Mexicans and Mahopac

I come from an interesting place.

It’s a town named Mahopac. I used to tell people I was from “upstate” New York, which isn’t actually true. Mahopac is upstate from New York City—roughly 70 miles away. But it’s not even close to being upstate.

I think I used the word to explain the mentality. Even Mahopac’s longtime residents will agree it’s not the most progressive place in the world. There’s a certain bottled-in feel the the place—Mahopac is a lake town with a bunch of pizza joints, several barber shops, a couple of supermarkets and a diner. Though it’s changed much since I left in 1990, it hasn’t really changed at all. If that makes any sense. Mahopac also happens to be v-e-r-y conservative—politically, socially, behaviorally. There’s a way to be, there’s a way not to be. Sometimes this works—Mahopac boasts safe streets, an undeniable warmth, tons of places for kids to roam. Sometimes this doesn’t work—I don’t believe a Jew, Asian or African-American would feel entirely embraced growing up there (I know I certainly didn’t).

Anyhow, today on Facebook a friend of mine noted how Mexican day laborers line the downtown streets every morning, hoping to be picked up and given temporary employment. She wrote that it’s a “little intimidating” walking down the street, which I can fully understand. Not because they’re Mexican, but because she’s a woman, and these are a bunch of guys. Probably sorta mangy looking; certainly not in suits and ties. Again, I get it.

The follow-up comments, however, well, not so much …

• It will always be Mahopac…not Mexipac!!!

• Paintball gun drive-by every morning.

There were a bunch. Again, nothing overly xenophobic. But what gets me—what always gets me in instances like this—is the lack of empathy. And, more than that, the lack of perspective. The people ripping/damning the Mexican workers believe (I’m guessing) that they don’t belong in this country; that illegals should be prosecuted and sent back home. Which I can understand. But what always baffles me is—Who the fuck are you? In other words, why do you deserve this blissful citizenship? Answer: Because you emerged from a womb on American soil. That’s it. That’s all. It has nothing to do with patriotism or righteous deeds, and everything to do with blind, dumb luck. Jose, the guy standing on the street, makes $1.50/hour at home for the same job he can make $10/hour here. So what is he supposed to do? And how can you really damn his desire to be here? And, most important, why do you have the right, but he doesn’t? What have you done to earn your vocal patriotism? What price have you paid? What test have you passed?

The other irony, which I absolutely love, is the jarring unintelligibility with which these arguments are often made. If you’re going to shout “Speak English!” or something along those lines, you probably should be able to spell and use proper grammar. I don’t mean that to sound as snide as it surely does—but there’s a real truth to it. If you demand accountability of those desiring to call America home, shouldn’t there be accountability for those who do (loudly) call American home? Personally, I don’t care about a person’s grammatical abilities. But if you’re going all anti-Mexican, and you believe a people to be bringing down the quality of your nation, well, you better be of high stock.

21 thoughts on “Mexicans and Mahopac”

  1. I think this is going to continue to be the hottest topic for years to come.

    I do tend to be on the side of “they don’t belong” but not to the point you describe Jeff.

    My biggest issue is that illegals don’t pay into the tax structure yet some/many do make decent wages under the table.

    My lucky break by “emerged from a womb on American soil” gave me instant access into high taxes to support an over-reaching government. I only wish that same luxury for anybody working in this great country no matter their origins, sex, religious beliefs, skin color etc.

    I’ve never understood why the fair tax proposals don’t gain momentum. Taxed as you spend and consume. Seems too logical. Captures taxes from “illegals” as well as criminals.

  2. The people who bitch about Mexicans (or other immigrants) “Takin’ their jobs” don’t get that these folks are getting these jobs because most Americans don’t want to do them.

    The fact is, if you’re an American citizen and you want to be a day laborer, do it. Chances are you’re going to find a xenophobe just like you who’d rather give “an honest American” a day’s wage over a Mexican.

    How many times have you heard kids say that “there is no way that they’d work at McDonald’s (or BK or Wendy’s)” but an immigrant who has to feed their family doesn’t give a shit about social standing?

    The bottom line is this, immigrants aren’t coming into America to take the best jobs. Like generations of other immigrants (illegal or legal) they take the crappy jobs that the upper castes don’t want.

    And to be honest, they do a great job, much better than most Americans would do. They don’t cut corners, they give an honest effort, they get the job done correctly. Because if they don’t, they don’t get to eat.

    For that we should be grateful.

  3. I think when we discuss a topic like this we must not treat this as a failure.

    When you see a lineup of day laborers, it’s not the failure of our federal government to keep undesirables from crossing our borders or local government to legislate them out of our neighborhoods or the police to enforce laws.

    This is America working and working at its best.

    This is America, the pinnacle of justice and the land of opportunity singing its siren song to a new generation of future Americans. Their children, when born in this country, will be the next Americans to live out this country’s dream and in so doing yours and mine.

