By: Sandra Galindo •
“…What is your Wet number?” “Are you allowed to be here?” “Why you don’t speak our language?” “Why don’t you go to work at the strawberry fields where you belong?” “What is your other job… having babies?” “Mmmmm, I would like a tamal with strawberries on top”…. “At least I’m White”…. “Go back to your country!”
We are outside Wal-Mart, working as blockers hired by the San Diego Labor Council. My heart drops as a young white couple continues to go on and on against me. I can’t believe they are attacking me only for the color of my skin and my strong Mexican accent! (That part, I don’t care by the way). I am shocked to witness the lack of compassion because I’m not one of them, the white privileged, but my co-worker, a young smart Latina born and raised in San Diego, seems to be enjoying the war of words between us. Maybe she is used to it. It is a really complex world we live in.
Suddenly I don’t feel safe and I decide to leave. My co-worker asks me if I feel ok when she notices that I’m about to cry. But I’m not crying for the attack against me; my thoughts and tears are with the millions of immigrants without documents that face discrimination on a daily basis and that are victims of racist violence. Incidents like this made me realize how hate groups cause an emotional anguish on immigrants, and the dangers of hate they challenge. Every day in San Diego we hear about another unfortunate event against people from our communities. People whose only crime is to be here working in this country without documents. Not having “papers” makes them susceptible to abuses from many people who think that because they don’t speak their language and or have a different color, they can be easily exploited. Miguel Angel, a 24-year old undocumented worker from Honduras, has worked for an American-Canadian guy for almost a year. This employer only gives orders and goes to sit in his truck, watching everyone else. A very capable Honduran construction worker guided him to get his construction license but he paid him back by calling the border patrol and he was deported. He constantly makes fun of it.
Miguel Angel works in construction and he is in charge of his crew of four other undocumented immigrants like him. Depending on their contract, they work in different locations. This week they are working in Los Angeles. Because they drive every day from San Diego, arriving approximately at 11am, he only works three to four hours daily. The disparity in pay is an insult and ridiculous. A person with documents working the same job earns from 800- 1000 dollars weekly, but Miguel, if he’s lucky, gets $150, but only after waiting 2 -3 weeks after they finish the job. Says Miguel Angel about his experience: “We had a car accident on our way back to San Diego, we got very hurt, but the boss does not even ask us how we felt, even when we were bleeding. We are treated worse than dogs.” They hope someday an Immigration Reform is approved so they can finally stop living in the shadows and improve their quality of life. They dream of a better future, they dream of their children becoming doctors or lawyers. Immigrants are human beings too!
I disagree with Miguel’s last statement, because dogs in the United States have more rights than undocumented immigrants. Immigrants like Miguel face hatred, racism, discrimination, abuses, and high levels of poverty, language and cultural barriers among many other struggles. The war-like situation is incremented living in constant fear of being arrested and deported by any of the new laws that prosecute them. The feeling of abandonment and rejection is tremendous; they feel helpless, frightened, and without allies because without documents, they are isolated from their culture, their people and the “law of the land.” What migrants wonder now is why after they built their detractors homes and harvest their food, they are treated like criminals. “We have given our years to this country, our youth. We come to do the job that they are not willing to do,” and they are treated as if they don’t belong.
In the last months, the constant harassment from police agents has increased making the lives of many miserable. People are being asked questions about their citizenships and nationality. Many of them refuse to drive in a freeway, afraid of having traffic incidents that lead to deportations. My eldest daughter asked one of her closest friends if she could give her a ride home since I was still working, and she said “I am sorry but my mother only drives from home to school and return, she doesn’t use the freeway.” They live like five miles from school. The fear of being targeted is keeping many from going about their daily lives. They must act as “criminals,” as the system likes to label them, when in reality they are more “loyal and productive citizens” than the “citizens” who claim to represent and uphold the principles of our constitution. Police don’t need checkpoints to stop drivers. Immigrants are asked to pull over even without violating any traffic laws, just because they “fit the mold” of “illegality.” When they can’t provide a driver’s license, they are cuffed and held until ICE arrives, even when they don’t have any criminal record. Then they are taken to detention centers where they can be held for months and even years in jail.
Many poor workers like me are disgusted by the actions of the police and really suffer each time we witness an unlawful detention of maybe a father, a mother or a son that will never return home. We need to inform our communities about the resources at their disposal; human rights contacts, lawyers and important information that can make the difference in their life as undocumented workers. More than 11 million immigrants live in the U.S. They operate in constant fear as a result of the dangers of this country’s discriminatory immigration laws, and are forced to live a shadow life. We are welcomed with open arms to come work here, but certain interest groups don’t want to see us get our fair share. Racism in the United States is not something new. We mistakenly believe that in the 21st century things have really changed, but the hatred is still breathing and moving. Sometimes it is camouflaged, and it has not been eradicated.
You can ask many immigrants or you can visit any blogs against them. Just pay attention to the most recent political debates among Republicans. You don’t have to be an activist to detect and act against the injustices happening all around us. Any person, conscious of his or her surroundings and with a heart instead of a corporate heartbeat, will without a doubt see the injustices happening all around. That does not mean that the Democrats accept us either. Everyone plays their cards different, yet all aspire to the same results. Sometimes they politely pretend we can work together and show interest in helping our cause, but they only need our vote. Once they achieve their objectives, they go back to forgetting us. Broken promises everywhere we go, shattered dreams every step they take.