Chinese web portal Tencent’s news site published an article about Fujianese restaurant workers in New York. Unfortunately, the article is in Chinese only, but there is a fantastic slideshow.
The reporter follows Anqi, a 27-year-old mother of two who crossed the border illegally 10 years ago. She has since acquired a green card and opened up a restaurant in Manhattan, employing workers who are still undocumented.
Although she has regularized her status, her life has not improved significantly. Soon after ther first daughter, Yiyi, was born, Anqi and her husband sent the child off to China, because they were in no position to raise her in New York. Last year, they sent their second daughter, Lele, back to China as well. Their only contact with their daughters is through nightly video chats when they get back from the restaurant at 1AM.
“Employees can take vacations or switch jobs, but restaurant owners don’t have these kind of choices. Though she’s lived in New York for 10 years, she has never seen the Statue of Liberty and has never gone on a trip out of state. In the 10 years since she left China, she has not been back even once. She works over 12 hours a day, every single day. It’s like the ascetic life of a monk.
‘We’re paying back debts for out entire lives. First we pay back the debt from being smuggled over here. Then there is the debt from the lawyer’s fees. Then there is the debt from the house, from raising the children. I’m tired.’”