Los Angeles – Fernando Rocha arrived in the United States almost eight years ago seeking a better life, and despite having no legal documents, worked hard and eventually founded a business that creates jobs and exemplifies "the true face" of California's 2 million undocumented residents.
"That has been my story. I came here in October 2003, risking my life crossing the border, I didn't speak any English and it was difficult starting from zero. Difficult, but not impossible," he said in an interview with Efe.
In his native Mexico, the 34-year-old Rocha enrolled in college to pursue a degree in hospitality, but the money he had hoped would see him through four years was just enough to cover the expenses for his first semester.
Desperate, he decided to do something to turn his life around.
"As soon as I came to California I went to work washing dishes, and I began studying English.
"I gradually got better at speaking the language and also at my work. I was an assistant waiter, waiter, bartender and then coordinator of special events at an art center," he said. "Today I'm the owner of a company that offers service to the community, employs eight university students and we keep growing, even in times of crisis."
His company, Pet Sit Pros, provides animal care, particularly for dogs and cats, for owners who don't have time to look after their pets every day or when they are on vacation.
The novelty of the service, he said, is that the animals are not taken downtown, but rather the caretakers go to the clients' homes.
"What we want is for pets to suffer the least possible stress when their owners aren't around," said Rocha, who has two pets of his own. Several years ago he had to leave them at a pet care center for the week he was on vacation, and when he returned, he said, they were unrecognizable.
"From my own experience I learned that it's better to take care of them at home and not change their surroundings," he said.
But to put Rocha's idea into action, first he had to find a U.S. citizen who would represent the company, register the firm and process all the necessary legal documents.
"I discovered that if Americans and immigrants learn to trust each other, if we listen to each other, if we give them the chance to know us and create sincere ties of friendship, we can achieve great things together," he said.
"The company offers a service to the community, pays taxes to the city and state, creates jobs and allows us to earn the necessary profits to continue growing and help others travel the same road. I can't show my face for fear of being deported, but my work, gratitude and good moral character constitute the face I present every day to this country," Rocha said.