April 30, 2006

May Day

E & I went to our favorite Mexican joint tonight with a friend, R. R is an immigrant from Canada of Indian ancestry and the holder of a greencard. On the door to the restaurant was a hand-written sign, "Restaurant will be Closed Monday, May 1." E and I laughed, saying, "good for them." R asked about the issue and we discussed it. As an immigrant himself, he agreed that immigration is a complicated issue and couldn't really be sure where he stood.

Throughout dinner, we chatted with many of the servers, who are our friends after many visits. One of them, Jesus, is our closest buddy. He attends the local Junior College. Last semester, he was taking English at the JC while we were taking Spanish. We went for dinner each Tuesday after class and he corrected our Spanish while we corrected his (far superior) English.

He informed us that he and 5 of his friends will be going to the San Francisco protests and then, they plan to drive down the peninsula to join in the San Jose protests. Apparently, 4 people from the sister restaurant will be joining as well. I don't know about the status of the 9 attendees, but I do know that the restaurant is certainly run and managed on the up-and-up. Make no mistake, regardless of their attendance at the protests, the money lost by this very successful Mexican establishment is an act of solidarity for their illegal immigrant brethren taken by some financially successful latinos who posess either greencards or citizenship.

If every restaurant in the bay area that employs Mexicans in the kitchen or on the waitstaff loses a few to the protests, or, in an act of solidarity, shuts down, allowing as many as wish to attend, we're in for a HUGE surprise. I can't remember the last time I went out to eat where the kitchen wasn't staffed by what appeared to be Mexicans (sure, they could have been others of latino descent, but you get my point).

I've done enough thinking to realize this is a complex issue. You may want to revoke my bay area citizen card, but I believe that borders do still serve a purpose in today's day and age. I also believe that the grey-market for illegal immigrant (primarily Mexican) labor is a HUGE force in the economic health of California. I hope the May 1 protests get as much support as the Mexican community can muster because I fear the economic reality of the issue is being sidestepped by Congress. And, I fear that any "solution" that ignores the economic reality of what we're considering is bound to both fail and create more problems.

Finally, on a much less abstract level, I have a friend who teaches in a bilingual classroom. She wishes Cesar Chavez (who is the new voice of the latino worker movement?) was still around to explain to the parents of her students that they should send their kids to school on the day of the protest. If they aren't going to the protest (where arguably, they'd get a better education for the day), their absence costs the school money, costs the children a day of learning, and as a result of the lower budget, decreases the quality of their education.

Anyways, I look forward to seeing what happens with the attendance of the protests in California, throughout the country, and, of course, in the classroom.

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