Noting a New Border

I give my wife a Mother's Day present every year. I realize she's not my mother, but it's a good opportunity to buy her something she needs. This year, for instance, I gave her two Mexicans.

She was, of course, grateful. "Now," she said cheerfully, "I have three."

I gave her the Mexicans because the yard is filled with weeds, because Anglos won't do that kind of work and because I'm not going to be a party to establishing a new border.

As Desi Arnaz used to say, let me 'splain.

This has not been a good year for Mexicans. First, Fernando Valenzuela got the boot, then the mayor of Culver City called for closing the border between the U.S. and Mexico, and now various communities in the county are at war with day workers who gather on street corners hoping to be hired.

The communities are demanding, in effect, that a new border be established. This one would protect Us from Them.

While an ethnic umbilical may link me to Latinos, there's nothing personal in my sympathy toward those under fire for seeking a better life.

That's what we're all about, isn't it? Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses . . . was never intended to apply to whites only.

It doesn't say keep the wretched refuse on your teeming shores and send us Swedes and Danes. It just says welcome to the melting pot, everybody.

Unfortunately, however, the melting pot hasn't been all that gracious lately. For instance, when I went down to get the two Mexicans for my wife, I think I was being videotaped.

This is part of a campaign in Topanga to discourage anyone from hiring day workers. The idea is to turn the tape over to the Immigration Service so those who employ illegals can be fined, and possibly tortured.

The reason they're doing this, say the video vigilantes, is that many of the Mexicans camp in the mountains, thus increasing the danger of fire, theft, vandalism, drunkenness, indecent exposure and all the other crimes generally attributed to brown people.

Opponents of the vigilantes are of the opposite persuasion. Given the opportunity, they would establish soup kitchens and brothels to fill whatever need the workers seem to manifest, in exchange for which the workers would promise not to marry their sisters.

These opponents argue that the motivation of the video vigilantes is a combination of racism and greed. They simultaneously dislike Mexicans and fear property values will come tumbling down if word gets around that the community is infested with them.

Malibu, the Capital of Blonde, had the same problem with its hiring center and shut it down. It wasn't so much the fire danger as the penetrating aroma of chili that rankled those who opposed the center.

Everyone knows, of course, that chili fumes, like ultraviolet rays, have an adverse effect on the complexion of light-skinned dudes who live near the ocean. And when humanity intrudes on dermatology, it's adios, bracero.

In Santa Clarita, the City Council did a quick flip. It started out considering a proposal to build a hiring center and ended up urging the INS to round up the day workers and deport them to Mexico.

Not exactly what the workers expected, but he who swims with sharks runs the risk of being eaten.

I mentioned the mayor of Culver City. His name is Steven Gourley. He's a 42-year-old lawyer who'll tell you right off, by way of establishing his liberal credentials, that he loves God, Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman.

But what he told the City Council a few weeks back is, "If George Bush wants to draw a line in the sand, he should draw a line between Tijuana and San Diego."

Gourley, now ex-mayor, explained later that it wasn't a question of disliking Mexicans, but of wanting to relieve the burden on America's overtaxed social services. Our system, he said, is breaking down. Ergo, don't fix the system, close the border.

Then who'd pull our weeds? I offered three different Anglo homeless people $6 an hour to do light yard work. They all carried "Will Work" signs, and they all refused.

One said he couldn't due to "bad psychology." Another called me a smartass and walked away. A woman suggested there might be other ways to please me beside pulling weeds.

So much for the wretched refuse of our own teeming shore.

I asked the Mexicans I hired for my wife what they thought of all this. They were both named Jose, so we called them Jose One and Jose Two.

Jose One smiled and said "Sure." It was less an affirmation of principle than a lack of communication. He didn't speak English.

Jose Two was more philosophical. He shrugged and said, "They don't like Mexicans, I guess."

I guess. But they've got three of us on videotape now, amigo, and I don't think it's for a sequel to "La Bamba."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
66°