Tuesday, August 07, 2007

At the end of my street

It’s 6:10 in the am. I’m driving down to Giant to pickup some lettuce and tomato for my salad for lunch and there they are. At this time in the morning there are about half a dozen maybe ten of them milling about. By the time I’m walking to get the subway to go to work about tow hours later there are probably over twenty with more arriving each minute.

I’m talking about the day laborers that are gathering in the parking lot. There’s a Home Depot across the street form the Giant and that’s why they are there. It is going to be almost 100 degrees today but they still come looking for work. I’m going to make a sweeping generalization but I have to assume that most of these men (and they are never any women) are here in the country illegally.

They are there of course to get a job for the day or part of the day. This scene is being played out all over the country and is causing a great deal debate. Congress tried and failed miserably to tackle this problem. But that’s not much of a surprise. So now localities are getting into the act.

I’m not entirely sure what to do. I think having this many people hanging around can cause problems. I've seen a small Toyota truck pull up looking for guys and the truck is rushed by 25 or more guys. It was scary. I've also seen guys drinking. The parking lot is up on a hill above the street. There is a sidewalk that goes down to the street. There’s a retaining wall on one side of the sidewalk. I've walked home from the store that way many times. When you walk to the area by the retaining wall there is the smell of urine. Sometimes the smell is overwhelming.

That’s not to say there contractors using these guys to do work. Again on many a day when I’m going to the Giant to pick up some groceries after work I've seen trucks stop and drop guys off. The driver inevitably says to the guys getting out same time tomorrow.

So what do you do?

One county in Virginia has passed a resolution trying to solve the problem. Here are a couple of stories from the Post about it. This one on the original resolution and this one on the reaction.

From the resolution:

The measure approved directs officers to check the status of anyone in police custody who they suspect is an illegal immigrant.

How does one suspect someone of being an illegal immigrant? What are the tell tale signs that point this out?

As one person rightly observed:

“How are we supposed to survive here?” asked Gregorio Calderón, a legal U.S. resident from El Salvador who said he worries that police will harass him because of his ethnicity. “They’re going to pull me over just for being Hispanic.”

This from one of the members of the board:

“If you’re pulled over and you’re a citizen or legal immigrant, you've got nothing to worry about,” says county board Chairman Corey A. Stewart.

For a moment let’s say that that is indeed the case. You don’t have to worry about it. But let’s think for a moment. Let’s say I’m stopped for speeding. I’m white, with blond hair and blues eyes. Do you think the police are going to check me to see if I’m a legal immigrant? Of course not. And why? Because I don’t look like an illegal immigrant. Now if I had darker skin, black hair and dark eyes I’m much more likely to be looked at as someone who is illegal.

Then there is the question of how does one prove that they are here legally. If I was asked to prove that I was an American citizen or was here legally, I don’t know what I would show to prove that. I have a driver’s license but that doesn't necessarily mean you’re here legally. I have a voters’ registration card but I certainly don’t carry that around in my wallet. Just as I don’t carry around my social security card. Maybe I carry around a passport all the time but that’s not very likely either.

So what do you do?

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