The Great Mexican Wall of Despair

Now that unlawful immigrants who went through goodness-knows-what to get to America so they could purse a better life can be snatched, detained and deported for jaywalking … it makes me think about how sometimes life just puts a big, immobile obstacle in our path. We have to find a way to deal with it.

I’m disheartened by what I see with this new tyrannical style of government. I haven’t seen the film A Day Without a Mexican – I hear it’s quite good – but I don’t really want to see it and be faced with imagining the absurdity of such a life. I don’t need to be reminded of what it would be like if five million Hispanic people vanished from our country, because I enjoy the fruits of their labor every day.

I sometimes wonder if people who support a wall along the Mexican border and the deportation of parents with American-born children have really thought through how this would impact their own individual life. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that Americans want to take those jobs, working in tiny, authentic Mexican restaurants, cleaning houses and office buildings, laying tile, picking and processing produce, trimming lawns and all the other valuable services that, frankly, make America beautiful (and tasty). Do we want those jobs? Do we want to pay $18 for a margarita or $175 a week to mow our pleasant valley Sunday lawns? Will we even find someone willing to do it, or will we get stuck out in the yard every weekend this summer mowing and trimming and weeding in 100 degree heat?

Have we considered that?

People who are dissatisfied with their lives don’t just want jobs, they want good paying jobs. Most illegal Mexican immigrants don’t hold those jobs; the highly skilled, highly educated, sponsored immigrants do. If we want the high paying immigrant jobs, we’re going to have attend four to six years of college, minimum. And probably work a job like waiting tables for less than minimum wage while getting that degree to help pay for it.

When I think of Mexicans, I don’t think of rapists and murderers and bad hombres. Quite the opposite, in fact. I think of family. Happy, noisy chatter, lively music, wonderful smelling food and children racing around giggling while adults sit around in conversation and raucous laughter. That’s what you see in the movies, but it’s also what you see in well-maintained, low-income neighborhoods on late Saturday afternoons. It’s lovely.

Are we angry about that? Are we mad that we’ve lost a sense of our own familial culture? White folks sitting around a formal dining room arguing about whether the daughter should take a gap year to travel throughout South America or head straight into the soulless workforce? That’s what you see in the movies; is that what dinner is like at your house? Do you argue about money and how to pay for the broken washing machine? It’s tense, always tense. American life expectancies will surely begin to dial back if we don’t start relaxing and laughing and incorporating some of the finer points of the culture our immigrants bring to the table. Perhaps the Great Wall of Mexico is merely a symbol of our own despair.

There are more practical reasons why we need young immigrants in this country. We need them to start backfilling white- and blue-collar jobs that will vacate when all the baby boomers retire. We need more documented workers paying payroll taxes into our federal system to help support Social Security and Medicare so that baby boomers who paid into that system for decades don’t have to live out retirement in poverty and pain. We need more non-obese people paying for healthcare insurance to bolster our insurance pools so that no one has to pay outrageous premiums. We need more people legitimately employed and paying taxes so that we can repair and enhance our nation’s infrastructure, public education system, community resources, arts and national parks.

If we don’t have immigrant workers paying into the system, then each of us will have to pay higher taxes. That will be even harder because we’ll also be paying so much more for domestic services and products imported from other countries.

Recently I spoke with a friend whose house was randomly re-assessed 50 percent higher by her county, even though its original assessment never fell when the home’s market value dropped by half during the recession. After complaining and sighing over her action plan she remarked, “But these are just white person problems.” Indeed. Since that conversation I’ve been considering every new challenge in my life with this filter: Is this a problem born out of the privilege of my birth?

Have you considered the randomness of where you were born – what family, what country, what circumstance?

Yes, my white person problems are challenging nonetheless. When life throws an obstacle in my path, like some impenetrable wall, I can try all of the legal and logistical means to have it removed. I can take the low road and find a way under it, usually by tapping my white-bread network who will prioritize my needs over others equally deserving. I can take the high road and find a way over it; maybe, if I’m clever. I can take the long, inconvenient route to travel around the wall. Or I can accept the wall, ignore it; go about my indifferent life and consider it other people’s problem. But the very definition of a white person’s problem is that this obstacle, this wall, won’t be a factor that forever changes the tapestry of my life.

I will leave you with just one more thought: What’s the point of deporting illegal immigrants now before we erect the Great Mexican Wall of Despair? They’ll just find a way to return, because they were clever and hard-working enough to get here in the first place. I’m heartened by that fact.

©CO Insights. 2017.


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