Like to eat, America? Thank an immigrant.

IMG_6131Welcome to America, the nation of immigrants. In the US, it’s immigrants [including a lot of “undocumented”] who pick the food. In many cases, for less than minimum wage.

In the US, it’s immigrants who prep it, serve it and then clean up after us in our restaurants. In many cases, for less than minimum wage.

In many cases, they’re living in overcrowded cheap housing. When they’re in “transitional” neighborhoods their “citizen” neighbors complain about the noise on the one night a week when they want to blow off some steam with music.

Be sure you don’t ask these native citizens where their ancestors came from not so many years ago. Or what their ancestors did on arrival or how they were received by earlier children of immigrants. For the most part, they’re good people. Proud of their Christian heritage, too, except for that part about doing unto others.

Did I mention that immigrants also send large amounts of money back to their homelands, south of the border? It’s America’s de facto foreign aid program.

A few years ago I got off a chicken bus in a small town in Honduras. Among the people waiting for the bus were a number of van drivers. A couple of the English-speaking drivers descended on me [Let’s face it, I don’t look like a native Honduran.] to offer their services. After some wonderful conversations in Spanglish I chose the man who also owned his own hostel. In the ensuing conversation I learned that he’d washed dishes and bussed tables in Charlotte for six years, sending his money home every week. His family bought their own house, two buildings that are now the hostel, and vehicles for all. Essentially he gave six years of his life to guarantee a steady income for his family. I asked him how many Anglos worked in the kitchens with him. He laughed at the absurdity of my question, telling me his admittedly so-so English skills made him one of the few who could negotiate the American system. Too many of his compatriots simply did their jobs, accepted their cash, and went back to their bedrooms after sending money orders to their families at home. He put a personality on a story that many of us have observed through the years.

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Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:

I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

-Emma Lazarus

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