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Diary roadmap: Begins with an unpleasant awakening, which reveals an invisible underclass, references an old forgotten (but critical) war or two, continues on with a capitalist rumination on marriage versus prostitution, & ends with clues to the whereabouts of 11 million disappeared souls last seen consigning their fate to a foreign power.
I'm enjoying a dream wherein Run-D.M.C. is decked out in purple on a bright yellow stage & doing some version of Cielito LIndo that just doesn't fit. I'm dancing the Quebradita smoother than I ever have in real life. I'm someplace in Latin America, but all the signs are in Chinese-and I can read them. Damn dream makes no sense, but I'm loving it.  

¡Maldita sea! I'm awaken by the sounds of hydraulics & heavy chains being dropped right outside my bedroom window. It is almost as though the links were pulling right up the middle of my bed. It is 5:15 a.m. & still pitch dark outside. Various police related scenarios race through my mind. Is some SWAT team armored vehicle about to knock over someone's residence? Is INS doing a pre-dwan raid my neighbors? Will terrified shouts of ¡La Migra! ring out as men, women, & children scramble for back doors? ¿Y Ahora Que?

Like I did last week when I was awoken by gunshots, I keep the lights off & peer outside from the very corner of the curtain. The sounds I hear are very very loud & very unnerving. My eyes become adjusted enough to determine forms. Pretty soon I make out that it's just a tow truck come to haul someone's vehicle away. The driver is alone. No one from my triplex or the one across from it comes out. So, it's a repo job. Yes, of course it is.

Yesterday afternoon a car had pulled up & stopped in the middle of the driveway in front of Sergio's place. A very tiny & thin woman had apprarently gotten out prior, but I only first saw her as she was sitting in the driver's seat while learning around the open car door. She was conversing with some number of the six occupants of the triplex through the iron-screen door. Six young guys made muscular from years of field & construction work. They seemed afraid to come out & face her. It struck me as odd at the time, & almost comical. When she pulled out of the driveway I noticed a white piece of paper attached to their screen door. I had assumed it was an eviction, but I assumed wrong.  

Around here, don't ask for whom the repo-man tows, he tows for thee. Today, it does not tow for me. I feel no elation that I'm not the target. My heart sinks. I know too well that if my car is towed I have the money to pay the fines & storage fees. I have the documentation to both prove who I am & my legal claim to my vehicle. I have no fear of the authorities, either governmental or business. For me, it would be a minor (albeit irritating) inconvenience.

Not so for my neighbor. His truck is permanently gone now. It has disappeared from the 'hood. Tomorrow it may be the former truck's owner who is disappeared. In a sense, he's already disappeared from the moment he entered the U.S. without documentation. Leaving his name behind him. Leaving his citizenship in a democracy behind him. Leaving a known world for an unknown one.

How can we document-holding citizens empathize with them? Why should we? We're taught they are statistics that somehow harm us. Millions of numbers to argue about and use, if at all, in debating points with the opposition. Hard to know someone if you haven't broken pan with them. I have. I diaried a bit about it last year in reference to what was happening in Arizona & how that related to mi hijo.

Let me tell you about another real-life undocumented & his truck.

Chelis' story-
The first time I moved back from Mexico many years ago, my life was temporarily at loose ends. I spent my first 6 months here sleeping on a living room floor in a sleeping bag next to an undocumented named Chelis. The primary occupants of the house were a nuclear "undocumented" family of 2 spouses & 3 kids. Despite having 2 people sleeping every night on the living room floor, the house was always kept meticuously showcase clean. Chelis didn't drink, smoke, or even pursue romance. He was soft-spoken with a wry sense of humor that consistently lagged 30 seconds behind  everyone else's in the room-yet was always the sharpest. He went to church dutifully (not enthusiatically) each week, but would only go to fiestas when dragged by the hair. He had little interest in socializing outside of work or "home." He wanted to work as much as possible, as hard as possible, for all the sooner to return to his pueblo. He worked at Walker's Pie Shop (oh, the wicked goodness of the delicious place & their demon pies) in Albany (CA) 5 days a week, & 1 day a week he spent doing odd construction jobs.

He lived like that, sleeping on the living room floor & with nothing but the memory of past & nearly fabled romances in Mexico, for 4 years. Living for the moment he could return home. Then he worked 3 years full-time doing construction for a man he had worked several odd jobs for prior. Without noticeable vices, he saved his money (what was left over after sending to his parents) & bought a truck. He planned on taking it back with him to Mexico, & there to either sell it (much more valuable in Mexico) or use it on his own future ranchito. It was his grub stake for a new life.

