An Arizona Man's Quest To Return A Stranger's Work Permit Ended In Triumph

"It just takes a single person to knock over a domino."

When Rudy Valdez stumbled upon a stranger's employment authorization identification card, his first thought was of an old friend he used to live with.

The friend, Valdez told A Plus, had lost his work permit while the two were living together. Valdez remembered how his roommate struggled for months to replace it, spending hours on the phone with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. He says he eventually had to loan his friend $500 to replace it. 

"Nobody would hire him without that card and it made his life hell," Valdez, who lives in Phoenix, recalled. 

Courtesy Rudy Valdez, who covered some of the personal information present on the card with black ovals. Prior to publication, A Plus covered additional information.
Courtesy Rudy Valdez, who covered some of the personal information present on the card with black ovals. Prior to publication, A Plus covered additional information.

An employment authorization document is granted by the USCIS to non-citizens and allows them to work, legally, in the States. Typically, the documents last about two years before needing to be renewed. Between 2009 and 2015, about 7.4 million work permits were granted, according to the Center for Immigration Studies.  

When Valdez found the card, he immediately knew he had to do something to try and return it to its rightful owner. First, with the ID card in hand, he looked the woman up on Facebook. Unfortunately, none of the profiles he found matched her.  Then he posted it on Twitter, where a few people tagged friends asking if the work permit belonged to them. None were a match. 

One person  suggested he hand it over the post office, which he almost did until someone privately messaged him and said that the post office would send it directly to USCIS and it would take much longer for the person to get it back. As he continued searching, his tweet began gaining traction. Eventually, it got over 65,000 retweets. 

"Some guy messaged me said she was his cousin and gave me a phone number to message," he said. "So I did, and sure enough it was her. She called me extremely happy thanking me for finding it, and actually, I still have it. I'm meeting with her on Sunday to give it to her."

A Plus could not reach the woman, Claudia, in time for publication. But Valdez took a lot from the whole experience. 

"I didn't have to stand outside of a busy store to ask people if they know this lady," Valdez said. "All it took was a couple clicks, and my post was up for people to see and retweet and in a matter of days, she was found. What others can take from this is we can always make a difference. It just takes a single person to knock over a domino."

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