The 'Best Undocumented Golfer in America' is living proof of how immigrants make America a better place

Standing behind a tree on the sixth hole at Meadowlark Golf Course in Huntington Beach, California, I was in a predicament.

I was about 70 yards from the hole, but there was a large eucalyptus in my way. I grabbed my five wood to take a punch shot to get around the tree and set myself up for a clear route to the green.

"Take your body out of the shot," my friend Eduardo called from the golf cart. "Use your hands."

The punch plunked the ball about 40 yards, stopping in the center of the fairway. I was nicely set up for an easy third shot and, hopefully, par.

This was just one of the easily digestible tips I received that day from my buddy Eduardo Flores, or as I half-jokingly call him, The Best Undocumented Golfer in America.


(I'm using a pseudonym to protect him due to his citizenship status and to prevent him from being inundated by requests for putting tips.)

via Tod Perry

I first met Eduardo about ten years ago after he took in a friend of mine who was in an unhealthy relationship. We bonded quickly over our shared love of the Oakland Raiders.

He lives in the central valley of California, one of the most productive agricultural centers of the world, and home to many undocumented people who come from south of the border in search of work and a better quality of life.

But life for Eduardo hasn't always been chip shots and birdies.

In 1995, at the age of 17, the spindly teenager left his family in Michoacán, a state in south west Mexico, and began a journey with a friend to the United States to find work. He grabbed a backpack with two days' worth of clothing and a few dollars to pay the coyotes in Tijuana.

He spent eight days in the border town and endured three failed attempts at crossing the border. According to Eduardo, it was his "first taste of the American Dream."

Related: How Trump and Obama handled MAGA chants shows how much American politics has changed in just three years

During one attempt, he was lambasted by an irate border patrol agent, but had no idea what he was saying because he didn't speak English. This was all the encouragement he needed to learn the language. "First thing I'm going to do in America is learn English," he said. "I don't want people talking shit to me without knowing what they're saying."

Eduardo and his friend's fourth crossing was successful, and along with five other people, they were driven in a two-seater beat-up '80s Nissan to a tomato-packing plant about 50 miles north of the border in Oceanside, California.

Upon arriving at the plant, Eduardo's friend took off with relatives, stranding Eduardo in a new country where he had no contacts and couldn't speak the language.

Oceanside, Californiavia Rick Miller / Flickr

The tomato plant had enough workers so Eduardo was shut out. Hungry and penniless, he did odd jobs for a man that ran a taco truck and was paid in burritos. At night, the plant owners allowed him to sleep in a corner of the factory floor in a makeshift dwelling he assembled out of wooden pallets.

But the owners soon wanted him gone, so he spent a few nights sleeping beneath a bridge near Mission Avenue. Hungry, he occasionally had to stomach rotten bananas and pick insects off of half-eaten sandwiches to survive.

Back in 1995, a cell phone was a rarity and international calls were costly. But the taco truck owner took Eduardo to his house so he could call his family back in Mexico. The entire town only had one phone, so his father had to be paged by a loud speaker system.

"My father told me it was a lost cause and to come back home," he said. "I had no opportunity back in Mexico, so I had to persevere in the states. That was my only option, really."

His parents put him in touch with his brothers in the central valley. Eduardo would have reached out to them himself, but the border agents stripped him of the sheet he carried with their information.

via Miguel Vava / Flickr

In the central valley, Eduardo found work on a grape farm but had to quit because he soon learned he was allergic to sulfur. "If you knew how much sulfur they put on your grapes, you'd never eat one," he joked.

Eventually, Eduardo would find steady work farming chili peppers, picking cotton and corn, and working at an industrial plant where he barely survived an ICE raid. "When ICE stormed the plant, all the workers were called out and got deported," he said. "But a man I will never forget, a Desert Storm veteran named Bobby, hid me in an office saying, 'I'll make sure they never get you.'"

In 2014, he got dragged by a friend down to Ventura where his friend wanted to play golf. "I had no interest, but to humor him I went along," he admits. "I didn't know my driver from my putter. Let's be honest, golf wasn't exactly a popular sport in Michoacán. We had about as many golfers as hockey players. Zero," he laughs.