Then he fell in love.

Then he married.

His dream had changed. He sold the truck, & put a down payment on a house. He is still undocumented, but now he's committed to the U.S. He's burned his bridges on the field of love.

It is never easy to begin a new life for anybody anywhere. Having to live "hidden" from authorities has all sorts of hidden costs.
Being an undocumented man in this country is difficult, yet imagine what it is to be an undocumented woman....

      My son's madre & two aunts.
Any grown women in the country knows that, despite hard-fought for federal regulations & impressive societal gains in the last few decades, sexism in the workplace is still endemic. Where it doesn't occur it is the exception, & not the rule. The less resources one can mashal to resist it the less likely is success.

Now imagine yourself working as a domestic in someone's house. Imagine the husband comes home early. Or, the boss orders you to the his office. Imagine something unpleasant happening. Do you go to the police? Do you risk deportation & separation from your family? Do you trust that the police or the abuser won't contact the INS? How could you trust? Where would the basis for that trust come from...from a system that doesn't recognize your worth as a human? From a system that sees you more akin to a plague-or at least a "problem?"


The men & women who come here to work undocumented are as varied as your own friends. Optimists, cynics, religious fanatics, athiests, agnostics, & yes, scholarly types. I've known them. People with college degrees from Mexico who can quote Cervantes & dream of Frida Kahlo while washing dishes & alongside friends from the same town who didn't finish high school. Go to a car wash, & one of the women drying the car may've been a 3rd grade teacher last year in Jalisco or Oaxaca, until she fell in love with a man who was driven to seek work in El Norte. You may find she once taught niños y niñas about Ghandi & MLK, but now she teaches when to counter-rub.

Of course, it is difficult to conceptualize what it is to be undocumented here. It is hard to really "see" undocumenteds apart from absurd & harmful stereotypes broadcast from the MSM in threatening soundbytes. That's the system here. Undocumented means invisible except for when it means malignant.

How many have crossed the border between visibly documented & an state where they've disappeared from view into an undocumented existence?

No one knows exactly how many undocumented workers are here in the U.S. 11-12 million seems to be as good as a guess as any other. Those from Mexico are estimated to be about 59% of the total. Adding in Central & South America to that 59% results in an approximate total of 76% of the estimated 11-12 million being from Latin America. Lots of estimations there. Few hard facts. Spanish, though, remains the second most used language here in the U.S.

How it got this way-the rationale. The facile response is to say it is their fault for coming. That answer does not take into account the often incestuous relationship between Mexico & the United States that began in earnest with the war of aggression in 1845. Of necessity we don't have a border, we have a funnel.

Most U.S. citizens aren't aware that the southern Slave-owning class that initiated the Civil War of 1861 were the same slavers that championed the invasion & conquest of Northern Mexico-and that they did so over the heated objections of Lincoln, Thoreau & Twain.

After the Civil War, the U.S. slavers long dreamed of annexation of Mexico entero was replaced by U.S. capitalists with another path.

Los sin papeles aqui están quemados.

Photobucket In the 1960's movie QUEMADO (BURN), William Walker (the original gangster of filibusteros), is fictionally portrayed with great appropriate license by Marlon Brando. While his character explains the rationality behind supporting independence & an end to slavery, he yet provides reality-based clues as to why undocumented workers are both a permanent fixture of our landscape & a benefit to capital.

(Scene beginning at the .40 mark of the QUEMADO clip.)

Gentlemen, let me ask you a question. Now, my metaphor may seem a trifle impertinent, but I think it's very much to the point. Which do you prefer - or should I say, which do you find more convenient - a wife, or one of these mulatto girls? No, no, please don't misunderstand: I am talking strictly in terms of economics. What is the cost of the product? What is the product yield? The product, in this case, being love - uh, purely physical love, since sentiments obviously play no part in economics.
Quite. Now, a wife must be provided with a home, with food, with dresses, with medical attention, etc, etc. You're obliged to keep her a whole lifetime even when she's grown old and perhaps a trifle unproductive. And then, of course, if you have the bad luck to survive her, you have to pay for the funeral!

