Skip to comments.Youngster dreams of returning to Mexico to enjoy the fruits of his labor
Posted on 11/23/2003 1:40:03 PM PST by yonif
Jose already has the scenario in mind. He's seen other homecomings: The men who had disappeared into California's fields years before returning to their small hometowns in Mexico, driving nice trucks and with pockets full of cash.
"When you go back, they treat you like a king," said Jose, through a translator, just a few months before his own trip back home to Ecuandureo, Michoacan, for the first time in three years.
The dream of the grand return contrasts with the months that have just passed for this 19-year-old undocumented worker. Jose speaks no English, has few possessions beyond the clothes on his back, and travels all over the state looking for work.
"They make it look nice and beautiful but when you're up here, it's not," Jose said. He was in Napa County for harvest, one of the toughest in years. It's just his luck that it turned out to be a bad year for his first time, he said, his sarcasm coming through in the translation. The time spent in Napa wasn't easy, from stretches of days without work to getting fidgety at the River Ranch Farmworker Center, the new camp in St. Helena where he was one of three or four teenagers living in an all-male dormitory.
Boredom kicked in often, said Jose, adding that he missed the "pretty women" in Los Angeles, where he spends the other half of the year, living with extended family members. "There's nothing to do here," he said, smoking outside the dormitory on a hot afternoon when he couldn't find any more work for the day.
On the surface, he doesn't look like an immigrant or a fieldworker. His bright yellow and baby blue ball cap, worn backwards, and baggy shorts barely held onto his waist give him the look of any teenager from the United States.
One early weekday morning, he cuts Sangiovese grapes from the vines in a local field. Walking in twos or threes down perfect rows with friends, Jose uses a small knife to strike at the stems, letting the grapes fall into a plastic bin beneath him. It's the tail end of harvest, and many bunches of grapes have already shriveled in the sun. The vineyard owner had trouble finding a buyer this year. It only takes an hour to get the work done, so the crew waits more hours at a picnic table nearby. They already know there's more work tomorrow, this time in Angwin.
A young farmworker, who at first says he is 14 but shows an ID card that puts him at a fake 18, drives over to the area. In Spanish, Jose defends his friend for getting behind the wheel, saying he has a license from Dios. Everyone laughs, knowing that it doesn't matter if you're 14 or 44 if you are an illegal immigrant and driving: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has sworn to overturn a law allowing illegal immigrants to get licenses. That doesn't stop many of these men are driving from job to job anyway.
The only identification Jose has is a high school ID card from a school he attended for one month in Southern California. He didn't have enough energy to go to school and then work eight hour shifts in construction. He had been making roughly $8 an hour.
The money in grapes is much better than the money in mortar. On a good week last harvest, he made $600. On a bad week, he made $300.
Jose heard about the opportunities in the Napa Valley through his brother, also a migrant laborer, so he came up here from the south, settling at the farmworker camp for three months of harvest. He shared a small room with his older brother. It had an old television set, a stereo and two beds. All of Jose's belongings, mostly CDs of Mexican folk music and rap, fit on a small shelf over his bed.
He pulled out a receipt showing the earnings he was able to send home one week: $1,000 for the month, which his parents have put into a savings account. Jose said they haven't used any of his savings, though he's told them they can. Jose keeps $400, which mostly goes for room and board at the farmworker center.
When he goes back to his parents' house in December, he's got a mission in mind. He's planning to find a wife, though he's playing his cards carefully, not promising himself to the 16-year-old who's been showing up at his parent's goat farm for the past year. "Girls down there fall in love if you have money," Jose said. "But love is more important."
On a whim three years ago -- not out of necessity -- Jose decided to cross the border with his uncle, taking two attempts to get across. The first time, United States immigration officials found him, locked him up for a few hours, fed him and sent him back. He's glad he didn't get caught on the other side, he said. He started a different route the very next day, which involved days of walking through desert and a perilous river crossing in which he says at least one person drowned.
Jose's planning to pay $1,500 to get back across again in January. "I've just saved enough money up," said Jose, adding that he's worried about the trip. "It's just how it is. It's worth it. There's a lot of money out here."
He's planning a more expansive migrant route when he returns to the United States in January. His sister, who's married to a U.S. citizen in Chicago, wants him to go out there for restaurant work. He also wants to work harvest again in Napa in the future, not marred by the experience of being in Napa for one of the slowest harvests in recent memory.
On this particular morning, Jose and less than 20 men work for a few hours before they're done, then they take a rest under a tree near the field. Sitting around picnic tables, Jose is asked if he's related to anyone else in this crew.
"They're all my family," he says in Spanish. "Right?" he asks them. Yes, they all nod in agreement, smiling at each other. "My cousins and brothers," he adds.
All that untaxed money going south of the border, while citizens/taxpayers of this country pay for social services, health care, etc. for non-taxpaying illegals. Anywhere in the Southwestern U.S., just walk into the county hospital, any government welfare office, any free services office at all, for that matter, and bring your English/Spanish dictionary with you. And our government does nothing about our non-existant borders, although you might have thought 9/ll would make them more vigilent. But that would also stop the millions of illegals that provide cheap labor for businesses.
This is the classic problem, however, who would otherwise pick these crops? The answer is that we must FIRST control the border and only then, allow the NEXT half million guest workers who follow our administrative requirements to apply. Any "consideration" to the law breakers already here means that another six million will come north so as to qualify for the NEXT amnesty. Remember, with fake documents, Yankee pensions, benefits, and cash can be obtained and, even, mailed back to home in Mexico.
Anyone. The farmers would just have to bid the wage to something that legitimate citizens would work for.
And that would not entail any significant rise in the cost of produce. The actual labor cost of a head of lettuce has been estimated at around 15 cents. The wage rate could be doubled and Mrs. Soccer Mommy in St. Louis would barely notice the increase. For that matter, there are plently of labor saving machinery designs for high value agriculture which are not implemented because the cost of illegal labor simply makes it not economical. Instead of mechanization, agriculture is instead going to Mexicanization.
The fact that illegals are basically given carte blanche to scurry across the American landscape in search of temporary labor has to do with the political calculation that if we don't allow that to happen, a social catastrophe will occur in Mexico (that's true). The fact that the policy serves the needs of Mexico's despicable ruling class at the expense of the citizens of the United States merely shows the contempt in which we are held by our leaders.
Illegal immigration is not inevitable, it's a function of government policy. Were it to stop, there would be a net positive effect on the economy of the United States, not a net negative as is routinely asserted.
Someone needs to tell Jose that its universal, not just Mexico
That is a GREAT line! I hope you don't mind if I start using that one myself! Good job!
True. I don't know who keeps spouting all this nonsense about Americans being too prissy to get their hands dirty. For a wage they can live on, Americans will clean toilets, pick crops, shovel manure, etc. But, we won't do it for 50 cents an hour. We can't.
I agree! Jack Black for President!
The reason the year was so tough is that there is so many illegals now that supply (illegals) have overwhelmed demand (citizens). Simple economics.
Now go home Jose.
Oh, the poor illegals....
This has got to stop.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.