"I don't remember my score, but I shot three pars that day. I caught the bug."

Eduardo grew up in a mountainous region of Mexico where there wasn't even enough flat land to play soccer. Volleyball was his sport of choice as a child. His family back home thought he was crazy for taking up the game. He later came to the realization that his upbringing may have laid the foundation for his smooth swing.

"We had to chop down a lot of trees with axes in the mountains," he said. "The natural swinging motion was beat into me as a child. The synchronized motion of your hands, arms and hips is very similar to hitting a pitching wedge. And, you want to keep your feet planted or you'll chop your leg off at the knee."

A few weeks later, he and his girlfriend came down to Long Beach to see my wife and I. Eduardo demanded we play an 18-hole par three called Heartwell. I had been playing golf for 21 years, and I believe I beat him by two strokes.

"We tied," Eduardo reminds me.

After just five years, Eduardo boasts a six handicap, has won nearly ten scramble tournaments, and routinely beats me by 25 strokes whenever we go out.

via Tod Perry

Politically, the agriculturally-driven central valley in California bears little resemblance to the progressive Bay Area to the north and Los Angeles to the south. The golf course where Eduardo regularly beats the regulars is a haven for Trump supporters.

Needless to say, there aren't a lot of golfers that look like Eduardo in the tee boxes and prejudice against undocumented people is palpable.

"They always tell me I'm one of 'the good ones.' They say all the other undocumented people are a bunch of free-loaders who take from the welfare system," he said.

Eduardo has a great response to the "freeloader" claims. "I tell 'em, 'you go to the welfare office, say you're Canadian and have no social security number and try to get food stamps. It's not gonna happen,'" he continued. "It's the same with us."

According to a report from the Cato institute, Eduardo is right. "Immigrants use 39 percent fewer welfare and entitlement benefits per person than native-born Americans," the study says. "Legal immigrants cannot get welfare for their first five years of residency, with few exceptions, mostly at the state level. Illegal immigrants are not eligible for welfare except for rare circumstances like emergency Medicaid."

In situations where undocumented people access the welfare system, it's usually due to a U.S.-born child that has legal access to benefits.

It wasn't until this year that undocumented immigrants in California can enroll in Medi Cal, a free or low-cost health insurance program. But that program only allows undocumented people under the age of 26 to enroll.

In 2017, undocumented immigrants contributed $11.74 billion a year in state and federal income taxes, state and local sales taxes and property taxes.

Undocumented people also commit fewer crimes per capita than native-born Americans.

"I tell these guys, I'm not 'one of the good ones'; ninety-nine percent of the undocumented people in this country are just like me," he added.

"It's crazy that all of these people want us deported because their livelihoods are completely tied to our labor. It makes absolutely no sense," he said. "If we all disappeared one day, these people would lose their livelihoods, too."

via "Eduardo Flores"

However, these same men routinely pay Eduardo for lessons and to play rounds of golf with them so they can improve their games. He rarely pays for a round at the local course. Plus, he's a good guy to crack a beer with.

"They need me on the farm and the green," he jokes.

Eduardo's disdain for Trump isn't just about his immigration policies. "He cheats at golf," he says. "I read in the book 'Commander in Cheat' that he takes gimmies on chip shots. That's un-American."

Eduardo's dedication to his golf game is borderline obsessive. After shooting a triple bogey on a hole a few weeks ago, he punished himself by taking 4,000 practice shots into a makeshift driving range he built with a tarp outside of his farm house.

Having survived a long, dangerous journey from Michoacán to the central valley, to a life with a loving fiancée, a newborn daughter, teenage son, and two soon-to-be step children, Eduardo feels compelled to give back to his community.

He routinely takes in children of migrant workers who have been affected by deportation. He also helps local migrant children – many who can't afford shoes – by buying them soccer cleats and uniforms to play in local leagues. All of this on a farm workers' wages.

It's tough to know if he's the best undocumented golfer in America, but it'd be hard to find a better person, on the course or off.

Eduardo is looking forward to getting married, becoming a citizen, and hopes to make it to the PGA Senior Tour in nine years when he turns 50.

As for us, we've got tickets to the Raiders versus the Lions on November 3 at the Oakland Coliseum.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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