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U.S. Deportees Find New Work Life In Tijuana Call Centers

U.S. Deportees Find New Work Life In Tijuana Call Centers

Most call center workers in the Tijuana area have been deported from the United States. They speak English perfectly, so they can serve customers of American companies that have nearshored this service.

TIJUANA, Mexico - In one of the offices of Call Center Services International in Tijuana, no one would ever think that just over two years ago Juan Manuel Martínez Mota, 45, came to the city deported. Dressed in a shirt and tie, with easy laughter and fluent conversation, he is now one of the most inspiring instructors in the call center where he works, where he helps newcomers to integrate into their new positions.

Martinez was born in Mexico City, where he grew up until his arrival in the United States at age 13. The adaptation was difficult when he was deported, but his ease of speech helped him overcome the gap. "I didn’t know anything about computers," he explains, "but they gave me a chance and that's all I wanted."

Martinez Mota is one of the thousands of Mexicans who have been deported from the United States in recent years and that now work at a call center. The sector has found an unparalleled source of workers in these people. They speak English and have an in-depth knowledge of American culture, which is why they are ideal for answering telephone calls from customers of companies in the neighboring country. The salary is not perfect, and the money is lower than what they would earn in the U.S., but it is better than work in maquilas or other similar positions. They have benefits and growth opportunities within the company. It’s a job search opportunity that, otherwise, and especially if they have been deported or do not speak good Spanish, would not always be easy to get.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 242,456 Mexicans were deported from the United States in 2015, a figure that is lower than the previous five years. 2013 was a record year in deportations, with a total of 434,015 people, of whom 309,807 were Mexican.


Workers Wanted

Baja California call centers have experienced a whirling growth in the region in recent years. According to data from the Baja Contact Center Cluster, the more than 50 centers in the area employ around 12,000 people, who provide technical and telephone services to companies of all kinds, from technology to tourism or debt collection. Most target the bilingual market, with customers in the United States, so their agents must be able to speak both languages.

According to Jorge Oros, President of the Contact Center Cluster in the region and Vice President of Operations at Center Call Center Services International (CCSI), some years ago, the sector realized that among its workers there were two types of profiles: one of people who go to a university or were raised and studied with the proximity to the United States and the border, and speak English; and the other, of repatriated people, with a native knowledge of the language. The figures are not exact, but it is estimated that around 70 percent of these employees have been deported from the U.S.

At call centers in the region, it’s common to hear people conversing in English in the corridors. At one of the CCSI centers, a quote from the former president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, receives visitors: “Believe you can and you're halfway there.” Employment offers on job sites in the area are written in English, and call centers show off their bilingual workers on their websites.

It is a welcoming environment for people who, despite being born in Mexico, feel the country as strange, having spent a good part of their life in another place, and where they can meet others in a similar situation.


From Deportees To Call Center Agents

A deportation background is not necessarily an impediment to work at these companies. The call center sector is satisfied with the dedication of these people.

However, Jorge Oros assures that they do consider these people’s background and that they filter them if a company insists on hiring workers with no background. "It depends on the case, and it depends on the situation, and, also, on the client they are going to be servicing. But, our vision is to look forward and help them in this transition process," he adds. "We know that everyone, in some way, makes mistakes."

At these offices, many share this vision. Luis Delgado Huerta, who was born in Guadalajara but came to the United States with his family when he was 6 months old, was deported in 2011. A few months later, he started working at CCSI and, after five years in the company, now supervises other agents.

"Honestly, I love my job," he says. "I have become a productive citizen here in Mexico, someone who contributes to society."

Luis Delgado Huerta, Juan Manuel Martinez Mota and their colleagues are still on the phone, taking advantage of what they learned in the United States to have a new life in Mexico.

Original Article from CNET en Español.

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