    The beauty is that these people lining up as laborers are only a couple of generations behind our life stories. They share the same story and dream as our parents, grandparents or whatever generation that emigrated to these countries. Most of our ancestors came here with empty pockets and were will to accept any type of work for a shot at the dream, to better their lives and their families, how can we now be willing to take it away from another people.

    If we were to take this a step further, and examined this a little closer, when we asked to explain our contempt for these people, why do we spew such vitriol, we always have a very canned answer, they are stealing jobs, they don’t pay taxes, they tax the welfare system…but you know what…in talking with these hate mongers, they are just masking their self loathing.

    Most people see their past in these workers and will do anything to run from it even if it requires hating a group of people who are doing nothing more than hustling to make a living and could there be anything more American than hustling to make a dollar and a better life

  4. The reason people get so upset about this isn’t a lack of empathy. It’s utter shock that we see this happening right before our very eyes and the government is doing NOTHING about it. It’s so easy to spot day laborers waiting for work, so why doesn’t INS grab these people? The fact that they are ILLEGAL immigrants also means there is criminal activities taking place in our communities. People are making money smuggling them into our communities. Businesses are NOT paying taxes and social security payments for these workers. How did they know to go from Mexico to Mahopac? There is a criminal network that is bringing them here and that is what truly frightens people. Sure, everyone comes to the US to pursue a better life and I blame nobody for wanting that.But when our ancestors came from Ireland and Italy, they did it the LEGAL way. Ellis Island, waiting in line, citizenship test, etc…None of this is happening today and our government is trying to ignore a problem that is painfully obvious all across America.

  5. Hey Bobby, I want to thank people like you for sending this cheap labor back to Mexico and driving up my food prices.

  6. No disrespect here, Bobby but you have a very naive way of looking at the immigration process during the early 20th Century.

    Do you really believe that every immigrant came into Ellis Island on an ocean liner from the old world, with a starry look in their eyes and a can-do attitude?

    It didn’t happen. A lot of them came into this country via the same way that the illegal aliens are getting into this country now. Only instead of working on a rose garden, they were made to work in inhumane conditions in a factory.

    The “right” way is mostly a myth concocted by suspicious people who think that something is being taken from them.

  7. @ Dr. K deporting Illegals back to where they came from is not driving up food prices, speculators are.
    @Byron….are you really making up your own facts? Our ancestors from Europe did not pay “coyotes” to sneak them across a desert in the dead of night. They actually came across an ocean on boats and went to Ellis Island. Immigration was coordinated at that time…why do you think so many Germans settled in the Midwest and southern Europeans in the east. It was through LEGAL immigration and the government actually decided where immigrants settled. There were quotas and they were sent to areas of the country in most need of workers. The immigrants actually took the time to learn our language and settle down and spend their money here. Today’s illegals have no interest in learning out language and send most of their money back home.

  8. Bobby, so you actually think that there were no illegals coming into this country in the early part of the 20th century? Seriously?

    And you also think that all immigrants learned English and spoke nothing but the language once they got here? (BTW, the US doesn’t have an official language, as I’m sure you’re aware of).

    And the trope of (illegal or legal) modern-day immigrants not learning the English language is bullshit.

    If you want to be a xenophobe, be a xenophobe, but at least have the balls to own up to it. Don’t hide behind a Disney-fied version of early immigration. It was much like it was today, this is not a new phenomenon.

    And BTW, the government coordinating and telling people where they can and can’t live? That’s a good thing?

  9. Bobby,

    1) True, but immigrant labor shortages do drive up wages, as recently seen in Georgia:

    2) “Today’s illegals have no interest in learning out language and send most of their money back home.”

    Just an ignorant statement. Today’s immigrants learn at the same rate as in the past:

    And while remittances are high at around 20% of income, to say they send ‘most’ of their money back home is simply not true.

  10. The people romanticizing illegal immigration should know they are supporting the exploitation of a powerless labor force; governments in Mexico and Central America that choose not to address their various social, political, and economic issues because it is far easier to have the United States acting as a safety valve; and the overburdening of our various social support systems.

    And, even more unbelievably, they dismiss any arguments made by the people who favor restrictions on illegal immigration by claiming they’re all (universally) the statements of bigots and hatemongers. It’s a lot easier to demonize people who believe differently than you do than to, say, try to understand their arguments.

    Cheaper foodstuffs as a result of illegal immigration? Maybe. But the farmers growing the food are breaking the law and exploiting their workers to ensure your lettuce doesn’t break your wallet. A brighter tomorrow for new immigrants? I’d caution you to investigate what illegal immigration has done for both locals and the migrant population in Farmingville, New York. And, finally, we have to consider the impact illegal immigration has on schools, hospitals, law enforcement, and the like.

