"Goodbye to my Juan, farewell Roselita
Adios mes amigos, Jesus e Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane
All they will call you will be deportees"
The above song by the great American Woody Guthrie is about a plane crash which killed Mexican Illegal workers who were being deported after working in the California Fruit Fields; the kind of people described offensively by Mel Gibson as ‘Wet Backs’ the knuckle dragging reactionary Gibson reminds me of the following saying, “to see what God thought of wealth you need only look at those who have it” This song was a staple diet of the folk music scene which me and my friends and brothers frequented years ago. It helped us learn how America along with others exploited immigrants and illegal workers. Woody Guthrie spent a lot of time and energy trying to organise these workers.
In Arizona today right here and now they are passing a racist law which allows police to stop and interrogate anyone that they suspect might be an illegal immigrant. If a George Clooney lookalike is strolling down the street somewhere in Arizona with a guy who looks like Jimmy Smitts who will get his collar felt? President Obama is to launch a Department of Justice lawsuit against Arizona to stop this, I hope he succeeds. Arizona officially voted not to have a “Malcolm Luther King Day” as well, is it something in the water I wonder? Apart from the Native American Indian all Americans are immigrants or illegal’s anyway; perhaps they should rename Arizona “Hypocricyville” This sickening backward step by Arizona will lead to people who are stopped being put on a police file for not having the correct papers with them whether they are legal or not, which means a great many Latinos and very few non Latinos.
Predictably those who holler the most against the Latino workers are those who take advantage of them as cheap labour and they will howl even louder when officially permitted workers demand more money to do the menial jobs that they don’t want.
This is what happens when times get hard; some people look to find someone ‘different’ to blame, in Arizona they are blamed for everything from rustling to bank robbery and murder ignoring the fact that the immigrant Mexican community has lower crime levels than the others and the fact that such crimes go on where there are no Latino illegal’s. In Britain in the middle to late 19 th. century and the first half of the 20 th. century the Irish who fled the Famine got the blame and in Nazi Germany it was the Jews, an American state is about to take us back to that way of thinking. There are far more of my own family here and in America than there are in Ireland where we immigrated from; that’s because we stuck to it and survived by supporting each other and working hard. It sickens me to think that the most advanced country in the world and the richest is about to start treating people the way those immigrants were treated all those years ago.
As a teenager I experienced this prejudice when looking for work, me and some mates would split into two small groups and the first would approach a factory and ask for a job and we were sometimes asked “what school did you go to” when we said St. Mirin’s we were told there were no vacancies, when our second group went they said they had attended Camphill Sec. School and were given forms to fill in for jobs. Many times I felt like answering the “what school” question by saying “I went to a school where 2 + 2 = 4 what other kind is there you f*****g moron” but I didn’t want arrested as well as discriminated against.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send These, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Poem – By Emma Lazarus on the statue of liberty.
Do these moving words still stand for anything in this great country, if they do, someone needs to remind the people of Arizona.