June 20, 2014 § 8 Comments
Earlier this week, I was told I shouldn’t be living in the United States because I don’t “love America.” Dismissing this comment was easy enough, it came in response to the fact I am not cheering for the US at the World Cup (France, Argentina, and then any underdog, if you must know). But. Yesterday, at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, a wealthy-looking, white, middle-aged man went on a rant about immigrants (not knowing I am one, he assumed because I was also white and middle-class, I must be American). Something was on FoxNews on the TV in the lounge, I wasn’t paying attention. I presume that’s what set this guy off. He told me that immigrants do not belong in the United States, that they do not bring anything to the country, that they’re a drain on the resources of “this great nation.” He opined that no immigrants whatsoever should be let into the country. He didn’t go so far as to suggest they be rounded up and deported, though I have seen that opinion expressed on Twitter a few times. At any rate, when I told him I was an immigrant, he looked a little confused for a second and then said, “Oh, I don’t mean you.” I pointed out he clearly did, he said “all immigrants” are a drain and that “none” should be let in. I walked away, leaving him looking like the idiot he was.
This unsettled me. It’s one thing for an idiot to get mad at me for not cheering for the US in the World Cup. That’s just knee-jerk idiocy. It’s another for a guy to have a well-formulated, if ignorant, argument about the cost of immigration. And before someone dismisses this as “well, that’s Texas,” let me point out that Texas is an immigrant-rich society, and not just Mexicans and other Hispanics, but also South and South East Asians. And, for the most part, Texas, at least the cities, have integrated cultures.
At any rate, I stewed over this the rest of the day and on the flight home to Boston. And then I got a cab home. My cabbie was from Guinea. He couldn’t be much older than his early 30s, and he said he’s been in the US for 11 years, and made sure to note he has a Green Card. We talked about the heat (it was hot here yesterday), the World Cup, and Montréal, and we spoke some in French. I was his last fare of the day, the end of a 12-hour shift, 6am-6pm. The end of a 6-day run driving a cab around Boston and the North Shore. Today, he was up at 3am to get to work at 4am, at Dunkin’ Donuts, where he worked 4-12, as a baker. Tomorrow, he’s back in his cab, 6am-6pm, but he is off Monday. He works 60-70 hours a week driving a cab, and another 8-16 hours baking at Dunkin’ Donuts for a very simple reason: he needs to take care of his parents, his brother, his nieces and nephews back in Guinea. He hasn’t been home in four years, but he keeps working to send money home. Meanwhile, he’s also got a son here in the States, who he gets to see sometimes when he’s not working, though he supports his kid.
We often talk about how tired we are, because we’re always busy, working, etc. But this guy was exhaustion personified. He had dark rings under his eyes, and though he was at least pretending to be happy, his exhaustion came through. And I thought, well, here is the face of immigration to the United States (or Canada. Or Britain. Or France. Or Germany). A guy working himself to the bone at two jobs, partly to get himself ahead a little bit, but also to take care of his son, and to take care of his family back home. He estimated if he just had to worry about himself and his son, he could quit Dunkin’ Donuts and only work 3-4 days a week driving a cab. But, he has responsibilities and obligations.
I enjoyed talking to him, though I feel horrible for him. But I respected his attitude, that he had to do this, it was his responsibility to his son, his parents, his brother, his nieces and nephews. This is the immigrant life. It is not, as my Texan friend claims, collecting welfare (immigrants can’t, just so you know, though refugees are entitled to some support), procreating, and being drug dealers, prostitutes, and terrorists.