After Deportation, What Comes Next?
English-speaking Guatemalans deported from the U.S. find a surprising refuge — call centers. http://slate.me/1U9q2fu
- •Each year, thousands of Guatemalans are deported from the United States.In 2015 there were 33,000 Guatemalan deportees, second only to Mexico.
- •Many deportees have no money, no family, and nowhere to live once they return to Guatemala.
- •William Espana is one of them.After four decades in Los Angeles, he was recently deported back to the country he left as a teenager.
- •It could be worse, though — at least he speaks fluent English.
- •English-speaking deportees are the backbone of Latin America’s billion-dollar call center industry.In Guatemala, the minimum monthly wage is $350, but call centers pay up to $1,400 per month.
- •More than 50% of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, so call center jobs are in high demand.
- •Jose Andres Ordonez, an entrepreneur and call center recruiter, hopes that creating more of these lucrative jobs can break the cycle of poverty that forces many Guatemalans to flee north.
- •His company, Conexion Laboral (Labor Connection), offers free job training for returning migrants.Many have strong verbal English skills, but they need extra help to pass the writing tests and formal interviews.
- •Ordonez says the arrangement offers “shared value” to both deportees and call centers.While many NGOs are active in Guatemala, he sees private sector involvement as an untapped resource.
- •“It’s very important that companies tackle these social issues in Guatemala. It needs to go beyond corporate responsibility. Small and big companies should try to solve a problem in society and make it sustainable,” said Ordonez.
- •For migrants like Espana, the promise of a rewarding job can open up worlds of possibility.“To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to stay here,” he said. “I wanted to go back, but if I get this job, I’m planning to stay.”
- •A few weeks later, he signed his contract.