I sincerely hope that this Monday's labor strike by illegal laborers is a big success. I hope it effectively demonstrates the huge contribution they make to our economy.
My prediction for tomorrow, though, is that the majority of illegal laborers will show up for work as usual. It's just too big a risk for many of them not to do so. They need
the income with a level of need that most American citizens will never experience nor relate to.
Patrick May, San Jose Mercury News
: "Imagine if they vanished"
What would happen? What would this county, with about 100,000 undocumented immigrants -- one out of every 18 residents -- look like? Would the fallout gum up the local economy as stores closed and construction sites shut down? Would tech workers call in sick because their nannies didn't show? Would luncheons and banquets that grease our social skids be canceled as kitchen staffs went missing?
There are few political issues that I take as personally as the need for decent treatment of Latin American laborers. I'm not Hispanic, but my parents, after losing their farm in Nebraska, did a lot of the same jobs that are now typically done by Hispanic immigrants. My father was a gardener and my mother a cafeteria worker. After their day jobs were done, I helped out with our family janitorial business at night.
My parent's story could be taken as an example of American citizens willing to do the kind of jobs that are now taken by illegal immigrants. Not really. Our economic circumstances were not typical of the American families in the area where we lived.
In my experience, there are few unemployed Americans willing to do the shitty jobs that illegal immigrants are willing to do. Later on, when my dad started his own housepainting business, there were only two groups of people in our area willing to take on the short-term jobs we often needed assistance with: illegal immigrants or surfer dudes. The former were uniformly hard-working, honest, reliable, and pleasant. The latter usually didn't show up -- either the waves were totally awesome, or they were too hung over.
Human dignity and rights are not just for people who happen to have been born on the lucky side of the border. Everyone should have the opportunity to seek out work to support their families. I couldn't care less whether someone who is willing to work hard is here legally or not. We should be making it easier for Latin American laborers to come here legally, not moving towards classifying them as felons.