  11. @ Byron….I’m sure there were a few stowaways on ships in the early part of the 20th century but not even close to the number of illegals we have today. The reason….the Atlantic ocean. Kinda hard for people to swim over here instead of using a criminal network to sneak over a porous and unprotected border.
    BTW….English IS the official language of the US and if you don’t learn it, then you WILL fall behind. I don’t believe for 1 second our ancestors got off the boat and immediately started speaking English. However, they did not have Telemundo and “Press 1 for English and 2 for Gibberish options, so they knew they HAD to learn English.
    Bottom line is that many Americans have a problem with these people because they are BREAKING the law and have liberal pukes like yourself defending them and all you can do is call decent, law abiding citizens like myself racists.

  12. @Greg,

    And yet, whenever a practical solution is proposed, guys like Bobby yell, “Amnesty!” and nothing is ever accomplished. I’m sure he’d love to ship all the illegals back where they came from, but that solution is logistically impossible. So nothing gets accomplished, and we’re stuck with the status quo.

  13. I don’t have an issue with foreign laborers working in America.
    I had this conversation with a friend of mine that came here as an illegal. He is now a citizen, owns a nice home, and is looking to buy a second home.
    He and his wife work all the time.
    He commented that the illegals come here to do the work we don’t want to do, such as picking crops.
    I explained to him that when I was young we were the ones picking crops. I picked beans, and berries when I was young for summer spending money.
    Now we call it “child labor”. Parents that do it are frowned upon.
    It’s sad, we learn how to work with these types of jobs. Instead people now expect everything to be handed to them.

    The MP3 was worthless.
    The reload feature just takes it to the top of the page.
    Pretty sure I have it right.
    Had to reload the page to get it to change.

  14. For the first commenter even illegals pay some taxes if not Federal and State. They do pay sales taxes when they things. There are many illegals who have fake social security cards so they are paying into social security and medicare, which they won’t be able to collect on. I am not sure when the government set a policy for immigration but certainly in the 1800’s and probably through the early part of the 20th century anybody could come over here.

  15. 5-7% sales tax depending on where you are? Really? Maybe next time I go out to dinner I’ll pay for the salad and get the dinner and dessert for free. Wow, at those prices I should order the two pound lobster instead of the sandwich.

    You really want to make the basis of your argument that “many illegals who have fake social security cards” and do contribute ?

    I’m old enough to have seen The Breakfast Club, I think those illegals you speak of are just trying to be able to vote…

  16. Fake Social Security cards???….that’s your argument about them paying into the system along with sales tax? You have got to be kidding although your argument supports my main point. Fake Social Security cards is a criminal enterprise in this country and the illegals are making that enterprise richer and stronger. If any of you liberals really read my comments, you will see my biggest gripe is the utter failure of the government and not xenophobia. I have no problem with my Chinese neighbors or my Pakistani accountant because they played by the rules and came here LEGALLY and want to stay here and LEARN our language and culture while still maintaining strong ties to theirs and God bless them. When I see day laborers standing on our street corners, it is just the tip of the iceberg for the hidden criminal activities going on in our communities and a total breakdown of our laws and their enforcement.

  17. Bobby, you wouldn’t see those day laborers if there wasn’t a demand for them. And yet the only conservative solution is “Send ’em back!”. Meanwhile, no Americans will do migrant labor even with an unemployment rate of 9%. Stephen Colbert challenged Americans to do it and I think 5 people signed up.

  18. @ Jim K….send ’em back are your words, not mine. All I have been saying is government has failed to protect our borders and clamp down on employers who hire illegals. The reason Americans are not doing the jobs of what you call “migrant” and I call “illegal” workers is because the employers pay below minimum wage, don’t offer benefits and do everything they can do to beat the system and screw the laborers. Why do you think they hire illegals in the first place? Also, using Comedy Central data to support your arguments is, well,….hilarious.

  19. @ Jim K. My solution…first and foremost SECURE OUR BORDERS. If they were secure to begin with we would NOT have this problem. Second, crack down on employers of illegal immigrants hard. Publicly embarrass them for trying to cheat the system, just like they do with “Johns” when they want to crack down on prostitution. Obviously, we cannot send 20+ million of them back as that would be costly and dangerous. We should offer a “path” to citizenship for those with families and anchor babies but not expedited. They should have to wait as long as someone who PROPERLY files for citizenship. We do need to send some of them back to set an example and especially ones with criminal records. We need to promote a culture here in the US for employers to FEAR trying to break the rules and exploit ANY workers. We need to stop looking the other way and enforce laws that are on our books. If our economy can improve, then there will be ample opportunities to LEGAL immigration in this country.

  20. Bobby,

    Fair enough, although I do have issues with the ‘first and foremost secure our borders’ argument, only because it makes for an easy excuse to not do anything else ‘until that is done.’ A border will never be completely secure.

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