“They shot at me as I ran for the trees surrounding the field. I thought I was coming to work but they would have made me a slave,” Roberto says of those days.
Chicago however didn’t turn out to be the land of promise he’d hoped for. He could find only odd jobs, often under dangerous conditions, working for 12 hours straight in the summer sun without food or water. His employers would refuse to pay him for his day’s work. But with no place to turn, and the ongoing fear that his captors were hot on his trail, he had no choice but to accept the fear and poverty, hoping the next day would be better than the last, and that he would remain safe.
“I kept a diary. It’s the only way I could survive. I missed my family so desperately, I was afraid, I couldn’t find work. It was a terrible time. I am a musician and a writer so I wrote. I filled a dozen journals. More than that. And everyday I prayed and I put my faith in God. What I’ve written, I’m making it into a book, and I’m working on lyrics. My faith and my writing kept me alive.”
It was in the most unlikely way that Roberto connected to Heartland Alliance – in line at a convenience store. A woman behind him in line overheard him saying that he needed help becoming a legal permanent resident and sent him to an attorney who had helped her. After hearing his harrowing story, that attorney quickly connected him to Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center, who he knew specialized in addressing the unique legal needs of survivors of human trafficking – a form of modern day slavery – like Roberto.