So I am not traveling. Or working. But looking. And trying not to watch the news. But I must chime in if only to pacify my visceral need to explode on this issue.
First and foremost. The people that are coming across the border are people. And lots of kids. Kids that have no choice.
Second, we have an immigration problem and have for a long time.
My first job with Cintas Corp when I left college was in East LA in Pico Rivera in 1987. Wow. I was a management trainee for a uniform company. I worked the night shift. I did not know one soul when I drove my Ford Tempo to LA start my job. Found an apt. Drove in LA traffic to work. At the time, the “roach coach” or taco truck was high-end food for me. As was McDonald’s. I made ham sandwiches and microwaved Campbell’s soup. I was broke but my dad and mom gave me the gift of little college debt.
During my only three months at this job I worked hand in hand with, and sometimes supervised, many Hispanic workers. The first day, my supervisor said “go wash clothes with Eddie.” I used my college Spanish and loaded clothes and learned the plant life. I came in the next day and asked what I should do. My boss said “go work with David to tag rugs.” I was like “David?” He says yeah, “the guy you washed clothes with yesterday.” “But that’s Eddie”. “He was Eddie yesterday. Today he is David.”
Eddie/David was close to my age and befriended me. Obviously undocumented hence the name changing. Was kind. Showed the lily white college boy how to do the stuff that I would one day manage. We talked baseball. He asked me if I wanted to play. He invited me to meet him at the ball field in Compton.Yes, THAT Compton. To play. Nine innings and the only white dude. They accepted me. And my Ford Tempo!
In the late afternoon/evenings, I was forced to ride herd on the mid forties Hispanic women (again undocumented) folding the now clean shop towels (small hand towels used for industrial cleanups) to get done and get out of there before midnight. I would help sometimes and would chat about their lives.
One weekend my college friends were coming in. I had to get home soon on Friday night. But those damn shop towels! Couldn’t leave til they were done. I remember the woman’s face like it was yesterday. “Bob, we will get you out of here to see your friends” says the woman making about a third of what I make, a single mom, and undocumented. The 4 women busted their asses double time to get me out to before 10 PM to see my friends. They knew I wasn’t their boss. Just a guy.
So to start with. Our president says Mexico and other countries “aren’t sending their best”. I disagree. I also know we haven’t elected our best.
Do you think people travel 2000 miles anyway they can to steal and rape and sell drugs? No. “The Best” people in the world are those that are dealt a shitty hand, yet somehow persevere without changing who they are. They are still kind. They still treat people as people. That is their freedom. How they treat fellow humans.
Fast forward to 2015. I am living and volunteering in Guatemala. In the small town of Nebaj, a crying mom I had met and worked with asks me to help her find the whereabouts of her son who was last seen in the northern deserts of Mexico trying to get to the US for work. I called the border prisons, tried everything. No word.
A gal I know here has a family that left everything in Honduras as they were threatened by gangs. She was able to marry her boyfriend and come. Now her family can come and will survive.
I hate making generalizations. But these folks aren’t coming here for our culture. They aren’t coming here for our food. They aren’t coming here for our politics or our reality shows or to test their mettle by crossing a desert with their children in the summer.
They are coming here because the life they have is untenable, unsafe, and unacceptable. They are taking a risk. They aren’t animals. Most aren’t criminals. They are people.
They are no different than seniors from the US who move to Ecuador to retire for cheap healthcare. The difference? Less cash, education and a grasp of the process.
THEY ARE PEOPLE. THEY ARE KIDS WITH NO CHOICE! DON’T PENALIZE THESE KIDS!
So yes, we have an immigration problem. It is solely economic and safety based. For years employers hired people that were undocumented. For years it wasn’t enforced. Now we have some guy in the White House that wants to demonize these people and separate families to make a point.
How about taking the $25 Billion for a wall and A. work with some of the other govts to create rural sustainable economic development or B. create a joint force to attack corruption and gang related activities? Not easy, but the long view.
How about cracking down on exploitative American companies that don’t pay living wages and employ children in these countries? How about setting up policies that don’t push down the poor even farther?
It’s complicated. It’s difficult. Elect people that have some compassion. We are talking about people here.
These people want to stay in their countries. How about we try to give them a reason instead of saying we will take your kids and throw you in jail?