Monday, May 01, 2006

In Support of Immigrants

I would guess that about a third of the people I work with are immigrants. All of them are certainly in this country legally. About half are upper-middle class white-collar workers. The other half are service workers at our facility. So today, as immigrants throughout Oregon (and other parts of the country I believe) were proclaiming a "day without immigrant workers," I was very eager to see what the workplace would be like. Can you guess?

I didn't notice any conspicuous absences among the white-collar crowd, but the cafeteria (which is run by a fairly progressive outside vendor) was running with a skeleton crew AND was serving all the food on paper plates. There was no one to wash the dishes.

Having grown-up in a community that made the ELCA look as culturally diverse as it wishes it were, I really value the diversity in my workplace and in my daughters' school. And it pains me to see America deciding that we need to clamp down our borders and only let "useful" people in.

I actually saw a newscast where "people on the street" were claiming that migrant workers from Mexico posed a threat to national security!


Christopher said...

I wish I could have been state side to see this event. It sounds kind of cool. Hopefully it shows folks how involved immigrants are with the basic functioning of our society, and from that hopefully the realization doesn't fold into xenophobia, but instead some sort of acceptance.

Tom in Ontario said...

My parents were born in Eastern Europe, were refugees during WWII, then immigrated to Canada.

I think the biggest outcry is, again, regarding illegal immigration. I asked on a discussion site somewhere else what would happen if they rounded up all the illegals, sent them back where they came from, and made the borders inpenetrable to keep them from coming back. Who would do the work they're doing now?

One person said it's a good question but nobody's come up with a reply to the question.

P.S. (an after-thought) said...

For those of us whose ancestors came "legally" I want to know what legal immigrant meant in those days? Did they have paperwork in order BEFORE they left the Old Country? Or did they land at Ellis Island and then go through the process, HOPING to be accepted?

Let's not also forget that many of both the "legals" and the "illegals" had no choice as they came as children.

We have naturalized "legals" in our extended family who came has children, with no choice on their part. Because of the parent's marriage, one has a northern European last name, but definetly looks non-white. He was called it to fill a job, but when he got there, the boss looked at him and said the job was filled.

So I'm wondering how much of the current uproar is due to racism rather then being concerned about the actual immigration. And I wonder how much back lash there will be against people who "look like immigrants" because they don't fit the norm of the area where they live.

Andy said...

I tend to regard the legal/illegal distinction as part of the machinery of injustice. When my company brings in a PhD from India, we make sure all the paperwork gets done to make them legal. When a poor family from Mexico crosses the border looking for enough work to put food on the table, the last thing they want to do is have to justify their presence in this country. And then because they are here "illegally" they are vulnerable to exploitation by unethical employers.