I live 40 miles from the Canadian border. I had just finished writing my post for my first immigration story a couple of days earlier. I was buying some envelopes at the dollar store. While I was there, I heard two people speaking Spanish. I glanced to see who it was. I saw what I thought was a mother and her adult son.
The lady spoke passable English and understood more. Her son spoke next to nothing and took all of his cues from the woman. When the clerk and the Mom (or aunt) went to the back of the store to locate something, I was alone with the young man at the counter for a couple of minutes. In Spanish, I asked him where he was from. Startled, he responded from Mexico. I asked him if he meant, Mexico, Mexico (Mexico City). He told me he was from Veracruz (the extreme south of Mexico). Couldn’t get much further south and still be in Mexico. And there I was talking to him barely on the American side of the Canadian border. He’s a long way from home. It has to be important for him to make that trip!
His mother and the store clerk returned. We didn’t say anything more to each other. They paid for their purchases and left. (I’ve found that it’s creates confusion when I speak Spanish in public in front on English speakers when they don’t expect it.) Once they had left, the first question that I asked myself was why is he here? The answer, no doubt, would include a variety of reasons. Foremost among them, I suspect, would be to work and make a living. And, like everyone else, I’m sure he’s looking for his American dream.
I live in a rural area filled with dairy farms. I know a couple of local farm families pretty well. There are plenty of opportunities to work. Unemployment is high but farmers still cannot find workers for their dairies or their fields. There simply are no takers. In particular, dairy help is at a premium. Dairy workers are required to work very long hours and the work is grueling. The dairy farms experience a constant shortage of laborers. The same problem occurs with the fruit crops where some of the fruit is left unharvested from time to time.
The dairies are offering $10 per hour for local farm laborers and there are no takers. There are plenty of unemployed people in this area. The locals are just not willing, or able, to work on the farms. It’s no mystery that there is employment available on the farms. Everybody knows that. The only people interested in the work appear to be the immigrants. The mystery is why there are no takers among the locals? Maybe our circumstances have to become even more distressed before our citizens choose to do demanding physical labor? Who knows?
There was a farm accident last summer in which an immigrant was killed. It resulted in an immigration sweep at the farm. Because of that, many foreign farm workers left the area rather than get caught up in a continuing deportation effort. That caused big problems for local farmers. The dairies were hard-pressed and it was questionable if the fruit harvest would get done. I don’t know how it was finally resolved or even if it was. Farmers have told me that some of their neighbors with dairy farms are forgoing expansion because of the uncertainty in the labor pool in the area. (Remember, our unemployment rate is high).
It comes down to this. Our citizens won’t do the work that we need to get done and we refuse to admit it. There is deep denial! There are jobs here. The immigrants, on the other hand, can’t find the work or opportunities that they need in their home countries. That’s one of the main reasons, but not the only reason, why they come here.
Some of them are just looking for work. Others are desperate to improve their situation because of hunger, political or religious persecution, ethnic or racial persecution, physical threat, starvation or other dire cause. These people are not criminals. They are hard-working bread-winners looking for their place in the sun. Their only crime is feeding their family and searching for a better life! We all benefit (our nation, our citizens and the immigrants) when they find it here.
They bring with them tremendous energy, an appreciation of the opportunities they have here along with a tremendous drive to support their families, to succeed and to make a place for themselves in this country. They add much more to our nation than they cost this country. We should be trying to make their experience here a positive one. That’s beneficial to them and to the rest of us as well!