Wednesday, February 7, 2018

You Can't Get There From Here

I am an American citizen of Mexican heritage, born at General Hospital in East Los Angeles, California.

My Father was born in Gallup, New Mexico to immigrant parents.

My Mother was born in Los Angeles, California to immigrant parents.

My Grandfather was born on the road somewhere between Mexico City and the US border in Texas.

My Grandmother was born in Gallup, New Mexico to immigrant parents.

Before my Grampa died at the age of 94 years young, he loved to tell a story about our family heritage that many relatives weren't sure was true, but he swore it was. 

According to Grampa, his parents decided to take a chance for a better life by WALKING from Mexico City to the Texas border while he was still in his Mom's belly.  Along the way he was born and his Father died, so when the clan arrived at the border, Mom was carrying newborn Grampa in her arms and had several other children in tow, all hoping to cross into The Promised Land.

There was only one problem: she arrived at the border without a husband, and therefore would not be allowed to cross into the US as a single Mom.

Her distress was noticed by a man also planning to cross over, so when he found out why she was being denied entry into the US, he offered to claim that he was her husband and the Father of her children.  She agreed, took his last name as her own and they crossed into the US of A successfully.  She decided to keep the last name of the man who helped her reach this country, a name my family still uses today.

Is this story true?  Several of my relatives state he told them the same story, and since we don't have any living relatives to refute or corroborate the tale, we gotta take it at face value as mostly true.

What I know for sure is this: I am borne of a family of immigrants who came to this country for the same reason most immigrants still do -- to find a better life, to do better for their families, to become something more than they could in their own country.

The story of immigrant aspirational movement is the same in 2018, only much more vital and (in some cases) desperate. The United States of America remains one of the most desirable places on Earth for people to aspire to live, and people from other countries continue to stream towards us via both legal and non-legal methods.

BTW, you will NEVER EVER catch me referring to undocumented immigrants as 'illegals' because even if an immigrant breaks laws to enter our country, that human being is still a legitimate human being and cannot be denigrated as 'illegal' simply because he/she broke a law. It's what refugees do. 

Being of Hispanic lineage gives me a unique viewpoint about our current national Conservative freak-out over non-legal MEXICAN immigration by those who would 'build that wall' or restrict legal immigration only to those we deem worthy. The funny part about the freak-out is that IT'S ALL BALONEY and the issue revolves almost exclusively around MEXICAN immigrants, although immigrants from other countries are also now being impacted.

A few factoids to consider:

1. The rate of undocumented immigrants crossing the border from Mexico has dramatically decreased over the past decade (Thanks, Obama!).  In fact, more Mexican Nationals left the USA in the years 2015 and 2016 than came into the country during that same period due to increased border patrol, stricter US hiring laws, violence in Northern Mexico and the Great Recession of 2007.

2.  Undocumented MEXICAN immigrants are responsible for FEWER crimes of any type than non-immigrants, across the board. If this fact shocks you, then you're not paying attention. Google it if you don't believe me.

3.  Undocumented MEXICAN immigrants pay lots of taxes in this country, and almost half of them pay Federal Income taxes even though they get none of the benefits of having paid those Fed taxes. Sales taxes, excise taxes, State taxes, gasoline taxes, property taxes... all gladly paid by undocumented immigrants who understand that taxes are the price we ALL pay for a civilized society.

4.  Undocumented MEXICAN immigrants do not 'steal' jobs from anyone. The people who employ them choose to GIVE them those jobs because they will work for less money, don't complain about working conditions, don't demand raises, don't demand vacation days or any of the myriad headaches typical 'Murrican employees cause their bosses.

5.  Undocumented MEXICAN immigrants are the hardest-working people you will ever meet.  They will gladly work one, two or even three different jobs at once because they understand and appreciate the benefits of working hard to get ahead in this country, even if they get paid shit wages and work shit hours and are treated like shit by their bosses who chose them to pay shit wages to because they will gladly work for shit wages that 'Murricans would never ever accept.

