Monday, April 26, 2010

Undocumented people

Arizona. There are pieces of life there that really puzzle me. My daughter lives in Phoenix and we have visited a number of times. We ate breakfast at a Waffle House and there on the door was a sign, "No Hand Guns Allowed." I have to say I was more than taken aback that they needed to have a warning that handguns were not allowed at the Waffle House. I have to wonder what led to the warning... shootout at the Waffle House? The sheriff in Phoenix is more than a little... I'm not even sure what to say when you make male inmates at the county jail wear pink jumpsuits. Now this law that essentially requires law enforcement officers to stop people and check them for their citizenship documents if they suspect they may be here illegally. And we all know that the only folk who will be suspected will have brown skin. Lots of folk are rightly arguing that this is unconstitutional. More are rightly arguing that it is clearly immoral and sinful and counter to any understanding I have as to who we are as a culture. I'll not go over those arguments.

The sickness seems to be spreading as other states are discussing similar laws. The Republicans have already begun battling in California for their primary for the governorship and treatment of undocumented folk is high on the list of issues over which they're squaring off with each trying to prove that they are more draconian. Take it for granted that I think the plans they're floating are illegal, immoral, and sinful... they are also downright stupid for the health of California.

We depend upon undocumented workers in this state. Most of the vegetables, flowers, and wine grapes grown in the US are grown here and common wisdom says that many of the workers are undocumented. If you have ever watched the workers in a field of strawberries or peppers, you know how difficult it would be to get anybody else to do those jobs. Imagine if only 10% of the workers were undocumented and they were all removed tomorrow. Imagine every work day beginning with police officers gathered at the field, checking through every person's documents. Agriculture in California would grind to a halt. Produce would rot in the fields. Our already faltering economy would crash and food prices would skyrocket around the country. That doesn't begin to take into account the ripples in the service industry. These folk carry a significant portion of our economy on their backs. And then there is the impact this would have on law enforcement. Who is catching violent criminals when all of the officers are busy checking for birth certificates? And what happens when all undocumented folk refuse to cooperate with law enforcement for fear of being sent back to Mexico?

a few more random thoughts...

two media recommendations - TC Boyle's book The Tortilla Curtain and the film A Day without a Mexican. Check both out for a more accurate picture of what is going on.

I heard a pastor once say that rather than calling these men and women "illegal aliens," we should call them "good parents" as most are sending money back to Mexico to care for their families.

Many undocumented folk are in mixed families where some are citizens and some are not. Some children here without documents have never lived anywhere else and have all of their relationships and social networks here. Sending the undocumented family members back across a border destroys families and damages the entire fabric of communities.

And finally, we live in a world were goods and capital flow freely across borders but people cannot...

1 comment:

Dave Miller said...

Couldn't agree more Roy.

I am not sure if you remember a few years back when we had welfare to workfare.

Hundreds of people who wanted welfare were offered jobs in the fields as a requirement to get the welfare.

Most quit before the days were done because they said the work was too hard for the pay.

I've posted a somewhat satirical take on this issue.