Monday, May 01, 2006

A Day Without a Mexican

No, it’s not an American xenophobe’s wet dream, it’s a comedy mockumentary by Sergio Arau about a fictitious day when all of California’s Latnos mysteriously disappear, leaving unappreciative non-Hispanic folks to fend for themselves.

The reality isn’t as funny.

Lots and lots (millions?) of immigrant supporters are taking to the streets today all around the country, walking off their jobs, closing their shops, to protest a bill in congress that would make it a felony to enter this country illegally. It’s designed to illustrate the importance of immigrants in this country, legal or otherwise.

The idea came to organizers from an unexpected place. See, when the bill was first introduced, a crap-load of LA high school kids took the opportunity to walk off their classes and clog up the freeways. It got the nation’s attention. Now, organizers are hoping that a more…organized…walk-off will garner even more attention.

And, hey, if the idea came from a bunch of teenagers, then you know it’s a good one!

So, that’s what’s happening today. I wouldn’t say that Los Angeles has been brought to a stand-still, but it’s definitely quieter around here. Especially next door at the construction site. Which is fine by me. I finally have a chance to hear myself think.

And here’s what I’m thinking.

This boycott and peaceful walk-off, while nice, touchy-feely and definitely better than a riot, seems a little desperate to me. Doesn’t it? I mean, come on, congress will never pass a law that makes it a freaking felony to be an illegal immigrant (if they do, I’ll be right out there marching with the others). It just doesn’t make any sense. And the bill has stalled out a bit anyway. I think the message has gotten to congress already. This demonstration today smacks a little bit of overkill.

Hey! You neeeeeeeed us! Never forget that! And just in case you might forget it, we’re going to screw crap up for a little while!”

Yeah, okay, we get it. Immigrants are important to America. I know that already. But see, the issue for most of us isn’t immigration. It’s illegal immigration. And there is a difference, I think. By its definition, there’s a difference. Now, I think that this country should make it easier to immigrate here, but that’s neither here nor there in regards to the argument that illegal immigration is illegal.

Let’s not pretend that those people who immigrate here illegally are just your run of the mill immigrants. They’re illegal. I understand the hardships that they face in their home countries, I do. But when you enter this country illegally it sends a message that you don’t really respect this country and its laws, the country that you claim to revere, that you claim to be your salvation. Without respect, “reverence” becomes exploitation. And this country has been exploited. Under the status quo, illegal immigrants know that if they’re caught in this country the worse that will happen to them is that they’ll be shipped back to wherever they came from. They count on it. Then they simply sneak back in again and the process starts all over. They don’t really respect this country, they only really respect the great things that they can get from this country.

In turn, illegal immigrants are themselves exploited. They’re held hostage by employers who take advantage of their precarious legal standing. Employers who pay them less money than they deserve to be earning because, while the punishment as it stands now is simple deportation, which might not be very harsh, it’s still a real pain in the ass for the person being deported. And “pain in the ass” is an understatement. So the illegal has not much choice but to toe the line, suck it up, and hope for a compassionate employer. And trust me, there are a lot of people on capital hill who would love to see this whole immigration reform stuff just go away. The status quo has been protected on this issue for years. And most would like it to stay that way.

And where does this all leave us? With a symbiotic relationship between inexpensive illegal immigrant labor and American capitalist greed, with mutual disrespect at the heart of it.

And this needs to change. But not with threats.

Some folks in Congress issued a threat to illegals, “stop sneaking over the border or we’ll throw your foreign ass in prison.” Now the immigrants are on the defensive and firing back with threats of their own, “we’d like to see you try to throw our foreign asses in prison when there aren’t enough prisons for all of us, and good luck trying to build new ones without a labor force.”

Illegal immigrants do need to have more respect for this country. But that’s not just something that happens. The respect needs to be earned. America needs to earn the respect of the would-be illegal immigrant.

And America needs to have more respect for its immigrants too. But again, immigrants need to earn that respect. They can’t just get everything on their terms because they want it that way.

This whole issue is confusing and frustrating. And it’ll never be resolved if both sides don’t stop acting like obstinate children.

So let’s open up our borders a little bit. Let’s all relax some. But let’s also stop calling illegal immigrants “immigrants.”

A person who grows pot in their basement and sells it out of their Volkswagen Micro Bus is not an “entrepreneur.” Why? Because it’s illegal.

Until they change the laws anyway.

Now I’m just trying to terrify the right-wingers.

Fun Fact: I’ve been working on a new project lately. The kind of project that requires a theme song. I’ve also been “letting the evil in” a little bit…I’ve gotten a MySpace page. Two actually. Here’s the link to one of them. You can listen to the theme song from my latest project as well as a tune that I’ve been working on the last couple days (also for that project). The project is titled (for now) Life From the Inside.

The theme song is called “Fine Print.”

The new song is called “Go.” A different kind of song for me.

Take a listen.

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