Oct 24, 2018
This Thanksgiving let us give thanks to those who put the food and drink on our tables. In this County, that’s done largely by Mexican-born immigrants, many of them undocumented. Muchas gracias a cada uno.
Our County is a rich mosaic of cultures, but one of the most prominent and proud is our Mexican-American community. Since I moved to Sonoma County ten years ago, I’ve worked primarily for the sons and daughters of Mexico and it’s been one of the great blessings of my life.
Many of my clients are undocumented, a somewhat distinct subculture of the Latino community. I believe there is no more inspiring group of people to work for. Many of my clients have none of the advantages most of us enjoy — no higher education, no savings, no inheritance, imperfect English language skills, often no extended family here, and not even a work permit or a social security card. And yet, virtually every one of them finds a way to make a living and support their family.
We’ve all heard about legendary capacity of immigrants for hard work. I commonly meet immigrants who have worked more than a decade for the same employer, displaying a loyalty and longevity of service to their workplace that is rare in American society. Over and over again, business owners come to my office desperate to find a way to legalize their immigrant employee because, they insist, he or she is “the best worker I’ve ever had”. And let’s acknowledge the obvious: most American-born workers don’t want their jobs because it involves back-breaking labor.
The statistics bear out what we all here know. Immigrant labor-force participation is consistently higher than native-born Americans. Moreover, immigrant use of public benefits is far lower than U.S. citizens and the amount of taxes they pay is higher. And, despite Donald Trump’s statements to the contrary, undocumented immigrants are NOT qualified for almost all government benefits – ineligible for welfare, food stamps and virtually any other form of public assistance.
These are dark times for our immigrant community. When the occupant of the White House himself engages in shameless scapegoating of undocumented immigrants, plenty of normal citizens feel free to follow suit. At the heart of the Trump-led anti-immigrant ethos is a vague and unsubstantiated suggestion that current immigrants are different from our ancestors (whoall immigrated here). This is based on a mix of misunderstandings and prejudices that need to be exposed as false and un-American. Here are some facts that belie their alternative ones:
We can have a spirited debate about immigration in this country; we can have an earnest disagreement about how to restrict the borders, or to what extent to limit legal immigration. But no one can credibly accuse our undocumented immigrant population of not being willing to work hard or of demanding the government give them a handout. The undocumented are the most unentitled group in a country of entitlement.
So this Thanksgiving, while you and your family enjoy your holiday meal together, give a thought to those who work so hard to make our bounty possible-- your undocumented neighbor living down the road and still in the shadows.
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