Alejandrino Honorato's journey began with a smuggler who led him across the Rio Grande, into the Texas desert with little food or water and finally to a field where he picked tobacco to pay his passage. Living illegally in a labor camp, he didn't know lawmakers in Washington were deciding his future.
It was 1986 and Congress was weighing an amnesty plan to legalize millions of undocumented workers. Unemployment was 7 percent. Some lawmakers warned the change would overwhelm the economy and strain hospitals and schools. "Are we going to cause havoc?" said Representative Bill McCollum, a Florida Republican, as the House prepared to vote.
The bill became law and Honorato came out of the shadows. Today, he owns two eateries and a market in central Florida and has about 60 employees. "I've helped a lot of people work," Honorato, 49, said through a translator. "If people were legalized they'd have a chance to open businesses like me."