A Day Without An Immigrant

You may have heard of the brilliantly conceived (if somewhat less brilliantly executed) film, "A Day Without A Mexican".  In the movie, Southern California awakens to an absence of Mexicans, and the world grinds to a stop because no one is there to provide the infrastructural support needed for society to operate.  I've seen real-life, miniature examples of this, such as when ICE raids on South Beach and in St. Thomas have temporarily closed entire shopping areas. 

If you've been reading what I write for awhile, you know that I am very much in favor of immigration controls and no apologist for those who ignore our immigration laws.  But that being said, I am also a pragmatist who understands the role these currently-illegal migrants play in our very wounded economy.

The Miami Herald reported yesterday on the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., where some 20,000 illegal migrants pass annually, most en route to deportation.  A sort of reverse Ellis Island, if you will.  Immigrant advocacy groups protest that the Stewart facility treats these folks inhumanely, punitively.  The most common complaint – no surprise for those of us who have been dealing with immigration processing for awhile — is "lack of information about the progress of their cases and unwillingness by deportation case officers to answer questions."



The article mentions a guy who represents so many here in South Florida (and it is apparent to me that the article could have just been just as easily about Krome or any one of the many holding centers across the Land of the Free):  GIlberto Vazquez Olivares is a 34 year old from Mexico who is in federal custody at taxpayer expense for that most heinous offense, driving without a license because he can't GET one…because he's been illegally in the U.S. since 2004.  After his $400 a day taxpayer-funded imprisonment (my guess based on what I've read in the past, NOTmentioned in the Herald article), Gilberto will be flown back to Mexico at taxpayer expense, spend some time with his family, and, more than likely, be BACK across the border and at his U.S. job within a month, received with open arms by the U.S. employer who trusts and relies on him and who was adversely affected by Gilberto's arrest and detention.  In the words of Steely Dan, and for the Gilbertos of the world, there is no choice:

You go back, Jack, do it again…wheel turnin' round and round'…

A sensible immigration policy must:

  1. Recognize the benign nature of the presense of illegal migrants like Gilberto
  2. Distinguish people like Gilberto from criminal aliens, public charges, and other system-tappers and
  3. Provide these hardworking, law-abiding undocumented workers with a means of living lawfully in the country which so depends economically upon their presense.

I went to the Everglades a few weeks ago, during this catastrophic economic period in our country where U.S. unemployment is rampant.  Guess how many non-Mexican laborers I saw in the fields? None.  Of course, you can't judge a book by its cover, so I called an old friend with tomato fields to inquire if the huge unemployment problem was making it easier to find American labor for his tomato harvest.

His answer:  "Are you KIDDING?? Jose, you said you drove past field after field of ripe and rotting tomatoes.  Do you think we plant them so they'll rot on the vine?  Americans don't pick tomatoes."

Until our national policy has a little brains to go with the Bush-era brawn, lushAmerican crop fields will continue to rot.