At the Mexico City airport, newly-arrived deportees walk off the plane sometimes still dressed in the sweatsuit of the American detention centers they have just left. They carry nothing but a clear plastic bag with a sandwich and a bottle of water. Some are greeted by family and friends, but many have no memory of Mexico and no one to help them find work or a place to live. That’s where the call center recruiters come in. Call center jobs for US companies are heavily outsourced, and fluent English speakers who understand US culture are hired in Mexico City for a fraction of the cost of a US worker.
Recruiters scour the airports looking for new deportees to work at the (nearly half a dozen) call centers around the city. They receive a commission for each new hire they sign up. A call center agent earns between three and four dollars per hour.
Rico Martinez, deported in 2016, found work at a call center selling cruises as a booking agent. “It did help me get by,” he said. “If you don’t have anyone here, you’re going to be living in the street. …You sign a contract and that gives you a base salary, which is nothing,” Martinez said. “So we live off the bonuses. [The call centers] don’t prepare you; they just take things away from you. You’re nothing to them, pretty much.”