A great article about the United States' lack of accommodation for new parents and my recent trip to Mexico have given me an insight about why illegal immigrants come here. It just suddenly added up, like a column of numbers. The clouds opened up, and the curtain parted, and I finally understood why all those people come here.
But first, a disclaimer. I know that not all illegal immigrants are from Mexico, or even Hispanic. Many of them are, and so most of what I have to say has to do with them.
Illegal immigrants don't come here because they are fleeing a terrible situation in their homeland, most of the time. It isn't because they can't make a living at home. It isn't even because they are desperately poor, although that is what we hear.
They've been brainwashed. Let me explain.
If you earn $10 a day, you're poor. If I tell you that you can come to America and get a job making $10 an hour, you'll want to sign up. Now back to being "poor". If you earn $10 a day, and your rent is $10 a week, then 20% of your income goes to pay for housing, assuming a 5-day work week. But in the US, with your $10-an-hour job, you can live in an apartment that costs $600 a month, or $150 a week. You make $400 a week, so you spend 37.5% of your income on housing. Almost every category across the board will be the same. Low wages, low prices. When the prices outstrip the ability of people to purchase, the market dries up. Now think about it: Who is poorer, the person who has to spend 20% of his or her income on housing or the one who spends over 37%?
But in America, it's different. First of all, we have credit. Can't afford it? Someone will lend you the money, for a price. The poorer you are, the higher the price will be, but they'll stretch it out so it looks doable on the day you sign your life away.
I don't think the coyotes bringing people here tell them about the prices, only the money they'll earn.
When these people come here, they have no idea that bread could cost $3 a loaf. It costs 25 pesos in Mexico. They have absolutely no idea that they are about to get into a situation that is way beyond their control. Ever wonder why you find illegal aliens living 10 to an apartment? You can stop now. It's the only way they can make ends meet.
Every day while they live here, they are barraged with advertisements, some in Spanish, that tell them that the good life is just one purchase away, just the same as the rest of us. We all hear over and over how we are the land of opportunity, and most of us buy the propaganda as fast as the advertisers can spin it out.
In Mexico, things are different. Women take their children with them to work. Not all of them, but many. Everyone does something, and some people do several things. If you want to work in Mexico, all you have to do is look for a need and fill it. Sell fruit in the market, do laundry, iron for people, clean houses, wash windows. Mexicans are no strangers to work. Children work, old people work, cripples work. And in return, they all have a measure of dignity. A Mexican hotel keeper will sweep the street in front of the property to be sure that it looks clean and cared-for.
For most of them the work pays off. They have what they need, and maybe some of what they want. And, occasionally, like the rest of us, they do without some things. But corporate America is encroaching, and they are being informed of all the things they are missing, like iPods and video games (which are astronomically expensive there), and they are buying into the tricksters' three-card monty game by the legion.
They think if they can only get that big payday, everything will be better. Can you really say you think any differently? So they come. They put up with our abuse, give up their dignity, allow us to revile their culture, all in the hope that they, too, will strike it rich, just like everyone says they will.
It didn't happen for you. It won't happen for them. But they know in their hearts that if they just try hard enough, it will get better. Only it never does.
Remember when you were 18, and you wanted to do something stupid that no one could talk you out of? Remember finding out that everyone else was right? It's like that for them. Some of us never find out, or refuse to see. And as long as corporate America keeps assuring them that the grass is greener on this side of the fence, they'll keep on coming.
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