Honestly, it's not that hard to understand the plight of undocumented immigrants if you spend even a little bit of time thinking about how YOU would deal with the same issues they do, every single day.

Imagine that you have no documents to show that you're in this country legally, and how much that single fact will impact every aspect of your waking hours.

It would suck, right?

Every time you walk down the street... every time you drive to or from work... every time you stop at El Pollo Loco for dinner... every time you go shopping... every time you go out to visit your friends... you are a target for arrest and deportation, which will rip apart your life and separate your family and cause wrenching upheaval in every way.

Won't matter that you're a model citizen.

Won't matter that you work hard and pay every tax that's imposed on you.

Won't matter that you contribute your hard work and life's energy to making a better life for yourself and those you love.

You'd be branded as a criminal and forced to return to a country that holds no future for you.

Real World Story #1: on the way home from work one evening last Summer, I stopped at a well-known local eatery to pick up some awesome roast beef and pastrami sandwiches for dinner. I entered the drive-thru in my dirty hippie van, placed my order and rolled up to the service window.

I looked through the window and into the area behind the counter, the place a madhouse of activity involving food prep, packaging and serving for the crush of people lined up at the counter... and I noticed something.

Every single person I could see working inside were obviously Mexican (don't worry, I know these things), and they were RIPPING IT UP in order to keep up with the mad crush of hungry customers who'd lose their shit if they had to wait even a second longer than necessary to fill their pie holes with savory cured meat sammiches.

Those workers were hustling, shouting, spinning, cleaning, folding, packing, pouring, stuffing, grilling, stacking... all in a whirlwind of dinner rush frenzy... and they were all SMILING and laughing, obviously glad to be gainfully employed and making money among like-minded people with the same focus:  work hard and feed the customers.

Now, I watched this for all of 4 or 5 minutes while my order was being whipped up by those Hard Working Mexicans, and found myself filled with a combination of appreciation and gratitude and pride. When the (obvious) Manager came to the window with my food, I gave him my money and when he handed me the change I shook his hand and said:

"Thanks... you know what? You have a really great group of people working in there. You and your crew are truly what Makes America Great!"

He froze, looked me right in the eyes, grabbed my hand with both of his and shook it vigorously saying "THANK YOU, AMIGO... it means everything to me to hear you say that.  I wish more people would tell us that, but you just made my day!" Yes, his eyes got a little damp and his smile was YUUUUUUUGE.

His eyes and smile made MY day.

When I drive past the sprawling strawberry fields alongside the freeway and see the MEXICANS out there, working in the hot sun for slave wages for the benefit of the business owners, I feel humbled at my good fortune and silently thank each and every one of them for their efforts.

When I'm travelling and I meet the MEXICAN maids or MEXICAN gardeners or MEXICAN janitors in the hotel, I always stop and thank them personally for their hard work.  BTW, a great way to show your appreciation to the long-suffering maid is to dump all your pocket change into a glass and leave it as a tip each morning.  Believe me.. they remember when you do that.

When I'm walking through my client's six-story office building during one of many daily visits, you can bet your ass that I say 'HI' and acknowledge every single MEXICAN janitor and MEXICAN gardener that I meet. And every time I do, they smile wide and respond in kind and know that I appreciate them being there.

When I'm working on my yards and the truckloads of MEXICAN gardeners roll into the 'hood to start working on my neighbor's yards, I make a point of waving and smiling and offering my visual appreciation for how hard they work and their efforts to keep the area looking great.

When our Racist President demeans and degrades and belittles and vilifies hard-working, tax-paying, America-loving MEXICANS, he shows just how small-minded and ignorant he really is. He shows us all how easy it is for him, a pampered and entitled and wealthy White Male Master of the Universe, to spew hatred and bigotry and stupidity when he's never done a single hard day's work in his life.

Fuck that guy.

