Friday, July 24, 2015


Juan and I have been friends for three years now. We are close to the same age and are in the same fraternal organization. When I needed help siding my house, he was the first person I called to give me a hand. He is one of the hardest working people I know and though he struggles to gain a foothold in life, you'll never catch him without a smile, willing to give you a handshake or even the shirt off his back. Yet according to Donald Trump, he is a rapist, murderer or drug dealer.

Juan has lived in the United States for the last 25 years illegally. Seeking to remove himself from a troubled childhood and no really good long term prospects in life due to his parents divorce and living with aging grandparents, Juan walked to the United States at the age of 20. Back then, the corner between southwestern California and northwestern Mexico near Tijuana had a fence that ended at the beach. Juan simply walked the beach north into the United States and had an Aunt living in L.A. pick him up. He lived in L.A. for while and I believe a few other places before settling in rural Southeast Iowa, which is home to a large Hispanic population due to a large meat packing plant that actively recruits their ethnic group. I'm sure they are actively recruited because they in large are hard workers and willing to work for low pay. To them, just being able to live here and have a stable job where they can send the majority of their pay home is living the dream.

The catch to all this is that Juan came here illegally and is living here illegally. Because he doesn't have papers, he can't take chances driving long distances for risk of being caught. He has tried paying taxes every year he has been here and has requested a pin number from the IRS so that he can pay taxes but they never follow up to his requests. He went home once ten years ago to visit his parents and siblings whom he hadn't seen for 15 years. His father was ailing in health and Juan wanted to stay a bit longer but his father told him to go back to the U.S. where he could live a better life than he had. They told him it was no longer safe to cross the border so their goodbyes were forever. Juan sneaked back across the border into the U.S. for the last time and his father died two weeks later.

Juan can't get a drivers license, can't pay taxes and can't apply for loans. He would love to own a home one day and religiously saves up for it but for him, 100% down is the only route. He has enough saved up to buy a really small run down house but his fiance would like something better so he continues to save up even more. Until then, he lives cheerfully in a run down trailer in an overcrowded trailer park making do with what he has. His one hope is that his fiance, legally here, recently obtained her greencard and is on the route to citizenship some five years down the road. Currently however, there is still no route to obtaining a greencard for himself. If she were to obtain her citizenship five years down the road, they could marry and Juan could apply for citizenship but under current laws, he would have to first serve a ten year penalty for being here illegally and spend that penalty back in Mexico. His brothers are simply shrimp fishermen having divided up his father's business and there is no room to support Juan for those ten years. This is ignoring the fact that he would be 50 when he started serving the penalty and 60 before he was eligible for citizenship. By that time, his productive years would be well behind him.

I have dealt with the immigration system and I know it is broke. We want people like Juan here in our country and yet there is no way to let him in even though he is already here. Under the current occupant, he isn't being forced to leave but he is still shamed and kept with a foot on his neck holding him down. He is paying his way through this world and is not a burden on anyone and would like to contribute thousands of dollars in taxes towards the betterment of our society and being told no. Now we have politicians on the television telling Juan that he is a rapist at best. It's sad. On the way to a meeting a few nights ago, Juan and I were talking about the best way for him to be allowed "in" legally. He doesn't expect to be handed U.S. Citizenship and is not even requesting that he be given a greencard so he can be classified as a permanent resident and thus eligible for a social security number. All Juan would like is something saying that he can live here legally, a way to pay taxes and a path towards getting a greencard so that the Trumps in the world can verify that he is not a rapist, murderer or drug peddler. I'm in complete agreement and if given that opportunity, I would sign my name and honor on Juan's behalf to vouch for him.

I don't think the Juan's of the world should be given a free ticket to citizenship. I think we should check their status in society before giving them their greencard and I think they should prove that they have been productive citizens during their time here illegally. I'm sure there are rapists, murderers and drug peddlers among their ranks as there are among our ranks. But given a route to be here illegally would allow us to ferret those out and send them back home or make their ranks small enough (compared to the vast numbers of people here illegally good and bad now) to make them easier to find and send packing. It seems so simple until you have carbon based organisms with bad hairdos like Trump making horribly untrue statements and seeing masses of people nodding in agreement. I'm guessing they have never met someone like Juan.


sage said...

