Something’s been bothering me during all of the political rhetoric about the wall, those immigrants, and our America. “Those” immigrants are framed as sneaking into “our” country, by the millions, to steal jobs, homes and our way of life. They’re here to murder us (as if we aren’t doing a good enough job of killing ourselves).
I call b.s.
Undocumented workers are working. They’re working for us. Directly for us. They’re doing to jobs we don’t want to do.
Did you grocery shop today? Maybe picked up some fresh produce that someone else planted and picked? Did you eat in a restaurant? Were the plates clean? Did the gardener show up to mow and trim? And the house cleaner? Did you stop at the car wash (because weekends are messy, and someone has to clean the car)? Is it time to replace the roof? Did the company you hired send out a crew to tear off the old shingles and hammer in the new ones?
Eleven million undocumented workers, taking care of us. He says he will immediately deport six million, and then build that great big wall. Perhaps someday, some of them will be allowed to apply to return to the country. Maybe someday.
So, in the meantime, who is going to take care of us? Who is going to do the work we don’t really want to do ourselves?
Just asking the question.
I’m not saying (please don’t think I am) that we need to keep undocumented workers here because we need people to serve us. But I am saying we need to see those who are serving us, and bring them out of the shadows. Acknowledge those who are keeping us fed, sheltered and clean.
It’s probably not inappropriate to thank them.
I have a friend who is a successful farmer in our region. He is a conservative, but believes we need immigration reform. His livelihood depends on it. He told me he invested millions into plantings for his farm last year, but the workers didn’t come. He said he was afraid he’d lose everything. Eventually enough workers came. I asked him who he was going to vote for his year and he responded, “Joe at the hardware store.”
I also have a friend who is an undocumented worker from Mexico. He has a family, three beautiful and delightful children, and a caring, creative, hardworking partner. He often works two jobs at a time. He says he has never met anyone working in the back of a restaurant who was documented. Every restaurant. Oh, and my friend pays taxes. But he can’t get a drivers license, so he rides a bike between his jobs and back home to his kids.
My housecleaner shows up with a team, all in one car, and I don’t even know their names. They do the cleaning I don’t want to do, and while I think I pay a good fee, when it’s divided between four people, it doesn’t go far. They clean fast, and I suspect they do several houses a day. I don’t ask, I am just glad I can count on them to come every other week. Because toilets and floors and vacuuming behind furniture isn’t my thing.
When I want to treat myself, I take my car to the fancy car wash. And while my car is being detailed, I go to the nail salon for a pedicure. And on the way home I pick up a nice bottle of wine. That would be wine, made of grapes.
I have never asked to see documentation. But I know who is taking care of me.
The way I look at it, not only should we vote to protect undocumented workers, we should be grateful to them. One way we can do that is by paying attention to who is doing our dirty work. Yes, our immigration program needs to be reconsidered, but actually for the opposite reasons.
I am not an expert, but I do know that they aren’t all the same. Some are immigrants, some are refugees, some are asylum seekers. None of them are aliens. And I am not going to call them illegals.
They all come for different reasons, just like our grandfathers and their fathers and mothers before them. I suspect they believe America will welcome them, especially if they work hard, just like our grandfathers and their fathers and mothers before them.
My youngest daughter, Alex, works for the International Rescue Committee, in Seattle. She teaches cultural orientation classes to new refugees, and gets to know a different group each week. People who have overcome hardships we can’t imagine, given up more than we can fathom, and are eager to be here, safe in America. They want to contribute, to settle here where their children can go to school and learn. They believe America is good.
I like to believe that as well. I’ll begin by voting on November 8.
These are my friends, Kara and Bernardo, in a piece produced by The View from Here at Capital Public Radio (also my friends).
Where undocumented immigrants work (Washington Post)
On refugees, we can do better (Salon)
Phantoms in the fields (Sacramento Bee)
I’ve been writing about political issues this year, not as a way to establish my opinion, but as a practice to learn how to listen and talk to each other, especially those with differing opinions. After all, we will all need to live together on November 9. I’d love to hear your thoughts, but please be respectful. Play nice, and we can all get along and make it through this election.
Photo by Kim Tackett, Clarion Alley, San Francisco.