A Day Without An Illegal Immigrant
What was the Impact?
It was truly an historic day, a good segment of Los Angeles? illegal immigrant population took a day off! No work, amigos, no school for over 70 thousand already struggling LAUSD black and Latino kids, viva! Businesses all over the poorest sections of Los Angeles closed their doors in support of the illegal immigrant?s attempt to flex their fiscal muscle to show their newfound political clout. It was almost like a gay pride, ?we?re here, we?re queer?,? chant, instead it was, ?we?re here, we?re illegal, but not for long!?
Published on LatinoLA: May 3, 2006
As a Latino living in Sherman Oaks, in the San Fernando Valley, I wondered what the impact of a day without an illegal immigrant would be on my life. Would I not be able to have lunch at Panda Express because there would be no Mexican cooks (Chinese people don?t work or eat at Panda Express). Would I not be able to order my decaff latte, low fat, no foam at Starbucks?? Would I not be able to get my car washed anywhere in the Valley? Should I be concerned?
Well, my day began by watching news accounts of large numbers of Latinos, both legal and not, gathering at different parks and city government buildings around the country. As I walked to my car to head off to work, most of my neighbors (of all ethnicities) seemed to be doing the same. We glanced at each other with the standard, ?morning?? and nod of the head.
Much to my delight, my Starbucks was open and doing business as usual. I got my morning cup at hit the infamous 405 freeway (sometimes called Satan?s highway for its traffic conditions). Yup, a bunch of cars heading south, just like me, looking like, as every morning, people heading off to work. Business as usual?traffic, talk radio, cell phone conversations and Starbucks coffee.
There was at least one significant difference I noted, there seemed to be fewer cars (even though there was still traffic), and fewer collisions slowing the flow of traffic. As I took a sip of my grande latte, I thought, ?Well, gee, this can?t be all bad. At least if I?m in a collision this morning, it?s likely the driver of the other vehicle will speak English and be insured as I am. Nice.?
I got to work and found that some 30 of our workforce had stayed off the job. Some were excused absences, most were not, all were black or Hispanic (of course). I wondered why our workforce of mostly lower socio-economic ?minority,? yet legal workers, who mostly complain about money, were willing to lose a days pay for a cause that has little (if any) affect on their daily lives. Then I looked in our training room and saw that there were at least 30 applicants trying to get a job with our company.
It reminded me of the grocery workers strike of a couple years ago. The unions believed that if workers stayed off the job, commerce would come to a halt, business would suffer, customers would disappear, and life as we know it at Ralph?s would cease. It didn?t happen. There were plenty of other people willing to work those temporary jobs while the union workers walked picket lines to make a point. If the minority employees at my place of employment don?t want their jobs, there are certainly people in the world that do.
As I was having lunch with my Companera, I saw restaurants feeding people, gas stations peddling gas, Starbucks selling coffee, and the usual hustle and bustle of the city that I love. I later heard on the radio that the impact on business was mostly in Hispanic communities where most illegal immigrants reside. Sherman Oaks hardly knew anything out of the ordinary was happening.
I wondered why the event had such little impact on most people?s lives, and then thought about the numbers involved here;
* 300 million people in America
* 12 million illegal immigrants in America
* ? a million marching in the streets of Los Angeles
* Another 500 thousand or so around the country
I guess 299 million other people, citizen and non-citizen, including 11 million illegal immigrants in this country were not interested, involved, or cared to participate in the protest. They mostly went to work, school, and tended to the daily tasks of their lives. So, what was the value of the day without an illegal immigrant protest?
While those on the political-left, and those who have broken the law to enter our country, believe they have made history by mobilizing some of our illegal immigrant population onto the streets of America, what they have really done is make those of us who could be swayed by facts (not feelings) to support their cause, actually side with those opposed to their position. It is clear to most of us Latino ?citizens? that the illegal population wants amnesty with no repercussions for anything they do.
Every ?protester? I saw on television either had little or no knowledge of the laws being considered at the federal level, or did not care about the facts of the issue at all. Most illegal immigrants (especially from Mexico and other Latin American countries) are not interested in becoming U.S. citizens, as much as they are interested in having the laws changed so they can continue to work in this country and send money to their own country without the threat of arrest or deportation.
Like most Americans (unfortunately), illegal immigrants have come to believe, with the help of the democratic party, local politicians like Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa and the Catholic Church, that they are ?entitled? to every service or benefit afforded to citizens. The old Kennedy (John not Ted!) mantra of ?ask not what your country can do for you?,? has become more of a Janet Jackson, ?what have you done for me lately.?
As a Mexican-American born and raised in East Los Angeles, I would like to think that those who have broken our laws to enter the country to have babies, commit crimes, access services paid for by someone else, would, at least at some point, just say thank you America.
Thank you for not arresting and deporting me for breaking your immigration laws. Thank you for not questioning why I have come from another country to have a baby at your county facilities for free to ensure that I will always have access to your social services and educational system, with the knowledge that you won?t take any action against me because of your concern for my American child. Thank you for letting me thumb my nose at your laws, and then demand more from you. Thank you.
Gil Contreras is a former law enforcement officer, award winning journalist and writer living in Los Angeles.