It is easier to have hard-lined feelings about issues when we know no one who is affected by our feelings--a nice post that reminds us that there are people behind the chatter!

Ed said...

Sage - Another reason a well informed person should try to hear both sides of the story and just not the one their "side" tells them.

Vince said...

To my mind when we're dealing with migration we really need to see it as part of an on-going movement of peoples going back to the 1600. For what tends to be a release valve like from Europe to the Americas can become the very reason why it continues. English people left to the new world and very soon were sending back grain reducing the need for so much of the UK devoted to grains opening for the first time in 600 years the prospect of meat being on the table for most since the bottom had fallen out of the market for marginal land crops leaving only livestock. But the requirement of livestock lessened the need for people, ergo more migration.
When we view peoples reactions or responses we have to go much further than ourselves and we truly have to go beyond what a migrant reasons to what creates the conditions for the thought processes.
There are some people that should stick to their last, and you have to give it to the man Trump, he is a serial entrepreneur. But he sure as shootin isn't materiel for political office.

A beautiful bit of writing by the way.

Ed said...

Vince - While I would like to think of migration going back centuries in regards to today's problems, I simply can't. Back then, America was this limitless expanse of land and plenty of room for everyone. We were also highly capitalistic back then and didn't have all these social programs like social security, obamacare, etc. to support. But times have changed. We don't have room for everyone so they crowd into already crowded cities making life worse for everyone. New immigrants drain money from the rest of us with all the social programs we now have in place. Life it totally different and must be taken into consideration.

While I'm in favor of still letting people immigrate to our country, I think we should be choosy before we end up like countries much worse than we are. The key is determining who would be an asset to us and who would simply drain resources we can't spare.

Leigh said...

Seems the only offerings on the immigration table are all or nothing. Politicians are more concerned about "their" version of the rules than actually helping anybody. I'm surprised people still want to come here, but I suppose they don't realize that even homeborn Americans can no longer achieve the American Dream.

Ed said...

Leigh - In my travels to other countries and talking with immigrants here, the American dream is still very alive among their population. I asked Juan if he felt was living the American Dream here and he emphatically said yes and that he wouldn't trade it for the world. I think us natives have increased our definition of the American Dream to such lofty standards that it isn't attainable. The last half dozen years, I have worked hard to be satisfied with what I have which is so much more compared to Juan and others around the world. It is what led me to leave my job and stay home to raise another daughter. For me, this experience has been living the American Dream.

Vince said...

(chuckle) Tell that to the Indians, they might seriously dispute the notion of emptiness.

But my core point it there is little difference between internal and external migration. You live in a State that's being slowly emptied of it's country people. Where most leave the State entirely rather than migrate to the big local cities. And these conditions exist in all States of the USA since the 1920. Very very few rural counties have seen an increase but for a few blips in the 40s and 50s. The self same thing is occurring in Honduras or Kenya. And like with Iowa it isn't the poorest of the poor that move but those above that income, usually smaller farmers. And for what it's worth the poorest of the poor in the USA, South America and Africa tend to be those left behind after a dramatic shift in economics.

warren said...

We are intimately aware of this situation as well. We had a foster daughter for 1.5 years when we lived in TN who was here illegally along with her entire family. There are lots of details that aren't worth the sharing, but anyhow, we found a large number of the people who were here illegally, were great people who added more to society than they took. My "daughter" was reunited with her father (and not the questionable mother), grew into an adult and lived happily (but illegally) ever after. It makes me sick to think of my "daughter" having to live sort of in fear of being sent back to a country that is, essentially, foreign to her. She has work, a family, and a great outlook. She is no rapist or murderer, but one of the hardest working young adults I know. Still, she has no path to becoming "legal" as the costs are crazy and the penalty of going back is not possible.

Ed said...

Warren - I never really appreciated their reality until I met Juan and became friends with him. Even at first I suspected but didn't want to put him on the spot. However eventually I felt like I knew him well enough to talk about it and when he told me the full story, I just felt terrible that there wasn't an option for him. It certainly opened my eyes to the situation and want to come up with a solution rather than just agree there is a problem like I had before.