me. I rely on free pantries that give out food and medicine. Sometimes, I have had to go for days without anything to eat, so I look through fast food garbage cans to look for anything I can eat. Some days I’m lucky and get a cleaning job in a nearby household, where I get food and am paid $10 or 20, but it’s really hard to get a more stable job without papers because people are afraid of being robbed. The few of us with papers are lucky: They almost get jobs daily. The little cash I get I use to buy medicine and some food. I mostly rely on shelters, but at times they are full and I have to sleep outside. On the streets it’s cold. I don’t have anything to keep me warm but I endure with the hope that tomorrow will be a better day. It’s also dangerous at times because you meet all kinds of people—some just harass me for no reason; others try to rape me—but all in all I have to survive.