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Irrational Animosity Towards Immigrants

This article was written after hearing very negative comments about immigrants from the media.

The animosity and hostility towards immigrants in today’s world is very hard to fathom.

It is as if the Ku Klux Klan is in charge of Public Relations, spitting out untruths and half-truths about immigrants as they did in 1927 ridiculing Slovaks, Italians, Catholics, Jews, and Chinese people, and insisting on legislation to limit immigration to Northern Europeans.

We remember as yesterday our mother telling stories of the Klan warning our father about being Catholic at that time.

The same negative campaign is being built up today against immigrants. One hears a barrage of comments scapegoating them for the economic situation or difficulties the citizen writer or caller finds themselves in. The economic woes of our society are frequently laid at the feet of immigrants, accusing them of eating up all of our tax money with nothing left for citizens.

No, it is the other way around. Money is made off the backs of undocumented immigrants—cheap labor means more profits, which goes to CEO’s and stockholders, not to immigrants. A fact often forgotten is that immigrants are tax payers in every sense of the word. They pay the same taxes as anyone else. If they use a false social security number, the owner of the number reaps the benefits. They pay sales tax; they contribute to property tax when they rent. They are eliminated, however, from receiving benefits from the taxes—a pretty good investment for everyone else.

It is no wonder that those who call in to talk shows or C-Span programs are upset. The prevailing economics in our country does not help the average citizen or poor person. CEO’s and some stockholders do very well, but the so-called gains of the trickle down theory have never trickled down. This is not the fault of the immigrant workers, but of an economics which is unjust.

When people have difficulty finding jobs, it is blamed on the immigrants. More reflection might lead one to the outsourcing to the cheapest source of labor in other countries—an insistence by large corporations on the cheapest labor, which may be responsible for the production of shoddy, often dangerous, poisonous goods being imported. If the sub-contractor in China must sell his labor and his product more and more cheaply, it is inevitable that there will be problems with the product. The jobs are in other countries, where people receive a pittance for their work.

To be in any way truthful, one simply cannot hire the undocumented at cheaper wages, longer hours and harder work and then accuse them of being law breakers and potential terrorists, not to mention arresting them and deporting them or putting them in prison and breaking up their families.

A new industry built on immigrants and growing by leaps and bounds which is ironically seen as beneficial to the economy, is the one of privatized prisons to detain immigrants for long periods.

Disposable People

It is the height of duplicity to reject the immigrants after they have a major contribution to our economy.

Imagine the disruption of their lives with no security for the future. After we make money off their backs, we reject them. They are treated as a disposable people—like disposable diapers.

It almost appears that attacks on immigrants are promoted to make the immigrant more vulnerable and thus willing to work for less.

Scaffolding Phobia

Every time we see new construction going up in our neighborhood and see scaffolding arranged in front of the building, we suffer anxiety attacks because we have seen what happens to construction workers who have fallen off these scaffolds and end up with broken backs in three places and are not able to move a limb. They can receive nothing from the community. There is no disability. This is true of all the men and women injured or incapacitated for any reason. They are left to their own resources, which often do not exist. Some can receive eligibility for a short time for medical services from the county, but strict rules for application or re-application eliminate large numbers. There is no disability, however, and no one to help with expenses for so many medical supplies needed.

The volunteer doctors of Casa Juan Diego assist when possible, although it is impossible to address the numbers who are in need. One of the very important services of the Casa Juan Diego clinic and Casa Maria is to help diabetic immigrants who otherwise become blind or lose a limb. Some find us too late, when their sight is almost gone or they no longer have feeling in their feet. Casa Juan Diego assists badly wounded people when we can with diapers, supplies to care for tracheotomies, and catheters. So often people need wheel chairs; when wheel chairs are donated, we pass them along to those in need.

Imagine the government money saved by the refusal to aid the sick and injured immigrant. It would be in the billions—what a contribution to the economy!

An Awful Ritual: Casa Juan Diego Almost as a Morgue

Sometimes we help without seeing the person at the beginning. The hospital social workers call and ask for help because the person has no family here. The only real possibility is to make arrangements with a personal care home, a small business operated for the purpose of receiving ill people. In many cases, however, there is family, and they struggle with what to do in a terrible crisis.

One of the saddest moments at Casa Juan Diego occurs when a family arrives saying that the hospital (it could be a private hospital or public) had sent them to us to help them survive with a seriously injured family member. The hospital has no resources for follow-up after the emergency room.

The ritual begins with tears in Casa Juan Diego’s library where the family members narrate the awful accident or illness that has left a family member in serious physical condition and totally handicapped. Some have been sent home in a coma for the family to care for.

They struggle with what to do. Their whole lives are in crisis and the employer of the paralyzed person will not help. The government will not help. The driver who injured the person in an accident ran away and cannot be found. The thief who shot the person cannot be found or has no resources to help. Someone must work to support the family, but cannot work because someone must be available to take care of a very sick person, not to mention caring for their children.

The ambience of a morgue lightens when we mention that Casa Juan Diego can help with some of the expenses also.

We are grateful to all of our readers who contribute to make this help a possibility. There is nowhere else for these families to turn.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXVII, No. 5, September-October 2007.