Jackie Ortega


As Interviewed by Emma Galbraith, on March 17, 2015
"They were basically working as slaves, they worked their butts off, but they didn’t get paid at all, so it was really injustice."
Jackie Ortega

Introductory Profile: About Jackie Ortega

Jackie Ortega’s parents were born in Mexico and immigrated to Texas fifteen years ago. Jackie herself was born in the United States, but she and her family have experienced racial injustice and discrimination as well as a life of the treatment of Mexican laborers in Texas. Jackie and her family are part of Workers Defense Project (Proyecto Defensa Laboral), an organization working to help wronged laborers bring their cases to court and change the way Mexican immigrants are treated in Texas. This interview focused on Jackie’s own life as a child and teenager with a personal link to this form of social injustice.

Jackelyn Ortega, or Jackie, is a fourteen-year-old eighth grader at Ann Richards’ School For Young Women Leaders. She was born in Austin and has moved around in the area several times. Her family has worked with Workers Defense Project since she was five. Both her parents have experienced unfair treatment from their bosses in the past, such as wage theft. Jackie herself has experienced the effects of these injustices, as well as racial discrimination at her school. She has an older brother currently attending college. Jackie is tall, with dark hair and eyes, and has a gentle, down-to-earth, and humorous personality.

Our interview took place in an empty office in the Austin headquarters of Workers Defense Project. Jackie was very friendly and direct, answering questions thoughtfully. As the interview progressed, her passionate views on the topic began to show, but she did not appear uncomfortable or tense during any part of the interview. Our conversation felt informal but purposeful.

Hundreds of thousands of families from Mexico cross the border into Texas every year, and Texas relies heavily on its labor force, especially for construction: one of the most dangerous jobs. Yet half this workforce is undocumented and works illegally, often being cheated out of their salary or getting injured at work with the government turning a blind eye. As a teenager born into this world of injustice, Jackie Ortega candidly and forwardly explained a side of our community that many of us have never before seen.