Until July, Oswaldo Arroyo and his wife had always worked at least two jobs each. "We saved one dollar, one dollar, at least, every day," said Arroyo, who came to this country from Guatemala 16 years ago.
Two years ago, he managed to make a down payment on a $58,000, semidetached house in Montgomery County. The house is Arroyo's American Dream, a home for his wife and four children.
Now the mortgage on his home is being foreclosed. When the house goes, as appears likely, 16 years of hard work will go with it.
Arroyo lost his full-time job as a janitor in July when the apartment building where he worked decided to economize. Arroyo said three illegal aliens were hired in his place.
He can't find full-time work and relies on his part-time job at a Gulf station in Spring Valley. That, plus unemployment benefits and his wife's small income, is not enough to meet the mortgage payments.
HUD officials have told them they do not qualify for a low-interest mortgage-assumption program because they lack full-time jobs. They have less than a month, maybe less.
Oswaldo Arroyo Jr., 17, exhorts his parents that "this is a battle and we have to let them know we will fight," but words alone cannot dispel the sense of doom that has settled over the family's tidy home.
"I do not know what to do," said the elder Arroyo. "I am responsible for this family and I cannot find a job. When the driver of the car breaks, all the passengers die. It's the same thing here. Without a job, we are finished."