Sunday, October 12, 2008

Confessions of a "Wetback"


Before I get into this, I feel illegal immigration is one of the greatest threats to American sovereignty. And, I am not just talking about the influx from Mexico. I am talking about all illegal immigration. Through my federal and state taxes, I am supporting more needy people than Sally Struthers can shake a stick at. One thing that the federal government should do, I think, before becoming the world’s policeman, is to secure our own borders. I don’t care whether it is done with fences, walls, predator drones, or crocodiles. Illegal immigration needs to be stopped.

That said, there is the human side to immigration. Recently, I was running one of our cars through the local car wash (because I am too lazy to wash the damn thing). The people who do the final detailing are all of Mexican ethnicity. On the last trip, I was sitting outside (enjoying the beautiful weather) and watching how the workers continued to pick on one particular kid. To look at me, people would not think that I speak Spanish—but I do. The conversation amongst the workers became more heated. Suddenly, two of the workers started yelling at the young kid, “Pinche mojado.” There is no direct translation (pinche is an insult enhancer that literally means “f**king” while mojado means “wetback” in slang). In essence, they are calling the kid a “f**king wetback.” I watched as the kid walks angrily over to the soda machine, puts in a dollar, and gets a can of Sprite. For some reason, I walk over to him.

I will continue in English for brevity. I said to him, “Those guys don’t like you, do they?” He looked at me for a moment, a little unsure whether to trust me, the gabacho with blue eyes. Finally, he said, “No. I am the only wetback here. They are all wetbacks too, but they have their papers.” I asked him where he was from and he said, “A poor little town in Durango. It really does not have a name—it is just a colony.” A colony (colonia) in Mexico is usually a slum. I asked him how long he has been here. He thinks for a while and says, “Almost two years. I want to get home. I have not seen my wife and beautiful daughters in two years.” He goes on to explain the shortage of work in Mexico and says that the best job he can get in the agricultural fields in Durango pays maybe US$15.00 a day. He says, “I have to stay here for my family to live. I am a Mexican. My heart is Mexican. I don’t want to be here—but what are the choices? He says, “There is no help from the Mexican federal or Durango state government for the poor other than they provide electricity and will put a phone in certain houses in the colony. Only the [Catholic] church will help when they can and they usually can’t. So I am here.” I asked, “How do you like it here.” He thought carefully, clearly not wanting to offend me, and said, “It’s OK. Some North Americans treat us good, others don’t.” He details how he pays US$100.00 a week to sleep in a trailer house with 10-12 other men. Every day he walks more than a mile to the place where they wait for work, rarely eats, and sends 90% of his earnings home. He says that even the companies that wire money take advantage of him. He laments, “What can I do. I am a wetback.”

The young man is silent for a while and speaks, “I understand why you [white people] are upset about immigration. Many in my country abuse the United States and your generosity. I don’t. I am hoping the economy in Mexico gets better so I can go home. A whole colony could live on what you [Americans] throw away or put into a garage sale. Your country is wasteful….and lazy. If it were not for us wetbacks you would have little.” His voice drifted off and tears came to his eyes. He said, “I have a beautiful wife and beautiful daughters. A father should be with his children. Would you like to see a picture?” I said, “Sure.” He digs a wrinkled picture from his wallet, obviously taken at one of those cheap photo booths, and hands it to me with great pride. I knew that this picture was probably his most cherished possession and I treated it with respect—carefully holding the tattered edges. His wife, obviously of mestizo origin, is indeed attractive and his children are precious. I said, “I bet they miss you too.” He says, “Yes, they do. I am afraid they may not know me when I get home.”

About this time one of the workers yells, “Viene aqui mojado (come here wetback).” The kid takes his last drink of Sprite, gets up, grabs a dry towel, and walks to an old Lincoln and starts wiping the windows. He doesn’t say a word to me. His pride demands silence. I get into my fancy SUV and drive off. Our worlds will never meet again….and they are so different.

The solutions to illegal immigration have to be international. Mexico has one of the strongest economies in the Western hemisphere. They can provide jobs. Mexicans are a proud people. They do not want entitlements--they want jobs.The League of Nations and similar entities must push Mexico to take care of their own. If they do that, we may need fewer fences and the young kid at the car wash can again hold his wife and daughters.

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