Sarah and Gwen: the Two-Headed Monster

This blog is about everything involving Lexington, KY or anything else we feel like yapping about.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Turning the Tide on Illegal Immigration

I have just returned from vacation in Mexico. I had a lot of time to sit on the beach and relax while an enormous number of hard working people made me feel pampered and spoiled. Most of those people were working for wages of about four dollars a day. Some, the lucky ones, were also getting tips from tourists. I have never met a harder working group of people or workers that spoke with such sincerity when they said, "I love my job."

Don't get me wrong. Most of the time I love my job too. After all, it was a gift from my boss that made this trip possible for my partner and I. I spend my days in an air-conditioned office working for people who respect me. I have health insurance and other benefits the workers there only dream about.

I also know the kind of poverty and hardship that makes me appreciate the luck I have had in being here. I grew up in a large Irish-American family under conditions similar to the ones many Mexican families risk their lives crossing the border to escape. Poverty and hardship are not exclusive to any country or people. Americans work hard. Jobs here are often thankless and difficult. My father worked as a logger, a driller, and used a cutting torch in a junkyard until his lungs and heart gave out. My mother spent ten to sixteen hours a day in a sewing factory and spent so much time on her feet that she needs to have both knees replaced. I have housed tobacco, flipped burgers and worked in the sewing factory. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to do better.

The great flood of people crossing our borders every day to pick fruit and clean houses believe in that opportunity to do better. Some will find it. Some will die reaching for the American Dream, the chance to improve their lot in life. I listen to arguments that illegals are taking jobs away from Americans. For the most part that isn't true. The jobs offered illegals are often the illegal jobs. They are filling our sweatshops and laboring below the minimum wage with no benefits, and often no hope of improving their lot. But their children are growing up citizens, and the family left behind in Mexico is benefiting from the dollars flowing home. They dream for their children, for the future, just as I dream of seeing my daughter and grandsons have a better life than mine.

If we are to stem the tide of illegals in this country we cannot focus on closing the border. We must focus on closing the sweatshop. We must go after the homeowner, who hires illegals to tend his garden, fix his roof, and watch his children. We must go after the farmer who loads up trucks with fieldworkers who cannot demand legal working conditions or fair wages. We must be willing to pay more for the food on our table and the clothing we wear. When we are ready to pay the price of labor and punish those who break the law the tide will turn. Until then, we will continue to see a flood of people risking their lives to serve us.

2 Comments:

Blogger Frank Glenn said...

You "connect the dots" well. As you know, I support globalization because it is a good idea for the world (despite its implementation) and also because it is inevitable.
The human side of globalization is both rosy and squalid.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Frank Glenn said...

You "connect the dots" well. As you know, I support globalization because it is a good idea for the world (despite its implementation) and also because it is inevitable.

The human side of globalization is both both rosy and squalid. Would that it were not necessary for immigrants to uproot from their homes to chase a job in foreign lands, but "that's life" as the song says. Would that we didn't have "bottom-line idolators" waiting to take advantage of them on our shores, but, again, that's life and it's pretty "squalid". The "rosy" side is one that I presume ... there is, if not a pot of gold at the end of the "rainbow trail" to the First World, at least a better opportunity. If not now, maybe later if we work at it.

Frank

9:25 AM  

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