It's true, isn't it? Gentlemen, I know it's amusing, but those are the facts, aren't they? Now with a prostitute, on the other hand, it's quite a different matter, isn't it? You see, there's no need to lodge her or feed her, certainly no need to dress her or to bury her, thank God. She's yours only when you need her, you pay her only for that service, and you pay her by the hour! Which, gentlemen, is more important - and more convenient: a slave or a paid worker?
Ahora Kossackistas, which is considered more important - and more convenient - from the POV of both our government & our business class: a citizen (with claims to protection, services & representation) or an undocumented worker (who after sub-minimal wage is desposable & deportable)?

Taxation without representation

Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration and someone who enjoys bipartisan support for his straightforwardness, said that by 2007, the Social Security trust fund had received a net benefit of somewhere between $120 billion and $240 billion from unauthorized immigrants.
Think about the above reality that is well-known, though seldom expressed, in both the halls of congress & amongst the business community the next time you hear rants from nativists claiming that undocumented workers are robbing the country.
Photobucket Unlike in my parody to the left, the topic of undocumented workers isn't "officially" banned on Dailykos. It has cropped up at times in diaries or posts. In a recent diary Markos wrote on the rascism underlying the current nativism movement.
This crowd feels they are "losing their country" because brown people are moving in next door. They don't care whether those individuals are here legally or otherwise, they just care that those people don't have white skin.
The racism employs the fact of undocumentation as a shield to hide behind.
As for these nativist anti-immigration groups, theirs is a deeply rascist, deeply xenophobic outlook. But after pretending for years that their efforts were about the "rule of law," it's refreshing that their true colors are finally showing through. It was only a matter of time.

Sangre de Indio is no longer the perjorative term it once was in Mexico. The way younger Mexicans are self-identifying has been changing rapidly. The old caste system the Spanish imposed of self-hatred is finally being socially destroyed by youths who are proud of their Native American ancestory.

What if someone told you that plurality of those 11+ million "undocumented" workers were Native Americans (but not of the U.S.)? What if 11+ million Native Americans were facing summary deportation?

Pues, that is what they are beginning to say. Porque esa india yo soy

Most undocumented workers are not tribal & don't speak an Amerindian language. Still, Mexicans are 65% Native American by DNA. That 65% doesn't necessarily apply to "Mexican-Americans" who have been here several generations or more (& whose ancestors may or may not be primarily of Spanish descent). The 65% does especially apply to undocumenteds here from Mexico.

To be undocumented in the U.S. is to live in the shadow of a government that views you as a non-person, as a semi-invisible tresspasser, a fleeting ghost on the economic & social landscape, someone to exploit for labor, someone to collect taxes from, & someone to whom neither services nor representation is owed. A deportation waiting to happen. The modern continuation of the exploitation of indigenous Americans & enslaved Africans that our economy was originally anchored upon.

So where have those 11+ million people disappeared to? They've disappeared here into a land where too many view them through the prism of rascism, where they are often scapegoated for the ills of the society they prop up with their labor, where they are harvested for taxation without representation, & a land that is increasingly dependent upon them while claiming to reject them publicly.

Originally posted to MBismo Vencerá on Wed Sep 28, 2011 at 02:23 PM PDT.

Also republished by LatinoKos, America Latina, Baja Arizona Kossacks, Native American Netroots, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  AFAIK (5+ / 0-)
    Unlike in my parody to the left, the topic of undocumented workers isn't "officially" banned on Dailykos.

    This topic isn't banned, it isn't even "frowned upon".

    The fact of undocumented aliens is topical and important, no reason not to treat it as one would any other subject.

    I hope that the quality of debate will improve,
    but I fear we will remain Democrats.

    by twigg on Wed Sep 28, 2011 at 02:35:18 PM PDT

  •  unfortunately a sour economy means immigrants (7+ / 0-)

    are scapegoated.  Years ago, in NC an undocumented worker was arrested for vehicular homicide due to a DUI which resulted in a fatal traffic accident.  Unfortunately the driver had several DUIs which gave the anti immigration advocates ammunition for an absurd campaign to ensure that non citizens do not have drivers' licenses.  Only 3 states currently license nondocumented aliens (WA UT and NM) but the RW has  full fledged programs opposing such licensure (in the NC case, the offending driver was driving w/o a license)
    Read the comments following this short article
    here is an argument for such licensure
    please note many opponents of illegal immigration are opponents of all immigration and oppose licensure for all immigrants

    •  No driver's license means no testing of (7+ / 0-)

      driving skills & no insurance...sounds like they cut off the nose to spite the face of traffic safety.

