Thursday, June 3, 2010


Who washes and details your car? : Vienna, VA

This isn't the best picture, but one of the debates going on in my country right now surrounds immigration, the status of immigrants, and whether they should be required to carry papers as proof of their right to be in the U.S.

While getting my sister's car washed, I noticed that all of the people working on the cars were Hispanic. I'm assuming they were all legal as they were working for a company (Mr. Wash) that probably requires proper papers. Regardless, I'm often struck by the heated debate in the U.S., and how so many generational Americans seem to want immigrants out. While I'm in favor of curbing illegal immigration, I'm not in favor of telling all immigrants to go home.

First of all, unless you're a native American, we're all immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. Secondly, I defy you to show me a single long-generational American who is willing to pick their own strawberries, iron their own shirts, wash their own cars, landscape their own yards, paint their own living rooms, or cook all of their meals every single day. (I'm not suggesting every single one of us enjoys ALL of these services and amenities, but we take advantage of at least two of the aforementioned services once a week. After all, we all have to eat!) Third, if we're going to start demanding papers from people to prove their immigration status and/or their right to be here, then we all should have to carry papers. And a birth certificate, passport, or drivers license don't count. In fact, if you can tell me what does count, I'll be happy to carry it.

No doubt there are those who disagree. That's certainly you're right and I respect that. I guess I'm seeing this issue from a different perspective these days, though.

I've been living in France for the last year. It's lovely there and I enjoy my life and my work. It's also the first time in my life that I have been and am functionally illiterate. I don't speak French fluently and what little bit I do speak is seriously pathetic. I can barely read it (silently. I can't read it out loud, because I don't know the rules of pronunciation.) I don't understand 99% of what is said to me when people speak to me in French. I struggle to buy what I need, utilize essential services like doctors and mechanics, and socializing lacks the nuance I enjoy in my native and second languages (I speak German fairly fluently.)

My point in all that is to say, I have a greater appreciation for what it is to leave your homeland, go to another country, and try to make a living. It ain't easy and I have a lot more admiration for the men and women who come to my country to make a better life for themselves. I also understand why they often band together into neighborhoods of their ethnicity. I've done the same and am surrounded by expatriot Americans and Brits. Does that mean I don't want to embrace France and French? No, it just means that it's a lot of energy and work (and sometimes it's just easier. That said, I am registered to take a French class at the end of the summer.)

Our ancestors came here to create a better life for themselves and their families--whether that was in 1850 or 1930 or 2010. Many immigrants make our lives very, very comfortable. While I'm perfectly capable of washing my own car, the fact is, I don't and it's nice that there are those who are willing to do it for me.

Photo copyright: Janet M Kincaid, 5/10


janeannechovy said...

Native Americans are also descended from immigrants, they just came a lot earlier than all the others.

Naturedigital said...

The problem is the same all over the world.. Or what others call a problem.. When the poor and starving .. want a small share of the wealth and the food enjoyed by those in richer nations.
Have a great day

Janet M Kincaid said...

JA: That's true, but the native peoples arrived long before there were governments and bureaucracies claiming things for God, King, and Country. Perhaps I should have said "indigenous peoples" instead so as to distinguish them from those who floated here from the Middle East, as per a religious tome of American origin?

Costas: Wars, conquest and immigration can all be boiled down to one simple thing, I think: resources.

Maya said...

Hear hear!

Cele said...

I figure if we illegal immigrants green cards, make them pay taxes and SSI I've no problem. As pointed out they take the jobs hoity toity Americans won't.

When they work using fake ID's and SSI's they are screwing someone over who has paid into the system their entire working lives.

Go after the employers who are cutting corners and screwing you and me over.

janeannechovy said...

Actually, undocumented immigrants working with fake SS numbers are a net positive to that system, at least. $$ is withheld from their paychecks, using their fake numbers, but they never draw anything back out of the system.

Maya said...

Same thing happens here in France. If I want to run my own business, I have to pay taxes into the system, but I would not get the benefits of being a citizen. It is not very fair! I wish people could just live where they want. I leave the States and live in France, a Mexican takes my place in the States. What is so wrong with that?? Let people live where they want!