“America the beautiful”
The best way to learn anything about America is to talk to someone else. Having breakfast in a diner in Greenport, Long Island, I talked to the cook. After making the eggs, he was outside to wash the windows. The young Latino’s teeth were spaced and crooked, his right arm covered with some fine Aztec tattoos. Since his English was as good as my Spanish, we went back and forth between the two languages. I always ask people like this kid the same question. Do you get to go home? The answer tells us a lot about ourselves.
No, he hasn’t been home to Mexico City in ten years. That’s how long it’s been since he has seen “his Mami.” That’s the word he used, “Mami.” He began his perilous journey when he was seventeen, now he is twenty-seven. If he were to go back to visit, it would cost him $15,000 to pay a smuggler to get him back across the border, and return him to Greenport. This is where he cleaned the toilet long enough until they gave him a job cleaning windows and he did that long enough for him to get a job cooking eggs. He wanted to show me the Lady of Guadalupe, which was tattooed on his back. A friend runs a shop in Greenwich Village and did it for free.
So this illegal cooks eggs in Greenport, takes the Hampton Jitney into Manhattan ($42 round trip), and returns to cooks eggs for people like me. He has never committed a crime, in fact I am sure he is a much more law abiding citizen than I ever was, but he has not been able to visit his “Mami” in Mexico because if he did, he could not return. He is illegal. He is an illegal person.
How can a person be illegal? He has zero rights? He doesn’t exist? He lives constantly in a shadow like a dangerous animal or insect that we step on if he peeps out of his hole, only we need him to clean the toilets the windows the tables and cook the eggs, over easy. Last week in Los Angeles the Obama administration put pressure on a downtown clothing employer and they were forced to fire payroll 1,800 workers. Some of these people had been working there for ten years. They all paid into the social security system. Ten years! Most of them were women. What do they tell their children when they come home? I got fired from the place I have worked in since you were born and now I’m going into hiding and will ask if I can be a maid and clean houses? What kind of country is this? These out of control right wing people haters that keep repeating the mantra “everyone must obey the law”; where did they come from? Who were their ancestors? Lakota? Lenapes? Pueblo Indians? Where was their grandmother, or grandfather, or great grandmother born? Didn’t anyone ever give them a helping hand? Our treatment of illegal immigrants is plain disgusting. Nothing is more shameful of us as a people, not any war we make, not any lack of medical insurance, nothing. The right wing position is simply a matter of saying “I’ve got it, and you can go rot as far as I care.”
Immigration is a simple issue. It is an issue of caring about people. You either care that this kid can go home and visit his “Mami” or you do not. And of the people that do not care; there is something seriously wrong with them. I suggest counseling. Meanwhile, politically, we had best move forward without them.