      Meteor Blades seems to do an outstanding job of community moderation despite the abject failure to be perfect.

      by catilinus on Wed Sep 28, 2011 at 05:48:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I did not link to any of their sites (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        catilinus, Oh Mary Oh, koNko

        but do a quick search on illegal aliens and drivers' license; the results will amaze you

      •  It means (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        they should not be here in the first place - giving licenses just further enables and encourages more illegal behavior - it's not that hard to realize that.

        If being here in this country without actual permission to work, and providing false documentation giving permission to work aren't crimes, then I don't know why we have laws.

        Let's just have anarchy.

        •  False dichotomy (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          catilinus, happenstance, mithra

          The driver's license debate is basically one of choosing between least bad policies. In an ideal world, there would be no illegal immigration, however the economic incentives and structures (our border is by necessity permeable, and the American Southwest/Mexican North is essentially one economic unit, political subunits notwithstanding) make it fairly inevitable? Have we done a poor job of containing it? Certainly.

          Does this mean that we can afford to say, let illegal/undocumented immigrants go without driver's license --and therefore endanger traffic safety? You'd certainly have to weigh that against any sort of appeal to the rule of law (and insofar as 'criminals' go, I am bemused and amused by those who focus on the poor, desperate huddled masses and not the monied interests that are pretty awful.)

          We face similar problems in terms of basic services like health and education, and as such, our national policy has evolved into a patchwork (we offer,  for example, costly K-12 education to undocumented minors, but nationally offer no analogous assistance.) I don't think anyone could say that the policy is perfect, or even necessarily good, but it is the least bad of all the options in most cases and one that does not represent a dehumanization of perfectly dignified and decent subset of people.

          In a wider sense, what this means is that we'll probably need an actual comprehensive immigration plan for the future (and demographically, the US is looking at labor shortages in the 2030s-40s) as well as some means of restricting border flow presently and to present some sort of earned residency/citizenship to model undocumented/illegal immigrants.

          At least that's how I see it. The logistical, political, and social challenges that mass deportation would entail are too high to contemplate. While there will probably be some need for some deportation/weeding out of certain undesirable elements, I do think that ultimately any solution of the undocumented problem inside the country will need to involve some legalization mechanism.

          For the record, my sympathies for undocumented immigrants aside (as an emigrant Latino myself, albeit a legal one), I do understand your frustration. Laws exist for a reason. But I do think you would be better served in this debate by avoiding the thickets of strawmen and false dichotomies: no one here is arguing for anarchy and rhetorical hyperbole of that sort rarely advances the debate amongst people of good faith.

  •  Great diary. Giving voice to the invisible (7+ / 0-)

    Sometimes the undocumented are compared to the untouchable castes in India. But I think your analogy is better. They are largely invisible. They are like shadows. In my city of Milipitas here in the South Bay, there are a lot of hispanics working in the kitchens. They are seldom in the front where the customers could see them. But always in the kitchens. After closing time, you'd see a steady trickle of them leaving on bicycles and disappearing into the night.

    •  Hey neighbor, am in East Bay...too hot today to (6+ / 0-)

      be working with 7 or 8 prep cooks in a retail kitchen today.

      Meteor Blades seems to do an outstanding job of community moderation despite the abject failure to be perfect.

      by catilinus on Wed Sep 28, 2011 at 05:46:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hey ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        You bring back memories ... when I was going to school in the East Bay in the 1980s I worked nights as a prep chef in a CN restaurant for more than a year till one day I had an accident adjusting the motor on a mixer and crushed the middle finger of my right hand, which has never been the same. But to this day I do most of the prep at home because everyone else is too slow!

        Yep, gets way-way hot in the kitchen in the late summer.

        BYW, do you know this site and those linked on his blog roll? Good place to start.

        What about my Daughter's future?

        by koNko on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 09:20:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Needless to say, I don't work in a normal place (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catilinus, zett, Oh Mary Oh, angelajean, mithra

    Where I work, our floors are swept by people of northern European ancestry.  (Sometimes, me.)

    Our trucks with hazardous materials are unloaded by people of northern European ancestry.  (Sometimes, me.)

    Our toilets, until recently, were cleaned by people of northern European ancestry; but it looks like they are working a different shift now, so I don't see them.

    Fortunately, unloading trucks did pay enough so I could afford to go to Puerto Morelos for a week.  It's not like I spent the whole week looking for them, but I did not see any help wanted signs that say "Se requiere buena presentacion"

  •  Another great diary. Gracias. (5+ / 0-)

    I wish most US people would experience the border. And what's involved in cross it (legally or otherwise).

