Immigrants looking for chance for living

By Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist

Si se puede!

“Yes, we can!”

“Yes, it can be done!”

However you translate these three words, this was the chant that led many Latinos to take to the streets and the fields in the 1960s and 1970s to demand better working conditions for farm workers and civil rights for all.

Recently that chant was resurrected as hundreds of thousands of Latinos took to the streets to take a stand for immigrant rights in the United States.

Just when I was starting to lose faith in the system, it’s good to see there is still power in numbers. And just when I was starting to lose faith in our Latino people who have been known over the past few decades to be passive and slow in getting involved in politics, I couldn’t help but feel proud seeing a new generation of Latinos taking to the streets and waving the Mexican flag.

As a result of the massive demonstrations we saw around the country a few weeks ago, President George W. Bush had no choice but to listen and to renew his severed ties with Mexican president Vicente Fox.

It now looks like Congress, though not without debate, will find a more humanistic solution to dealing with the problem of illegal immigration. Hopefully, it will be a workable compromise that does not smack of racism and does not make felons out of people who come here wanting to work, often for a meager wage, just to survive and support their families.

It’s the same American dream that has brought millions of other immigrants to this country over the centuries.

Hopefully, the plan will not be an exploitative one that simply makes guest workers out of the people who come here to work.

Over the past few weeks, I keep hearing the phrase that immigrants are a source of cheap labor for the jobs us American citizens will not do and President Bush recognizes there is a need for a guest-worker program.

However, I hope this is not a guest-worker program that continues to undermine the contributions these workers make to our national economy. After all, there is some truth to the movie, “A Day Without Mexican,” which gives a fictional yet not-so-far-fetched account of what would happen if all of the “Mexicans” disappeared for the day.

In this fictional scenario, the whole state of California comes to a standstill because there is not enough manpower to keep things afloat and things quickly fall into chaos without childcare workers, nannies, mechanics, cooks, waitresses, gardeners, people to harvest crops, fast-food help and even a weatherman who disappears for the day.

While I do not argue that the United States needs to secure its border and protect us Americans from terrorists, we also have to have respect for those less fortunate who come knocking on our doors. Most immigrants are not asking for a handout, just for an opportunity to make a decent living. And in the United States, si se puede!

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at:
helena_rodriguez@link.freedom.com