Half an hour before sunrise, dozens of women walk from neighboring Tijuana, Mexico, to the trolley station here, careful not to crease the uniforms they will wear as hotel maids.
At 6 a.m. the red trolley leaves for San Diego, where the hotel rooms this week are packed with delegates to the Republican National Convention - delegates who voted Monday for a platform plank that might prevent the maids’ daughters from earning a living the same way.
Most of the women work on day passes issued to Mexican citizens who have a U.S.-born relative. The GOP platform, should it ever become the law of the land, would make it much harder for Mexican parents to win citizenship for children born on U.S. soil.
Here at the trolley station, the words of party platforms and speeches about immigration and nationality give way to the reality of an economy and way of life that depend on the intertwining of two countries and cultures.
They take home $200 for a 40-hour week, and if they want health insurance, they pay the full cost.
“The alternative is earning $30 a week in Tijuana,” says Maria, a hotel housekeeper. Like most of the 20 women interviewed for this story, Maria was afraid to be quoted by her full name for fear of losing her job or getting in trouble with the immigration authorities, even though they are working legally.
On the way to the sparkling hotels, the women will pull out their monthly trolley passes for which they paid $49 - a small fortune in Tijuana. And they will carry identification cards at all times, even when changing at the hotel, in case an immigration officer is doing checks.
After 35 minutes and 13 stops, the trolley rests directly across from the San Diego Convention Center. The women fan out to the handful of hotels nearby. They carry pocketbooks and plastic bags stuffed with lunch or a change of clothes.
On her uniform lapel, Maria Aceves has a pin with palm trees, an American flag and the letters “GOP.” The hotel has asked the women to wear it.
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