Ministry of Controversy

Help in the Garden, Legal or Otherwise

See how easy it is?  Laborers are always available nearby – all
cash, no names, please – on an informal basis, or through official
channels with just a bit of paperwork. 

Now I’ve recommended that gardeners partake of this ready labor pool
many times and seen frightened looks and sometimes shock that I hire
these men by myself, even allowing them in my house to use the
bathroom.  That’s right, and I’ve lived to tell the tale!  I don’t
know; maybe I’m foolhardy, or just cheap.  But aside from the price
being right, there’s another reason I’ll keep going back to hire the
next Jose and Rudolfo and occasionally an African with perfect English.

According to this article,
the $45 billion that immigrants send home to support their families is
five times the official development assistance provided to Latin
America and the Caribbean.  El Salvador receives $3 billion yearly from
its immigrants in the U.S., fully 15 percent of its gross national
product.  And according to an article in AZ Central that’s no longer
free on line, the average immigrant worker sends home $300 a month,
which is roughly a third of his $900/month total income and six times
what workers in Mexico make.  The vast majority of workers in Mexico
make less than $21 a day.

Call me a liberal.  Call me an dewey-eyed internationalist with no
respect for borders or the legalities of immigration.  Or maybe it’s
just admiration for people who manage somehow to leave their
impoverished towns and get here, then bust their asses at two or more
jobs to earn a paltry $900 a month and SAVE A THIRD of it to send home
to their families.  It’s done by living in small apartments with lots
of other people, by never or rarely eating in restaurants, by frankly
living a more spartan life than my middle class ass could ever endure.

Posted by on January 2, 2007 at 4:55 am, in the category Ministry of Controversy.
Comments are off for this post

10 responses to “Help in the Garden, Legal or Otherwise”

  1. Colleen says:

    Now, now, Susan—aren’t you at all concerned for our national security?? You know *those* immigrants could be plotting some kind of terror, and you’re helping fund it. Tsk, tsk.

    *a wink and a smile* from one dewey-eyed, internationalist liberal to another…

  2. Jenn says:

    “Now I’ve recommended that gardeners partake of this ready labor pool many times and seen frightened looks and sometimes shock that I hire these men by myself, even allowing them in my house to use the bathroom.”

    People are so quick to judge, and the unknown is always scary.

    Compare these guys to the hobos dislocated from their homes during the dustbowl and depression… And what do you see then? Most of them are just looking for better opportunities, and have braved much to get here.

    I do have issues with ‘illegals’ but not with the individuals – rather with the whole process and the draconian veiw the government takes. Seems like there should be some kind of answer, short of The Great Wall of China/ Berlin/ Texas.

  3. As you can imagine a lot of things in Hawaii are exotic, including our immigrants legal or otherwise. Until recently the current modern immigrants into Hawaii were primarily from the Philippines, South East Asia, all of Polynesia, Europe and Australia.

    The past decade’s surge of refugees from California settling here has included the help following behind them. Mexicans and Latin Americans now constitute a growing presence in the islands.

    In my line of work I have had the chance to encounter a good share of willing workers from other countries.

    By far my favorite and most lovely assistant for three years was a very handsome multi lingual (French, English and two dialects of Tahitian) gay Tahitian Mormon Hula dancer with a Spanish last name. After much prodding through his Mormon prudishness I found his Tahitian great grandmother had been knocked up by a Spanish sailor in the late 1800’s and had a son, the patriarch of his now large family.

    It seems immigrants legal and otherwise have been traveling the globe for centuries.

  4. Pam J. says:

    “It seems immigrants legal and otherwise have been traveling the globe for centuries.” I like this observation. It helps me think of the immigration issue in a slightly different way. Such a complicated subject.

  5. Kathy says:

    “people who manage somehow to leave their impoverished towns and get here, then bust their asses at two or more jobs to earn a paltry $900 a month and SAVE A THIRD of it to send home to their families. It’s done by living in small apartments with lots of other people, by never or rarely eating in restaurants” This is what most of our immigrant ancestors did, you know, the ones who came through Ellis Island. Looking at census records, I can piece together that an awful lot of my Italian ancestors lived in the same apartment, and had jobs like laborer, parquet floor installer, etc. Looking at immigration records, I can even see that my great-great grandfather entered the port of New York twice: once by himself, and again three years later, with his family. My guess is he was saving up to bring them over.

  6. Thinker says:

    Have you read The Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyles. No answers, but it will make you think.

  7. susan harris says:

    I LOVED Tortilla Curtain – great idea for a post. Thanks.

  8. Amy Stewart says:

    I’m with you, Susan. These guys deserve our admiration and respect for their hard work and astonishing ability to save, support their families, and do hard work for long hours. I’ve worked for a number of social service agencies and seen the full spectrum of poverty. I’ll live next door to a family of immigrant laborers any day!

  9. Pam says:

    In my part of the world (South Carolina), these guys are invaluable labor – hardworking and very trustworthy. I have friends who run an Herb Farm (www.petesherbs.com) and my friend is now learning spanish and is helping the guys that work with him to learn better english. It’s a fun environment, and this new (and extremely industrious) labor force has really benefited my friend’s business – and provided solid jobs for these guys.

  10. MrBrownThumb says:

    I clicked on this post expecting to see the usual rants full of xenophobia and tinged with malice that you encounter on GW when this issue comes up.

    Imagine my surprise when what I read where thoughtful responses. Congrats to the responses above.

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