Friday, September 23, 2011

Perry and Illegals' Education

The sinner in illegal immigrant is the employer who hires the illegal immigrant.

My family has been in American agriculture for more than three hundred years. From Connecticut, to Louisiana, to Kansas and Oklahoma, to Idaho.My father's family has been involved in agriculture in America, for an hundred, forty years. From Schleswig-Holstein, to Minnesota, to Cape Horn, Astoria and then, during the Nez Pierce Uprising, to Moscow, Idaho. My DAR/Wasp lineage met my Northern European lineage at music school, in the 1940's.  Me? Zygote in 1953.

One of my grandmas was a fundamentalist. Old-tyme Baptist fundamentalist. She adopted the Bible, from beginning to end. My other grandma was a bit more difficult to discern. There is an idea that that Gramma was Jewish. Thankfully, neither my Baptist Gramma, or my "Lutheran" Gramma, or, my post-Gramma experience in more churches than you; from Christian to Presbyterian to Catholic, ever gave me cause to give less fealty to the idea that all men are created equally, or, that one whom one employs should ever be treated as less than one would treat a family member.

Slavery was a real issue for the Jews. Slavery is not cool. The cruelest moments of slavery were the moments when a man had to suborn his own reason in order to remain in good stead with his Master. The Jewish heroes were recognitions of a single man's facing tyranny, and standing up to it. The early Christian models of hero were built around the hero, the martyr who stood up to the tyrant. This standing up to tyranny has been consistent, from Moses, to Ruth, to Ezekiel, to Christ, to Peter. And all the Saints. You should not be a slave. I will not be a slave. And after the Enlightenment, it was, I think, thought that slavery would never again be possible.

Illegal immigration is an attempt at finding a chink in how we treat each other.

Since I was brought up believing that those who put their labour into your stead, and that meant we must understand that that commitment to us required a con-commitment to them, that we could not treat the men and women who worked for us any differently than those who were our family, who contributed to our family's success. Being an employer is not different to me, than adoption. I was moved forward on this path from early employers, some who accepted by resignation, and the rare cases where I was dismissed. I think it's more important to talk about the cases where I was dismissed, rather than the cases of resignation. My resignations came as opportunities occurred. And happily, the understanding that I wished to improve myself through my resignations, were echoed by those two occurrences where I found myself dismissed.

One quits a job to take on a new opportunity.

One is fired, because of failure. I've been fired twice.

The first time was the result of my attempting to organize a labour contract with my employer. The second was when I burned up a diesel motor on the new tractor. To be fair, both employers re-hired me. Their hearts weren't stone. And I've learned more from my mistakes than I've probably learned from my successes.

In the last years of the Seventies, my mom had a job under the Manpower Training Act. She had been working for Howard Vollum at Tek, and made the move over to the "JOBS" program when Vollum took over as CEO for the local Jobs Program. David Judd was the administrator. It was a great opportunity for both of us, and I took advantage of it.

I was a Sophomore in High School in 1970. But when mom got involved in JOBS, I was put into a place that allowed me to test my sense of ethics and morality with the exigencies of poor folks trying to find a way to pay for their existence. And never did I feel that the Chicano population I found my self around were trying to game the system. Illegal Mexicans working in Oregon didn't ask, and wouldn't have asked, for a hand-out. Within poverty comes a certain honesty; hard work draws wages. And wages were better in Oregon than they were in Mexico. It would take me another twenty years to find out that within poverty, comes communication; if there's a way to game the system, that information will be shared at lightening speed.

During the Fall of 1970 to the Spring of 1971, I spent time working with the Poor People's Council. The one concrete example I have of my work with this group is the change in the law, in Oregon, governing hitchhiking. It used to be the law, prior to my involvement, that hitch-hiking on a freeway in Oregon was against the law. When you're poor, hitch-hiking is the only dependable method of getting from place-to-place. Yes. I'm responsible for the panhandlers on Oregon's on-ramps. Previously, a tramp couldn't claim legitimacy. But after the law was changed, standing on an on-ramp to a freeway was legal. And for those of us who used our thumbs to travel, we gained new, economic freedom. Hitching wasn't a shake-down. It was a way to reduce the cost of travel for economic gain.

During that period, my mom and I, under the auspices of the JOBS program, got involved in the Poor People's Movement and the Chicano Movement. And the things I saw were more than informative; they required me to ask certain questions about the system that made things happen. When I was involved in the Poor People's Council, or the Chicano Movement, the issues weren't about a radicalization of politics; it was a recognition of the way people were treated. My starting point wasn't about whether or not illegal immigrants should be allowed to work. I had an uncle who offered me a job working as an coyote. Out of Salinas, my uncle was not only involved in moving illegals, he was also involved in cock-fighting. Big family, great divergence.

Illegals were an important part of agriculture.

As incomes improved, teens, the traditional workforce for agriculture, didn't find the need to work. And rather than let market forces retire farmers from no longer profitable sources of income, law enforcement turned their eyes away from the illegal activities, such as my uncle's, and actually enabled the importation of illegal workers. Under law, unprofitable farmers and orchardists should have found themselves transforming their land from farms and orchards to some other endeavour. But cheap labour was found. And the conditions that that cheap labour found themselves was simply, deplorable. When you are illegal, you find yourself without civil rights. Complain and you're deported.

Combined with what I saw of the living conditions these migrant workers found, it was a form of voluntary slavery. And that was okay with me. Until you saw the children. Why would a migrant worker give up his children?

Dirt floors. No doors. No septic system. Standing filth. This was in 1970. Children, picking alongside their mothers and fathers. Again, no problem. But, where is the treatment of these employees meeting the standard of how you would treat your own family? Would you want to keep education from your own children?

No. You wouldn't.

God wouldn't want us to act this way.

I don't believe I was a "Progressive." I believe I was religious. I believe I was acting morally and ethically. One doesn't make the child the object of the failings of the parent. And the Mexicans, the Chicanos, the poor I met weren't that much different than I. They wanted an opportunity to work, and to improve themselves. I disagreed with the terms farmers and ranchers felt they could offer their illegals. Again, not the men and women. But these men and women brought along their children. The conditions their children met weren't voluntary, and they had no voice. And we treated them like shit. No child should be treated like shit.

No child is shit.

That Governor Rick Perry perceives this, and acts, is a credit to the Governor. I'm not saying I'm a fan of his, but I understand in ways that the media will never examine, the humanity of his decisions.

1 comment:

MAX Redline said...

One is fired, because of failure
Or politics.

There is a profound difference between an immigrant and an alien.