Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gettinger on "Illegals"

Friend of the blog Jerry Gettinger has written another piece, this one offering the sort of historical perspective on the immigration issue that I cannot, being a relatively new resident of Arizona (17+ years).

Here it is -
Every time I hear Pearce or Arpaio talk about “illegals” taking over, I think back to when I was growing up on a farm in South Texas. My dad’s farm was literally on the border with Mexico. It was during the Second World War when any young man who could went to war. My Dad was exempt because of the farm. It was a large farm (3500 acres) and the family also had a packing shed. The whole operation ran 24 hours, 7days. We shipped everything we grew. It was a year-round growing season.

In those days, the only mechanization on a farm was a tractor and a plow, and so manual labor was crucial. Dad had built a village for the workers where about 250 lived, some with their families. No one questioned who or where the workers came from. Without them the crops did not get harvested.

Every so often, a border patrol agent would stop by. Everyone knew each other and everyone knew that there was a war and food was most important. So the agent would mention to my father that the agent and one or two others might visit the next day around 3 o’clock to make sure everyone had papers. 3, maybe 3:30. I remember Dad half-smiling saying something like “well. Ok, but everybody here is where they are supposed to be.” The agent smiled, nodded and left.

The next day around 2:30, Dad would yell in his broken Spanish for everyone to take a break. Everyone knew what he meant. All of a sudden, the place was empty. Soon a Border Patrol car drove up, parked and an agent got out. He knew Dad and vice versa. “Everybody ok here, Joe?” (My Dad’s name) Dad would say “take a look,” and the agent looked at an empty village. “Looks OK to me.” And the agent got back into the car and drove off to the next farm. You see, without those “illegals,” crops didn’t get harvested, soldiers didn’t get fed and the war effort slowed down. During those difficult times no one was called an “Illegal.” They were workers and were important to the war effort as any factory worker. At times there was a problem, but not often. The workers were there to earn money for their families and the work they did was key. Without them a lot less food would get sent. I would imagine some of them stayed after the war and made Texas their home. They sure weren’t illegal in those days.
Thank you for your writing, Jerry.


1 comment:

Grant said...

Really interesting story. It's always good to get a fresh approach, given to us from the past, on an issue that's so pertinent to the present. It really informs as to how circumstances change the way we view even the most divisive issues.