Many of the bloggers I read are currently situated near the border with Mexico and our current border policy in the U.S. prompted me to read a book called Crossing Over: A Mexican Family over the Migrant Trail by Ruben Martinez. In this book he traces the story of a family and a community, starting with the tragic death of 3 brothers who died in a horrific car accident while being chased by the U.S. Border Patrol. In spite of their loss, other members of the family then continue to make the risky trip across the border because they have few other options in their economic situation in Mexico at the current time.
I myself am an immigrant's daughter. My mother is a Canadian who married an American. I grew up with the influence of her culture and then I married a Canadian. When you're going to marry a foreigner, you are supposed to get a Fiance Visa first before bringing them to the country, but we wanted to be together right away so he just entered the country as a visitor and we wed. After we got married and started the official immigration process, our case worker casually said we shouldn't have done that, stamped some paperwork, and within four months he was a legal permanent resident.
People say they don't like the situation with the Mexican immigrants because they are taking away jobs, but the truth is most Americans don't want to do the kind of work that the immigrants are doing: working 10 or 12 hour days 6 days a week moving with the harvest picking fruits and vegetables, working in meat packing plants, and at the bottom of the rung in the service sector in hotels and restaurants. Most Americans, even unskilled teenagers, don't want those jobs when they can work at easier fast food or retail jobs for the same pay. We have a long history of hiring Mexicans or other non-English speaking immigrants for these jobs, decades, and a lot of immigrants are here on legal work permits to do short-term seasonal jobs in agriculture. Most of the immigrants aren't here permanently, going back to Mexico for a few months or more every year and need these jobs to provide for family members left behind. Yes, that means that American dollars are leaving our economy, but there are dollars being spent here also on food, shelter, household items and even cars. In all the years my husband has been in this country, I don't think one person has ever said that he took a job away from someone else. As a matter of fact, when most people find out he is a Canadian and has a green card, their reaction is "Canadians need a Green Card?" In our home province of Newfoundland in Canada, it is still common practice for a significant portion of the population to leave the island and go to the mainland to work in the oil industry, diamond mines and other fields. Much like the Mexican immigrants, many only work part of the year and return home. Luckily, they don't have to leave their country to work, but they still travel incredible distances and spend a long time away from those they love. If we know English speaking Americans don't want certain jobs, and we currently give out seasonal Visas for a portion of Mexicans to come over here and work, why aren't we allowing more workers to come here legally? They are doing the jobs anyway, why not make it safer for more of them to do so?
In an economy stricken by extreme poverty, violence from the drug cartels, and political corruption, Mexicans need these jobs in America to survive and go to extreme lengths to cross the border to get them. This is the story of the immigrant, a story America has been telling for over two hundred years, people leaving their country for a chance at a better life. There are things they give up for this opportunity, things I can relate to. They leave family members behind and don't get to visit them sometimes for years, if ever again. They try to hang on to their culture and traditions, but it's hard for their children and grandchildren to relate to a culture they haven't experienced firsthand. They lose some precious things and gain some others. Throughout my life I have been exposed to many other newly immigrated families. My parents' neighbors are another ex-Navy couple, the wife from Japan. My best friend in high school's mother was from Puerto Rico. While we were homeschooling I had the extreme privilege of meeting Mojgan, whose family fled the Middle East in the 1970's when she was a teenager. She spent her last year of high school doing her homework with an English-Farsi translation book open for at least 4 hours every night. In my experience, these families worked hard and gave up a lot to be here, and are grateful for the opportunities they and their children have because of our country allowing them to stay.
Do I have the answers to our current immigration dilemma or Mexico's political problems? Absolutely not. But what we are doing now is not only not deterring anyone from getting here, it is extremely dangerous as well as expensive. My husband technically crossed over illegally, and truthfully I believe that because he was white and spoke English he received much different treatment than he would have had he been a man of color and/or spoke a foreign language. I plan to do more research into the history of immigration, especially in regard to our Mexican neighbors. As all my fellow travelers are spending time near the border, and often crossing back and forth, take a moment and try to view the border patrol activity with new eyes and maybe try to find out a little more about what is going on. I would love to hear some first-hand stories, if any of you have them to share!