Thoughts on “illegals,” “Mexicans,” et al


Four of us hit the road from the Twin Cities to Denver early tomorrow morning.

We will look like pretty typical older people, and unless we do something crazy, will probably make the trip out and back without attracting any attention whatsoever, even on Memorial Day when the police are thick as flies in a farmyard.

Not so routine is the travel of somebody who looks different, and I’m guessing that there’s considerable nervousness these days for people with a browner complexion down in Arizona, especially.

A couple of days ago I was in the local post office in our suburb. At a counter were a couple of brown-skinned guys speaking Spanish, talking about some form or other that one was filling out. They seemed pretty normal to me.

A week or so earlier I had been in North Dakota visiting relatives (see the May 28 post). In the Fargo Forum was a front page article about a carload of illegals who had been arrested at a neighboring town. They, in fact, did not have papers. They were reporting to work for some farmer who was planting a very labor-intensive crop. He couldn’t find locals who would do the work and he contracted with someone in Oregon to provide workers who were supposed to be legals. Not so, it turned out. Ironically, he was, as one would say legally, “aiding and abetting,” as was the contractor in Oregon, but neither of them were culpable. Only the workers without papers were in trouble. Somehow the farmer had to find some kind of labor to put in his crop. That was his penalty. I wonder if he’s succeeded.

This morning’s e-mails brought a commentary which helped to explain the insanity we seem to be living under in this country. It came from a Rhode Island newspaper, reprinted in an Arizona paper, and it is very interesting, about the contrast between Canada (much tougher on immigration, it turns out) and the U.S. (much less effective and less humane in dealing with the problem.)

Succinctly, if I read the column correctly, there were active attempts as far back as the mid-1980s to change U.S. immigration law to deal with some very real problems. A law was passed, but a crucial part was pulled from the bill by someone, probably in the U.S. Senate. The portion pulled apparently was a provision that held employers responsible for making sure their hires were legals. It was a bit too difficult to swallow. Rather they take their chances with occasionally losing cheap labor, than to share responsibility with that same cheap labor for their sins.

I’ve seen lots of “Mexicans” working at various occupations here in the Twin Cities. By and large they do very good work. Since I only see their work, I don’t know if they’re legal or not. They are contributors to this society, rather than drags on us.

I’ll end up in Denver on Wednesday.

It was in Denver a number of years ago that I had a conversation with my son, then manager of a local restaurant near a university.

Tom’s crew was by and large Spanish-speaking, with only minimal English. He thought they had the proper papers, but one never knows for sure.

He mentioned that what they sometimes lacked in promptness they more than made up in quality of work, including finding somebody to fill in for them when they were gone. They were, it was clear, his most reliable employees.

Were they “Legals”? I’m not so sure.

Immigration law plays much better as a political issue than as an object of true reform.

Until politicians cannot play politics with the issue, the issue will remain.