Mariam, 60, hails from Ethiopia and provides for a family of five, including a son at Virginia Commonwealth University and a daughter he can't afford to send to community college. He works 70 to 80 hours per week if he's lucky. Yet he says that Yellow Cab company makes more off his taxi fees than he does driving it.
He starts his day in debt with $70 owed for insurance and gas, not including maintenance. Each week he pays $205 in fees to Yellow Cab, even though he says his contract stated $145. Each year he pays $15,000 in tariffs and $5,000 in ownership fees for his taxi, even though he paid $30,000 for the hybrid car he says Yellow Cab forced him to buy. And if the hybrid battery dies, he has to pay $3,500 to replace it.
Despite what he pays to own his cab, Mariam says that he can't transfer ownership to another driver in case he needs to be with his mother in Ethiopia because the temporary driver couldn't recoup the cost of fees through fares while he or she had the car.
Mariam says that this exploitative red-tape behavior has been business as usual at Yellow Cab for the past 50 years. This is possible, Mariam says, because he and other drivers are considered independent contractors with few rights and "no value as human being[s]."
Three months ago, Mariam says that he had a meeting with company managers to address the grievances of 60 organized Yellow Cab drivers. He says that when he went into their office, they had a camera recording him to catch him if he said anything "wrong" which they could use to fire him.
Given these circumstances, Mariam has no regrets about lending his voice to lunchtime protest Tuesday at the Clarendon Metro station where he and 100 other immigrant cab drivers spoke out against what they describe as an excessive and unjust licensing system.
After rallying at the station, the drivers dispersed to carry out the planned action: putting Arlington on notice by taking up all public parking spaces then slowly driving their taxis around the station, as well as marching through the district with signs and chants of "no justice, no cabs" and "respect human rights for taxi drivers."
Miriam and the other drivers want copies of their signed contracts, the ability to transfer ownership of their cars to other drivers and adequate review of the drivers' proposal by the Arlington County board.
As Mariam left Tuesday's protest, he had one more message to his company owners: "I came here today. I knew what I was getting into. If you're going to fire me, do it tomorrow."
He must leave the country by the end-of-month with his 10 year-old daughter Kelly. Kelly is a star student who was voted "most likely to be famous" by her classmates and qualifies for deferred action, but with no one here to care for her she must leave too.
Brian will be one of over 200 immigration supporters at a prayer vigil in Herndon on Wednesday, July 24th at 6:30p at the Hilton Hotel, Piedmont Room, 13869 Park Center Road.
Herndon is home to a large immigrant community and is a part of Rep. Wolf's district. Our goal is to push Rep. Wolf to vote for legislation that will create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The event is co-sponsored by Virginia New Majority and the Centreville Immigrant Forum (CIF).
"This report illustrates what many of us already know: immigration reform would benefit our struggling economy. It's time for us to fix our broken immigration system and invite the 11.5 million undocumented immigrants living here a chance to become full citizens," said Jon Liss, Executive Director of Virginia New Majority.
An estimated 2,400 new jobs would be created in Virginia under such a measure, bringing $670 million in new tax revenue into the state coffers. Leni Gonzalez, President of the Board of Directors of the Shirlington Employment and Education Center, elaborated. “Undocumented immigrants want to be treated fairly and continue contributing to the economic wellbeing of our country. Commonsense immigration reform will give them and their families the opportunity to continue working hard, pay taxes and integrate in to the communities they have resided in for many years.”
My family sold everything we owned in our native Peru to come here. My husband worked three jobs when he first arrived so that he could pay for our son and I to come as quickly as possible.
Our joy was short-lived after we learned the labor certification he used to apply for a green card was fraudulent. We had been scammed. We've spent all of our savings going to court only to be told there is no law that protects us.
We're now living in fear of being found, searched and deported.
The worst part is the effect this has on my oldest son. He's an Honors student at his high school, but he can't continue his education without scholarships. My son can't even drive to work.
I have seen the smile on his face disappear as he watched his friends learned to drive and got their first jobs. He can't enjoy the simple things that teens do. There is no greater pain than seeing your child suffer from depression.
My younger son, who was born here, is frustrated too. He doesn't understand why his brother's accomplishments don't matter.
Congressman Frank Wolf is one of a handful of legislators who have a key voice in the fight for immigration reform. I want him to understand how hard this is for families like mine.
March with us May 1st in Herndon to fight for a pathway to citizenship. We're meeting at Rachel Carson Middle School on 13618 Mclearen Road in Herndon at 5:30p.
My heart can't endure any more pain or humiliation. Enough is enough.
The doctors told me I had asthma. I was too young to understand what hospital bills were, but my mom understood. She was relieved because I had Medicaid. Medicaid helped pay for my inhalers, nebulizers and all sorts of medicines I needed to stay healthy.
Asthma will always be with me. Medicaid won't.
Gov. McDonnell is threatening to veto the budget bill on his desk, which would effectively kill the Medicaid expansion. Tell him not to do it! http://bit.ly/medicaid4brian
Now that I'm 19 years old I am no longer eligible for Medicaid and I cannot afford private health insurance. I'm taking pre-med classes so that I can one day become a pediatrician. I also work part-time. There's no way I can afford health insurance right now.
I'm afraid of getting sick because if I have to go to the doctor then I'll have to pay out-of-pocket. My mom's been dealing with this for years, skipping doctor's visits when she gets sick. It's a sacrifice she makes to continue to provide for her family.
I never realized how important healthcare was until I got sick a few weeks ago. I didn't tell my mom because she would have insisted on taking me to the doctor. We can't afford the care so I sucked it up.
I'm just one of 400,000 Virginians who would qualify for Medicaid under a proposed expansion.
Urge Gov. McDonnell not to stand in the way of expanding Medicaid to the 400,000 Virginians like me who need access to quality healthcare! Sign our petition. http://bit.ly/medicaid4brian
To think there are hundreds of thousands of other Virginians in this situation makes me sad.
No one should have to live like this.