Juan Constantino was born in Mexico — his family came to America when he was 5 years old. As a DACA Dreamer, he wanted to serve the immigrant community and took a job at La Casa de Amistad in Indiana. “Even when there’s a fix, will be other folks who don’t have the opportunities that I had,” he shares. “I’ll make sure to advocate and fight for them to also have equal access, to just be able to live in this country.”
Meet Juan, immigrant and ambassador — he is getting out of his car holding a cup of coffee. Juan has been working at La Casa de Amistad for five years. They support the Latino community in South Bend, Indiana with everything from basic needs to legal aid.
Producer: Just pretend I’m not here. How’s everything going, though?
Juan Constantino: It’s good, man. A little busy — some things here and there. The ribbon cutting is soon, so that’s all good.
Juan walks into his office, passing some coworkers inside.
Good morning guys — good morning. How are you?
Co-worker: Good morning, I’m good. How are you?
Juan sits at his desk in the office, where he serves as executive director.
When I took the job, my mom was upset. She goes, “You went to college for four years to take a job that paid you $12.50 an hour.”
I was like, “Yes.”
And she goes, “What are you thinking?”
I was born in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico. And my family and I immigrated to the U.S. when I was about 5 years old. The hardest challenge has just been my status as a DACA recipient, as a Dreamer. At any point in time, if that DACA program gets eliminated, so does my ability to have a legal authorization to work, protection from deportation, and then I lose simple things like my license. And that would turn my life upside down because I’ve lived in the U.S. my entire life.
It’s my biggest hurdle, it’ll always be a hurdle, until it’s a permanent fix. Even when there’s a fix, there will be other folks who don’t have the opportunities that I had. I’ll make sure to advocate and fight for them to also have equal access, to just be able to live in this country.
Juan is walking through the office, looking at various rooms and photographs on the wall.
Looking at this piece — this is the photo of some of our founders of La Casa de Amistad, some time ago.
Juan is cutting the ribbon to a new community center downtown.
Great. It is with great pleasure, and with a heart full of joy and hope, that we officially open the doors to our new home for La Casa de Amistad.
This has been a long time coming. Since 2019, when we purchased this building, we were dreaming and imagining an expansion. And you all — each and every one of you — made that happen here today. So for that, I thank you.
Juan calls his mother on his phone, and they converse in Spanish.
And so I kid you not, for like a month or two nonstop, my mom would say, “Hey, when are you going to look at something different? Hey, are you looking at other jobs?”
Almost three months later, she goes, “Hey, can I talk to you?”
Like, “Yes, Mom.”
She goes, “I just want you to know that when you’re working with a family, or when you’re working with one of the kids, or you see a single mom who’s looking for support — that you see it through the lens as if I was the person seeking support. That’s where we went when we needed help. We went to that food pantry. They connected us to the schools in the bilingual department. That’s how we got you guys signed up. And anytime I ever needed anything, I knew I could call La Casa de Amistad and go there.”