GREENSBORO, N.C. – Oscar Canales, a 34-year-old undocumented business owner in Greensboro, took sanctuary on January 18, the deadline for his deportation order.
Canales migrated to the United States in 2005 in hopes of making more money to help his family back in El Salvador.
After seven years working as a dishwasher at local restaurants and in construction, Canales started his own company in 2012, Canales Roofing, LLC.
We spoke to Liz Proctor, Spokesperson for the NC Secretary of State, who says there is no statute in North Carolina that gives the Secretary of State power to check the citizenship status of the business entities that register with the Business Registration Division.
Federal identification numbers such as an Individual Taxpayer ID number (ITIN) are also not required to register a business in North Carolina.
According to Canales, he has paid several thousand dollars in taxes and has served dozens of clients from single-family homes, to larger businesses and also schools in the area.
The company has employed around five employees constantly since 2013, and currently, two of them are natural-born U.S. citizens.
Shawn Collins, a Rockingham County native, is one. He’s been working with Canales for over a year.
“I guess after a while I never really looked at it, I never really thought of it like that. I mean, he’s just my boss, and he just happens to be from El Salvador,” Collins said when asked about being employed by an undocumented immigrant. “I don’t really look at it like that.”
Collins says it’s been hard having Canales away from the job and says it’s because he’s the leader of the group.
“Not being able to be there and check on stuff and make sure things are going the way he wants it to go is hard for him,
“He’s kind of the leader of the group, so when you don’t have that person there, it adds a lot of stress to everybody,” Collins added.
Canales says his brother is currently taking over the company while he is in sanctuary, but his first week has been hard.
“A normal day for me began at 5 a.m. and going to work, meeting up with my crew or meeting with potential clients,” Canales said. “Now I feel restrained and tied up.”
But he also says he is hopeful, as he has received calls from clients and supporters motivating him to keep fighting.
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