I met Joe while we were each drinking a senior coffee under the golden arches in Liberal, Kansas.
We were both headed south, toward the main thrust of what has come to be called the “immigration problem” on the Mexican border.
I was travelling to Harlingen, Texas, right there by South Padre Island on the Gulf Coast, to see my son, and I had already been driving for a couple hundred miles.
Joe was just leaving his home in Liberal, where he had worked in meat packing more than 30 years, for his home in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, the place he had grown up in.
Joe was happy with his personal accomplishments, owning both a home in Liberal and a home in Chihuahua, all part of the personal success of a poor Mexican boy who had started with few expectations.
He gave me his telephone numbers, and guaranteed me that if I visited him in Chihuahua, no drug gangs would bother me, and that he would speak to neighbors for miles around declaring that I was his friend.
I first noticed Joe because many people coming into the Mickey D’s stopped to visit and laugh with him where he sat alone. His merry brown eyes came to be making frequent contact with my own, and given the attractions men over 60 seem to have for visiting with each other, we began to talk.
OK, I admit, I’m gabby, and start speaking to many people. That’s how I started talking to this Mexican guy who turned out to be warmly human.
Joe had his American citizenship, which of course meant he was legal here. So, I asked him his solution to the “immigration problem.”
He said unify the two nations, the United States and Mexico. “The U.S. never should have let Mexico go after it conquered it.
“I would love for my Chihuahua to be part of the United States.”
Well now, I thought that was different, not quite the talking heads of our political parties repeating their slogans on the subject. I don’t know that I agree with Joe even now, but it was interesting to meet a person with love of both nations involved, who spoke both English and Spanish well but very little talking head lingo.
Joe came to Liberal to support family who came with him, and to send money home to relatives in Chihuahua. He needed the work, and many of his family were desperate for sustenance.
A restaurant worker further along the way told me the need is so great that sometimes villages are devastated by the emigration out of Mexico. The young people were gone to the U.S. in his own village, he said, leaving the old and the disabled to wait for money coming back from them.
In Harlingen, which mostly is a Latino city, there were many other stories. I learned that latinos there who are U.S. citizens like to be called Hispanics while those who are not citizens or who are illegal are called Mexicans, not Hispanics.
I saw the border fence. I saw border patrol with dogs and highway patrol chasing illegals in a pasture. Even 70 miles north of the border there were border patrol inspection stations.
I noticed the uniformity of the border patrol dogs, and was laughingly told by a plump Hispanic lady when I asked her about them that they are “registered Mexican Retrievers.” I later learned they are crosses between Belgian Shepherds and German Shepherds.
Immigration is changing the land and the way things are done in the land. Some of it is nearly joyful like my son’s uncommon new appetite for tamales, and some of it reminds you of scenes from old Nazi movies like the neatly uniformed guard with a dog asking you to roll down your window. The guard asks you if you are an American citizen, and usually he’s asking in a Mexican accent.
The latest statistic I found said the United States reached a high point of more than 11 million illegal aliens which is now reduced to 10 million because even the aliens aren’t finding sufficient work in this economy. The largest proportion of them were Mexicans.
Arizona is to be commended for enforcing the law, I guess. Yes, the law needs to be enforced, and those violating it prosecuted to the full letter.
But it’s a two-way street, not just about prosecuting the immigrants. They struggle to get here--die in the deserts trying sometimes according to the news—all because there are persons here willing to make more money hiring the immigrants for lower wages.
A person in the beef packing industry I once interviewed told me the immigrants had helped “break” the unions.
I listened to one person brag about the money he had made hiring “cheap Mexicans.”
Prosecute those illegal employers, too. Investigate their withholding taxes. Put them in the same prisons with convicted illegal immigrants to generate electricity pedaling bicycles. I saw that done at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs by zoo visitors, not convicts.
The laws need to be enforced, and even more they need to be changed.
They have a human face.