If your response to all this is 'Yeah... well, they're here illegally and broke the law, so deport them all!"... well fuck you, too.  No, really... I MEAN IT.

Real World Story #2:  in order to comply with the draconian rules of our Homeowner's Association regarding lawn maintenance, I needed to repair the front lawn irrigation, rip out some massive overgrown tree roots from the lawn and re-seed the grass, a big job. It was a recent Saturday morning and I'd started to chop away at the tree roots but soon discovered it was waaaay outta my league.

I remembered Rosalindo, the guy I'd hired last Summer to trim a bunch of overgrown trees, and contacted him to see if he could stop by and offer a quote. He said he'd be over after another job, so when he arrived around 1PM and provided a reasonable quote, I asked him "So when can you do this work?" He said 'Well, how about right now?" Once the CFO approved, it was ON.

Rosalindo had arrived with a young boy that I soon found out was his son and another older gent. Within 30 minutes, the broken sprinklers and pipes had been identified and the tree roots had been exposed.  Rosalindo and his son took off to buy parts and the other guy set to chopping out the tree roots... ALL of them. It took him over an hour but he removed those nasty roots and, within a few hours, they'd completed all the work.

I asked Rosalindo's son if he enjoyed working with his Dad and he said "Yes Sir... I hope someday to have my own gardening business so I can use what Dad has taught me so I can be successful and take care of my own family." Rosalindo is exactly the kind of role model every kid needs in his life. 

They arrived at 1PM, offered a good price, started work and were finished by 5PM. This was on a Saturday and I'd called him out of the blue, never expecting he'd be able to do the work right away. That's what I call dedication.

Rosalindo, his work ethic and being a great role model for his Son is what Makes America Great. His immigration status is literally of no consequence because his words and deeds define the kind of person he is, and why we should all be grateful he's chosen to live among us to raise his family... his AMERICAN family.

So the question I'm left with is this:  how do we resolve this issue of so many citizens hating on undocumented (Mexican) immigrants who actually DO Make America Great? I have a few ideas about that.

1. STOP THE HATING. This should be a no-brainer, but our national psyche has been so infected with bullshit racism and bigotry that people don't even think twice about hating on 'them damned illegals'. Every single one of us (with the notable exception of Native Americans) are immigrants or borne of immigrants. That reality doesn't change simply because someone is a few generations beyond that immigrant status. Ignorance of history is no excuse for ignorant racism.

2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Unless you're a MAGA hat-wearing dumbass, try to educate yourself about the real situation around immigration reform and the challenges faced with enacting serious but empathetic changes to our current system.  Yes, our immigration system is broken, but it can be fixed if we choose to do so without all the hate and stupidity. There are people with selfish, self-serving and sinister goals who do not want to reform the immigration system. Those people suck.

3. TRY SOME EMPATHY ON FOR SIZE. Think about every service industry you rely on to get through your daily life. Every. Single. One. Then imagine that instead of all the 'illegals' doing those low-wage jobs, they're being done by you, your kids and Grandkids. It's a thought exercise that will totally mess with your head because once you place yourself in the same situation as the millions of undocumented immigrants whose efforts we take for granted, you might just view their plight in a different way.

4.  VOTE!!!!!! The reason we still have a broken immigration system is because politicians think we can be scared with bullshit stories about scary illegals raping our women and takin' our jerbs. We gotta stop being such sheep and being manipulated so easily. Pay attention, educate yourself on the subject and VOTE, BABY. 

I have no allusions about how this will all shake out, and I'm only one Born In East Los Angeles Mexican-American. But I know the facts, and I know where I stand: in support of every single human being who works hard, plays hard, loves life and loves others with verve and abandon. Let's work together to lift up everyone we can, no matter where they came from. 

Never forget: we're all Earthlings.

  Lead image, gracias de; 'A Day Without A Mexican' video clip y The Youngbloods 'Get Together' music video, muchismas gracias de


  1. Replies
    1. THANK YOU, Veterana! Always have your smiling face in my mind's eye!