San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

I would like to comment on the current political efforts to vilify hard working, good people of Mexico who, for reasons of economic necessity, feel compelled to leave their county for more work opportunities and far better wages in the United States. Recently, many American politicians have begun pandering to the lowest tide of American social sentiment when they call for making the unlawful presence of foreigners in American a felony crime. Similarly, calling for the militarization of the US-Mexican border smacks of repressive tactics which are inconsistent with American Democratic ideals and an open society. Without a doubt, these cruel and short sighted tactics are doomed to failure.

The Gentle BorderAs many of us who had worked with Mexicans in the US, become well acquainted with them, and even had the good fortune to develop friendships with these good people know, they do not deserve the demonization heaped upon them by opportunistic American politicians and retrograde groups like the so called "minute men". Far from it in fact. These undocumented workers come for a sole purpose...to work. And work they do! Indeed their work ethic is welcomed by American employers throughout the U.S. Rarely mentioned by the "Mexican bashers" is the fact that the American economy would suffer great harm if Mexican undocumented workers were suddenly sent away. Many large industries in the US, construction and agriculture for example, would be very badly damaged in the absence of it's "illegal" work force.

When we think about the hardships these Mexican people must endure to get to the US and hold a job there it is doubly cruel that some Americans insist upon using them as a "whipping boy" for the ills of our own society. Remember that these people typically leave their home and family, make a dangerous and costly trip to the US, run the risk of various dangers in making their way across the border, finding housing, work and navigating a new culture. Once they have cleared these obstacles, they generally are employed doing work so difficult and low paid that few Americans appear willing to do it. Obviously, if there were American workers willing to take these jobs and work as hard at them as Mexicans do, the issue would disappear.

So, instead of " blaming the victim" with inhumane, disrespectful and sometimes racist treatment, these people should be thanked and treated with the respect and dignity deserving of all workers. Thanked? Yes, indeed thanked! Americans benefit substantially by their presence in the work force. Moreover, many of the cultural traditions they bring are consistent with the best of American values and ideals. In the main, these people are hard working as employees, eager and quick to learn new skills and improve their opportunities, loving and supportive of their families, loyal and reliable as friends and honest and diligent in their daily affairs. Our county needs these people. They help make America a better country. It is time we stopped berating them on talk radio, bashing them for political gain, and generally making their lives difficult. Let's replace such inhumanity with respect, dignity and a good legal guest worker program so that they may emerge from the shadows of American life and become fully enfranchised members of our society. Americans and Mexicans alike would benefit by more enlightened management of the issues involved in the Mexican presence in the US.

Tom Cooke, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus
Sonoma State University