Alejandro Ortega Picón walks with his girlfriend, Stephanie Reinoso, at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia on August 12, 2020. The fig trees and the flowers of the gardens bring him back to his grandmother's ranch in Guanajuato.
He is a DACA recipient and an essential worker at BNSF Railway.
Alejandro Ortega Picón came to the United States from Guanajuato, Mexico, when he was eleven. Alejandro's father started working with drug dealers, unbeknownst to his family, and stole some drugs from the wrong people. He then took off. When they came for Alejandro's mother, she took her two sons and fled to the United States. The two boys were told they were going on a vacation. At first he was bullied and beat up. He learned English by watching cartoons and eventually found his friends and his American identity in high school. Alejandro started college, but had to drop out to support his family. DACA helped him to find a job that allows him to do so. Now, he works twelve, sometimes fifteen, hour shifts as a crane operator and driver for BNSF Railway. They send freight around the United States and work with companies such as UPS, FedEx and Amazon Prime. When the pandemic hit, business picked up at BNSF Railway. Some people began to take time off. Alejandro couldn't afford to do that. He had to support his mother, brother, and his girlfriend. It angered him that a multi-million dollar company could not supply their employees with hand sanitizer and masks. Alejandro recently found out that one of his co-workers just died from COVID-19.
'Nobody talks about how you got the goods to your table. Nobody talks about how your package arrived. We are the people that move everything around.'
'A lot of people decide to take some time off. I didn't, I have people depending on me. I have my mom, my brother and my girlfriend.'
'It was strange to not know what was going on. All these people dying, all these people getting infected, all these people in quarantine and we had to keep working.'
'I was wearing double gloves. I was wearing double mask. I was wearing long sleeves all day even when it was hot.'
'You basically have to be in the shadows. You basically have to be kind of invisible so nobody notices you. At the time I didn't know it was being legal or illegal. I was just a kid.' (Alejandro talks about being undocumented)
'I don't know what Mexico looks like anymore. The United States has made me who I am. I have spent my adult life here. I don't see myself anywhere else.'