Editor’s Note: May 1 is celebrated worldwide as International Workers’ Day. In the United States, commemoration of May Day was broadly revived during the last decade by the struggles of immigrant workers and community members. In 2015, May Day events organized by immigrant workers are scheduled for Los Angeles, San Jose, Albuquerque and many other places.
For today’s piece, New Mexico State University graduate student Kyle Fields contributes a provocative commentary about the situation of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Fields is a student in sociology in New Mexico State’s online graduate program.
Undocumented immigrants have become the slaves of the United States. The American government complains about an “illegal alien problem,” but undocumented immigrants prove time and time again that they stimulate the struggling American economy which oppresses them. Yet, Americans continue to preach their prejudices against undocumented immigrants in media outlets, and exploit them as cheap labor.
The life of many undocumented immigrants consists of waking up before the sun rises to look for work or walk to a low-paying job. An inability to obtain licenses causes many immigrants to rely on public transportation. Men fill crowded city corners hoping to be offered a chance to work while women are commonly on their feet all day with no breaks as they cook and clean.
The day ends with little money after most undocumented immigrants’ low wages are taxed under never before used tax identification numbers; they never see the taken money since they are barred from ever receiving any type of social security benefits.
The parents return home to find their children with homework in a language they cannot understand. They still need to feed and clothe their kids, so they frequent local American businesses. Most of these businesses are filled with Americans who do not want to and will not work strenuous jobs for low wages and no benefits. Facing a plethora of domestic pressures, children obey and assist their hard-working parents who have traveled treacherous journeys to give them the luxury of education and opportunity.
This luxury is something not available to undocumented immigrants, who coming from rural areas, faced discrimination in their homeland and couldn’t finish their education. They have worked tirelessly since childhood. With not enough hours in the day and little education, most struggle to find ways to learn English and rely on their children to interpret for them.
At a time when undocumented immigrants are fighting for changes in the American immigration system, President Obama is pushing an executive order to allow approximately 5 million undocumented immigrants the ability to remain in the US, obtain work permits, and receive other benefits. Twenty-seven states are appealing Obama’s order in federal court, in hopes of continuing the oppression of undocumented immigrants yearning for a better life in the US.
Controversial immigration issues are growing since undocumented immigrants continue moving to new areas that were not once immigrant destinations, such as the shores of South Carolina and North Dakota’s oil fields.
Most Americans imagine an indigenous looking Mexican man in work-stained clothing, who does not speak English. This idea and the notion that undocumented immigrants cause the American economy to plummet are ideas right-wing politicians have engrained in Americans’ minds. Yet, undocumented immigrants continue to stimulate the American economy via purchasing power, opening new businesses, and paying taxes. Meantime, they reap little to no benefits from social services.
Undocumented immigrants will never receive money they have paid into the social security system; therefore, a generation of elderly people who have worked their whole lives will have nothing to show for it. They will arrive in the US and die in the US as an undocumented immigrant, never recognized for the years of hard work and money they put into the American economy. Their medical and burial expenses will be placed on struggling American families simply because of the land their family member was born on decades ago.
It is commonly believed that undocumented immigrants are living in the shadows, but they are not. They are around us every day. They are our caretakers, our food providers, our neighbors, and our friends. They have no set appearance, language, or culture. They are a people like each and every one of us, who are seeking a better life filled with happiness, success, and what is best for their children. Yet, we treat them as if they are criminals stealing our dreams; however, we have to make our dreams a reality just as they are trying to do.
I didn’t do anything to deserve the color of my skin, an education, or the ability to speak English and neither have the majority of American people. We cannot let the land we were born on change how we treat one another. We can no longer oppress, enslave, and not recognize people who have lived their lives giving to the US, creating a better life for their family, and overcoming adversity to reach their dreams.