Thursday, June 3, 2010

'Escuse' Me But Some Of My Best Friends Are Illegals!

In my tiny barrio in Southside Modesto, I grew up surrounded by what were then commonly called "Mojados", referring to the crude namesake "Wetbacks."

They seemed normal enough to me. Young kids, old men whose only dream was to work the summer seasons in the fields, send money to families in Mexico, and return for the winter.

I worked alongside them in the fields, fruit picking machines, their skillful hands devouring fruits from sets of four trees and rushing off into the darkness before day break, till the infernal 105 degree heat of the mid-afternoons, lugging metal buckets and 14-foot ladders, to a new one.

In contrast, I was lazy and worked only enough to be able to buy my Buenas Garras, fancy new clothes for school. "No seas burro", my mom would tell me. "Estudia, para que no tengas que trabajar el los fieles como animal." 

I remember the dreaded call "Ahi, viene La Migra!!" And them scattering like cucarachas across rows of fruit trees, over fences, into irrigation ditches. Those caught were deported, and most in a matter of days or weeks, just waded back across the Rio Grande to pick again. Over and over.

In the popular imagination, Americans today picture hordes of Mexicans, rushing the borders into the U.S. to commit crimes and take away people's jobs. Many of our own Gente embrace the myth.

Ironically, immigration to the U.S. is something the great masses of Mexicans never even think about. They go about their lives, working, toiling, surviving with absolutely no intention of ever leaving Mexico, except to ocassionally fantacize about visiting Disneylandia or Las Vegas.

My relatives, who live in Mexico City are perfectly satisfied to remain there. After all, the U.S. comes to them, Walmart, Costco, Burger King, MacDonalds. They do so depite the povery surrounding them, the crime, and the corruption they all complain about in the police, local officials and the government.

Yet illegal immigrants in the U.S. are embedded in our way of life, and to remove them is like cutting off an arm or a leg to save yourself. Some of them have lived here illegally for generations, undetected, having raised their grandkids among us.

They are our brothers, fathers, wives, sisters and neighbors. We go to school with them. We work with them. We break bread with them.

As far as I can see, most still pick our fruits and vegetables, serve our food, wash our dirty dishes, roof our houses, and fix our cars, cheaply too. I don't know about you, but the ones I know are not drug-trafficers, not criminals, but maybe you and I don't run in the same circles, quien sabe,

In fact, some of my best friends are illegals.

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