A group of undocumented workers stand on a particular side road I pass each morning on my way to work. They line up leaning against a wooden fence, looking at the ground or glancing at cars passing by. Sometimes a truck pulls over, they huddle close. A few hop in the back. The truck u-turns and veers away. The others compress their line, and continue waiting.
Today, stopped at a red light by the road, I glanced to my left and saw five police cars, their lights flashing, heavily armed cops standing in a huddle around one Hispanic teenager, maybe twenty, tops, sitting on the curb, his elbows on his knee, his head in his hands, a vacant expression on his face.
The light turned green, the car behind me honked, I drove on trying to make sense of what I saw: A boy whose life today on March 5, 2009 is forever changed. He will sit in holding cells, he will second guess why he wasn’t fast enough to run away like the others, in the end, he will be deported.
I haven’t formulated my solution to the issue of undocumented immigrants, but there are a few things I know:
1. I am a legal citizen because I was born here. I didn’t choose the place of my birth, none of us did. My status does not make me better than anyone else, it just makes me lucky. Even if your forefathers came on the Mayflower, you’re still the recipient of happenstance.
2. Most rational people don’t want to leave their home for a foreign land where they don’t speak the language, where they withstand the risk of death and exploitation just to get there, where they will live in constant fear of getting caught, where they know from the glances of people on the street they are not wanted. Is there a less offensive term besides Mexican that I can call you? Asks NBC’s The Office boss to his Mexican employee. Yeah its a joke, but it reflects a truth in our society that those who endure know better than others. There is a desperation, that drew those men here that I cannot understand because I have not endured it. Ask any undocumented person, the ache they feel when they think of home.
3. No matter how we feel about immigration, the truth is most undocumented people aren’t here to steal your jobs, or rob your house, they’re here because they felt they had no choice. We can argue it until the dogs come home whether this is true, but unless you had to make that choice, you really can’t say for sure.
Watch The Visitor. It was a tremendous movie and it helped shed a light ever so subtly on this controversial topic.