    I wish people would cut the "invisible" meme.  There are 15 million (my guess) undocumented workers in the US.  70% are from Mexico and Central America.  That means this:  If the dish on your table at the restaurant is clean, we know who cleaned it.  If the lawns in the neighborhood are cut, we know who cut it.  These people aren't invisible, they're ignored.  It would be really nice if we could get past that.

    It would be nice if folks would ask. Who are these people riding the subway early in the morning and late at night reading El Diario?  

  •  Balance (7+ / 0-)

    There is very little of it in the discussion of illegal immigration, there never really has been.

    Taxation without representation


    This is for tax processing year 2010.

    I won't be coming home tonight, my generation will put it right - Genesis 9:3

    by superscalar on Wed Sep 28, 2011 at 07:47:36 PM PDT

    •  Agreed (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      catilinus, shanikka

      This is ultimately a debate on a cost-benefit spectrum and without the full panoply of information, there is no way to make an informed decision.

      I do lurk very frequently on this site, and while I suspect my own policy proclivities are rather different than yours, I have always appreciated the amount of information you bring to the subject. I try to learn something new everyday, you know.

      Anyhow, thanks.

      For my own part, I do think that the protocol for these debates should be as follows:

      1. Be passionate, but intellectually honest.
      2. Demonize not. Lest ye become a Republican. This can go either way. Protectionists/anti-free traders/immigration restrictionists are not necessarily bad guys. By the same token, treating undocumented/illegal immigrants as evil people should be a no-no. We are talking about vast economic forces shaping things here, not moral proclivities.
      3. Search for information from both sides. I don't mean to present a golden mean fallacy, and I certainly have my own views, but illegal immigration is a vast and complex phenomenon and simple narratives are self-defeating. In particular, the byzantine immigration system of the United States (one which I experienced first-hand) yields no easy answers with regards to reform.
      4. Related to #2, but assume an argument in good faith. Unless there's explicit nativist/racialized talk, there's no reason to rush to overheated rhetoric about anarchist open-border pushers, or racists or whatnot.

  •  Excellent diary, thank you, catilinus. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catilinus, Oh Mary Oh, angelajean

    I'm going to try to print this out to share with a pal who lives "rustic" by choice (no internet, no cable)

    "Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don't be attached to the results." -- Angeles Arrien

    by Sybil Liberty on Wed Sep 28, 2011 at 07:59:43 PM PDT

  •  12 million of us died in the USA genocide (6+ / 0-)

    in "trails of tears", "long walks", removals, reservations, disease, famine and war; so I invite my brothers and sisters from south of us to come replace our lost ones. Welcome.

    America could have chosen to be the worlds doctor, or grocer. We choose instead to be her policeman. pity

    by cacamp on Wed Sep 28, 2011 at 08:53:45 PM PDT

  •  It is very difficult for us not to empathize (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    angelajean, catilinus

    with the struggle of other human beings, particularly when said human beings' motivation is primarily a better life.

    Still, we must be responsible. Most of us would not be qualified or able to hold political office or to run bureaucracies, yet we insist that if we "just do this" or "just do that" or "just ignore this", everything will work out fine, even though we have no examples of that "truth", particularly in the immigration arena.

    Justified anger does not grant you unrestricted license.

    by GoGoGoEverton on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 05:46:07 AM PDT

  •  You have given me some new framing to us. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AZ Independent, catilinus
    Porque esa india yo soy

    I think that is an important phrase not only in North America but in South America as well. There is a new found pride in being from South America, originally. It is a movement that also seems tied to protecting the land as well as the people who come from it.

  •  Great post! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Such great writing and perspective.

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful stories.

    "Look at this; I'm a coward too; You don't need to hide, my friend; For I'm just like you" - Monster/Sprite (Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites - Skrillex)

    by AZ Independent on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 08:26:54 AM PDT

  •  Thank you... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catilinus, navajo

    for humanizing the undocumented in your story, C. All my best.

  •  The Irish. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I lived in San Francisco for 6 years until recently and realized how many illegal Irish live in the bay area. They take good American jobs -- mostly construction contracting jobs. They hang out under Irish flags at pubs drinking dark beer and watching foreign soccer. And they speak a wicked English to each other which can't hardly be understood by us normal Americans. Yet they're totally accepted as if they were passport carrying Americans. The brown Spanish speakers, lovers of chilled beer and hard work -- not so much.

    Snark of course.

    "I never met a man I didn't like." Will Rogers - American Redneck

    by chuco35 on Thu Sep 29, 2011 at 01:57:15 PM PDT

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