Friday, April 12, 2013

Do You Have Your Papers?

I’m not going to get all-deep into politics about immigration but I keep hearing all this stuff about undocumented people and wonder, “Do I have my documentation?”
Listening this morning to the news report talking about Texas construction workers. The subject of the report was why housing in Texas is so cheap but it did present an interesting fact. Construction companies are hiring workers for a day and paying them for a day’s work and calling each and everyone an “Independent Contractor”. The owner of the construction company is legally required to pay overtime and take out taxes if these people are classified as “Employees” but being classified as an “Independent Contractor” the responsibility goes back to the worker.
Years ago I worked with a group who were trying to report and change the working and living conditions of migrant workers. That was the name at the time of people who wander the east coast gathering our produce. In the research and the governmental responses I found the reason our food is so cheap is that we have these people who are not documented and one-step up from slavery doing the hard labor no one else wants to do.
So I think about my documentation. I’ve got this birth certificate but I don’t think anyone could match me with those little footprints. I’ve got some school records that were on punch cards but I’m not sure any of those records still exist. Then when I started working I got a social security card. Now they got me. I’m only a number but now I have to pay taxes and since 1967 there is a record of me in some file cabinet or on some database. How do I know? Well, I just got my first notice about getting Medicare. They know.
Now back to these migrant workers. They probably have some kind of documentation because they have a family and a name. They came to this commonwealth or state or county or city because work was available.
Since most of us are immigrants coming to this country for whatever reason, we brought families or made families and wondered through the valleys and mountains. Some of us settled and made homes. We became farmers and manufacturers and office workers and doctors and lawyers and had the freedom to learn and explore new ideas.
And this country was built on all of us immigrants. Some have gone on to live a moral life, raise children, follow the normal work ethic and pay our taxes. Yet underneath, hidden in the refusal to acknowledge, are the immigrants. They build our roofs and cut our grass. They pick our tomatoes and wash our dishes. They stand on the corners and wait for the trucks to pick them up. They watch television and buy sofas. Their kids play video games and little league. They join the army and fight our wars.
And don’t pay taxes?
For years I fit into the majority by my skin color and background but the country is changing. Perhaps the new immigration is changing our culture?

1 comment:

TripleG said...

I doubt many people question why Texas homes are so cheap (and they really are, except resales in Austin now because it's so hip). With no payroll taxes, workmans' comp, overtime or benefits to pay, the contractors and developers are living the capitalist dream of dominating a powerless, disposable, near-slave labor force. And they exploit the anger of the white masses over immigrant job competition to guarantee votes for their Republican machine.
The Romans did exactly the same thing to the Goths, and history records what happened when the advantage of numbers prevailed.