Everyone that is Building Something in America, Speaks Spanish

By Jim Baron

How many times do we hear: “I do not have any problem with immigrants I just have a problem with illegality that they came here illegally”.  “Why cannot they get on the line.”  There is a very simple and sad response:  Let us deal with it.

The first myth is the word illegal alien. They are not illegal aliens, we have a broken immigration system and they are victims of it. They are just people! And they do not need asylum, they are not here for asylum they want jobs, just like you. We need to personalize this and simplify it. These are regular people and want jobs.

Are they taking jobs away from anyone? No! in all restaurants, right now, probably 60% of the people working here are immigrants. Every sub-contractor is an immigrant. To see them as illegal aliens we have this mythology about it, they are criminals, they live in ghettos, they are uneducated, they are dirty, they do not know how basic live goes in.

To the contrary, they are just regular people. I have a general manager who is; he came here illegally married an Anglo, that was legal. He had a master in engineering from a Tech College in Mexico, makes $90,000/year at his job. They have as various profiles as everybody in this room. But we use the word like illegal alien and we begin to think that is a problem, there was not a problem. And then that leads to scapegoating over a certain people lose jobs in the mid-west because economy is changing; oh who is causing the problem, it is that illegal alien out there, that criminal!

We have to start to dispel basic myths and that is conversations that need take place. There is no “line to get in”, there is no work visa to work in the United States. You cannot come in and be a dishwasher and get a visa, you cannot, does not exist! When I started in the restaurant business 30 years ago, I was naïve, somebody came in and says I am not legal, oh I will help you and get you a lawyer. Oh what does the lawyer say…first of all, do not admit that you are illegal because now you are now a criminal yourself? Okay, what am I supposed to do? Well you have to go back to the country of origin, you have to then prove that the job that they would fill, that they are the only person that could fulfill it.

You have to advertise for that job, and when there are no other applicants then prove that person can take that job because they have the unique skills. How long does that take? Oh 7 years and $20k. Do I want to hire a dishwasher, spend 7 years and $20k to get legal, really? You think that is how it is going to work? Or do you think we will find a way to hire that person?

They are taking jobs from everybody else? how many white men or white women or black men or black women applied for my kitchen jobs in a year say between the ages of 20 and 30, in a year on average over the last 5 years? Zero, never, not once! They are underpaid. No, I pay about $17/hour for my kitchen people. How many people I have in my restaurants right now? Nothing, I got 4 restaurants I can hire 80 people to fill those slots. Their instruction were; hey guys are currently doing great, what are your problems? We cannot build new things because we do not have new people. We cannot find subcontractors. Labor cost is too much, we are letting over time. These guys just turned down the jobs unless they we acted to it. They cannot make a subcontractor to bid a job, why should they bid a job. They have so many jobs to choose from, they had that GC has to take what they give them. So labor cost is way up, overtime is way up, same with us.

We need these people to fill the infrastructure jobs in the United States. The construction industry, the landscaping industry, the restaurant industry, the hotel industry, the landscaping industry. The problem is not many of you people are employers and so we do not interact with people like this every day, we do not see it and this mythology continues, this mythology of illegal aliens, this mythology is they should just get in line.

This mythology that they are criminals, this mythology that they are undereducated, none of that is true. They have as much variety in personality and background as everybody in this room, we just want to deny it, it is easy for us to just look the other way like when we see a homeless person. You know homeless…I am psychologist, you know where homelessness was created? We about in 1960 decided that we would let everybody out of asylums because we are going to have community psychology, we are going to have houses to pick up these people. But there was never money for it. So instead of labeling them as mentally ill or alcoholics, we label them as homeless and they become a problem.

We labeled people as a way to deny our own responsibility as human beings for each other. And this issue with the people coming from these countries is no different, and until we face that as human beings and deal with people as people, we are going to have these problems. And that is where the discussion needs to be to make simple human personal contact you know and instead of saying; oh I love the women that works at my house and cleans but she is different from the others and the other people that live in the ghettos. No, she is not, she is just one example. These are the hardest working, most religious piece of people in general, than millennial kids. They are devoted and the reason why they do not have choices.

They are here to work. Thank you!

The Attorneys
  • Francisco Hernandez
  • Daniel Hernandez
  • Phillip Hall
  • Rocio Martinez