Most know California as the home of Hollywood stars and technology-savvy billionaires. The state, with its warm weather and a growing economy, is also a destination for millions of immigrants to seek a prosperous life in America. However, is California truly a promised land for citizens of other countries or just a disillusion when many of them come here and end up with hard and ramshackle lives.
I walked the Ocean Beach Bridge in San Diego at around 3 a.m., expecting to be the only one there. Surprisingly, many fishermen were working there; most of them are immigrants from the Philippines, Mexico, and Vietnam. These fishermen went to work in factories or nail salons during the day and then fish from midnight till early morning. In doing so, they are able to pay for the high cost of living in California. Incomes from fishing depend mostly on the waves and the season. With simple fishing tackles, these fishermen only catch a quantity of ten to twenty fish per night. They catch more fish in the summer, yet cannot expect huge profits because of the cheap price of fish on the Pacific coast.
Lack of education is one of the most common problems for many immigrants. For example, a couple of Vietnamese fishermen, having been in America for almost 30 years, cannot communicate in English fluently. Most immigrants limit themselves in their home communities for the insufficiency of language. Despite living in a foreign country, these fishermen are not able to learn or exchange American culture. In fact, they have not undergone any education since the first day being in the U.S. due to the language barrier. They work hard and try several manual labor jobs to survive day by day. Sometimes, the jobs cannot pay for their personal expenses such as housing expenses and food. When asked how frequently do they go back to their home countries, the Vietnamese fisherman sighed and said, “Where is money? It costs us at least $5-7000 for a trip to Vietnam. I just went there one time during 30 years in America.”
The resplendence of lights and the noise of traffics tell us about the prosperity of California. However, little is known about the fates of those immigrants who are writhing silently in the darkness of poverty, illiteracy, and racism.