The Illegals: Another Angle
by Fred Reed: Chaotic
Reflections On Heresy
From many Americans,
though from fewer who have any idea what they are talking about,
you could get the idea that illegal immigrants are brown sludge,
the lazy and shiftless, the least intelligent of their countries,
those unable or unwilling to make a living at home, who therefore
go the the US to live on welfare. A certain paucity of logic informs
much of this. If they come to live on welfare, how do they take
the jobs of Americans, a crime of which they are regularly accused?
But I note this only in passing. I do not mean to suggest that logic
or knowledge have a place in politics.
The fact is
that the illegals come to work, and do, well and hard, which is
why conservative patriotic businessman block attempts to restrict
be easy to do. Again, they come to work. Don't hire them, and they
won't come. Illegals don't take jobs from Americans. Americans give
them the jobs.
you think of the Latin hordes, it may be interesting to know a little
about them. Let's wing it.
man of twenty living in the slums of , say, Tegucigalpa with his
wife and two small children. The local economy is a disaster. He
can barely feed his kids, much less send them to school. Barely
feed them is not a concept many Americans understand. It means
that their stomachs hurt, that their physical development is threatened,
that they cry and ask for food. Any parent who doesn't do anything
possible to feed them, to include robbing banks, is irresponsible.
Ask yourself what you would do.
So Pablo and
Maria talk it over, and decide that the only way out is for him
to go to the US, work, send money home and, just possibly, eventually
bring the family to America. There are good reasons why Americans
might not approve his plan. From Pablo's point of view, watching
his kids starve, it is the only plan.
Honduras to San Francisco or South Carolina is dangerous, very dangerous.
Crossing the Guat border means braving the Mexican police, who are
brutal and corrupt. Typically the migrants go north through Mexico
by riding on the roofs of cargo trains. It is not for the weak.
On the trains they are subject to attacks by gangs, as for example
Mara Salvatrucha, products of Reagan's romantic meddling of El Salvador.
The Mara is from marabunta, a swarm of army
ants. The Maras are savage, sadistic, and live by robbing migrants
of the money they have saved for the coyote, often beating them
into cripples and raping the women. I would much rather do a tour
on the ground in Afghanistan than ride those trains. It is safer.
In Afghanistan you eat, do not have to drink from filthy pools beside
the tracks, and do not spend nights on top of a box car in jeans
and tea shirt during a sleet storm. Call the migrants anything you
like, but leave out
make this trip, for the same reason: to send money home for their
kids. Don't, please, tell me about oppressed co-eds at Dartmouth.
So Pablo, perhaps
months later, gets to Laredo. Let us say that he started out with
$2000 US, which is roughly what a coyote costs, and has managed
not to be robbed of it. If he has it, it was probably put together
by his extended family by forgoing shoes, food, what have you. He
now finds himself in a city that preys on people like Pablo. He
has little idea what he is doing. Twenty years in a slum in Teguce
doesn't make you wise in the ways of the Mexican-American frontier.
The police will rob him, perhaps torturing him to find out where
he has stashed the money, if indeed he has any, and send him back
to Honduras. Nasty gangs will do the same, except for deporting
him. Migrants drown trying to swim the Rio Bravo.
exist of crossing into the US. You can find a desert crossing poorly
guarded and hope not to be killed by rattlesnakes or get lost and
die of thirst. In the Mexican press I have read of tunnels thorough
which 150 illegals pass per night. At $2k each, that's $300,000
a night in a great tax bracket. Or a coyote can get you across and,
if he doesn't just take your money and disappear, he may put you
into a van, and off you go. Bingo.
Once away from
the border, things get easier for Pablo. He may work a few days
to get bus fare to Raleigh-Durham, where he has a friend. With the
friend's help, he gets a job in construction. Here the American
national hypocrisy works to his advantage. The construction firm
of course knows perfectly well that Pablo is undocumented. Companies
love illegals. It means that they can pay him dirt, no benefits,
no Social Security, and he can't complain without getting deported.
In any contest between money and patriotism, money wins. American
immigration officials catch just enough Pablos to keep the rest
intimidated, but not enough to reduce the supply of cheap labor.
It is a sweetheart deal for businessmen.
Pablo may or
may not be a model uncitizen, may drink too much, may use drugs,or
go into crime. Or he may not. He is very likely to send money, substantial
amounts of it, back to Tegucigalpa. In Jalisco, where I live in
Mexico, remittances from migrants are a crucial part of the economy.
Pablo also is not unlikely to begin planning to bring his family
to the US.
Putting his life on the line for his children. The work ethic. All
immigration good for the US? I doubt it. Are all the illegals wonderful
people? No. In the long run will there be a happy ending? I don't
know; to date there hasn't been.
Yet men and
women who will claw and save for a coyote, and ride that godawful
train, at dead serious risk of being raped, robbed, tortured and
beaten into medical curiosities left beside the tracks, who will
cross into a hostile country whose language they do not know, and
live in constant fear of being caught, all to feed their families
and just maybe give them a better life in a better place – I
think they deserve other than utter contempt.
is author of Nekkid
in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well, A
Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Bem, Curmudgeing
Through Paradise: Reports from a Fractal Dung Beetle, Au
Phuc Dup and Nowhere to Go: The Only Really True Book About Viet
Nam, and A
Grand Adventure: Wisdom's Price-Along with Bits and Pieces about
Mexico. Visit his
© 2012 Fred Reed
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