Mexican farmworkers in California. Mexican farmworkers in California.

Privileged life thanks to immigrants’ toil

Lives of many Americans have been improved by those who crossed southern border

Whenever the candidate who later became United States President Donald Trump spoke of undocumented immigrants those words were usually followed by talk of building a wall, deportation squads and bad hombres.


In his first speech to the nation, President Trump spoke of the possibility of a path to citizenship. We’ll see if that happens and what requirements come with it.

Yet, if the president changes his mind and makes good on his campaign promise to deport 11 million undocumented workers, I wonder who’s going to take their jobs.

Do the wine producers in Napa Valley have a B-team ready to harvest their grapes? Do Silicon Valley millionaires have green-card carrying Romanian nannies ready to oversee their children’s playdates? Are white teenagers going to start bussing tables in Mexican restaurants? Who’s going to clean the McMansions in Brentwood and Scarsdale, office buildings on Fifth Avenue and on the Magnificent Mile?

Will we bring in Canadians? Who’s going to do the cash-under-the table, below-minimum wage jobs on which employers sometime forget to pay taxes?

My father and my uncle owned a factory in Houston. During good times, the 1950s to the early 1980s, they employed 20-30 workers, mostly women, who cleaned and sewed bags in an unairconditioned warehouse. Most of their workers were Mexican immigrants.

Growing up, every meal I ate, every stitch of clothing I wore, every book or movie ticket I purchased was due in part to those Mexican men and women’s hard work.


Those immigrants’ toil helped send four children to college. Their labor helped pay for ski trips to Aspen and family get-togethers in New York and New Orleans. Mink coats, diamond rings, Chevy Impalas, remodeled kitchens and color TVs were affordable because these women who crossed the border heard there were factory jobs on the industrial side of downtown if they could work a sewing machine eight hours a day.

Our family’s story is not unique. Millions of Americans have profited off the backbreaking work of documented as well as undocumented foreign nationals.

Every day when I stand at the head of my high school classroom and call roll – de la Mora, Hernandez, Martinez, Ocampo — I am looking at kids who could be the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of those factory workers who provided me with a privileged life.

I don’t know how to repay those men and women who have long since passed. Or how to repay their progeny.

For the moment, I’m trying to help a few of my American-born students of Mexican and Central American descent graduate and get some money for college.

Hardly compensation for what I owe those Mexican immigrants who provided me with a comfortable life.

In his speech, President Trump shined a spotlight on families who lost loved ones at the hands of undocumented criminals.

Not highlighted were those Americans whose lives have been made better, more comfortable by the millions who crossed our southern border, worked hard and did no harm.

Dennis Danziger teaches English in the Los Angeles, California, Unified School District. He is co-founder of POPStheclub (Pain of the Prison System), a series of high school clubs that serve as support groups for students whose lives have been impacted my incarceration or deportation.

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  • Güerito

    Ski trips to Aspen? Mink coats?

    Sounds like you’re feeling guilty because your family got wealthy paying miserable wages to illegal immigrants.

    “Those who want more immigration claim that immigrants do jobs that native-born Americans do not want to do. But we all know that the price of gas goes down when the supply of oil goes up. The laws of supply and demand do not evaporate when we talk about the price of labor rather than the price of gas.

    Over the past 30 years, a large fraction of immigrants, nearly a third, were high school dropouts, so the incumbent low-skill work force formed the core group of Americans who paid the price for the influx of millions of workers. Their wages fell as much as 6 percent. Those low-skill Americans included many native-born blacks and Hispanics, as well as earlier waves of immigrants.

    But somebody’s lower wage is somebody else’s higher profit. The increase in the profitability of many employers enlarged the economic pie accruing to the entire native population by about $50 billion. So, as proponents of more immigration point out, immigration can increase the aggregate wealth of Americans. But they don’t point out the trade-off involved: Workers in jobs sought by immigrants lose out.”

  • Jumex

    The lavish lives of the wealthy. Don’t you think they have enough excess money to pay servants more ?

    If they paid the servants a couple of bucks more they could hire people that are trying to support a real life.

    • Vernon King

      I live with both affluent Mexicans, Canadians and US folks in Mexico. Guess who pays less for maids for example and its not the foreigners. To be fair things are changing but the rich people generally treat help very poorly here in Mexico so its not just a US/Can thing. The person who maintains my house who is very dark just talks horribly about his the rich Mexicans. FYI a good wage is 55 pesos per hour (20P per USD), getting fed and they get first shot at all our stuff we don’t want anymore. Also paid vacation days, extra pay on holidays or day off. Pay is higher here than many places as it costs more here. So poverty and color are a factor in Mexico. I don’t want to be too hard on the Mexicans as I do think education is helping the situation.

      • Jumex

        People are greedy by nature. If they can buy something cheaper they will.

        I am sure if Mexican could pay 20%-30% less for a Nicaraguan servant vs a Mexican they would hire the Nicaraguan.

      • 101st

        55 pesos per hour is a good wage, considering the minimum wage in Mexico is apprx. 65 pesos per day.

        • Vernon King

          They need it as things cost more here so its not as good as it sounds. Canadians and Americans here drive the prices up for everything. Just ten miles down the road prices drop for real estate for example.

  • jdwfinger

    Dennis, just wait until ISIS gets here and visits your corrupt family

  • Henry Wilson

    Do those “privileged Americans” include the families of victims murdered by illegal migrants? How about the women raped? How about stores and businesses robbed at gunpoint? Are those people also “privileged Americans”?

    • gypsyken

      You are apparently ignorant of data showing that immigrants actually commit crimes at a lower rate than non-immigrants, or perhaps you have “alternative facts.” You forgot to mention that the Mexican drug cartels force thousands of innocent Americans to buy their drugs and ruin their lives by become addicts.

      • Henry Wilson

        Your nonsense only proves first that you are brain dead but secondly and more importantly a real s.o.b.

        • Charliej

          Henry, you are the ignorant bastard in this discussion. You nationalistic assholes make me want to puke. Your ancestors were immigrants to the US and now you want to close the gates and keep all others out, except white folks like you. Trump is going to destroy the US and you will go down with the ship. Happy drowning.

          • Henry Wilson

            Go F yourself you traitorous dirtbag.

          • Charliej

            I am not traitorous, that description belongs to you and all of the other fools who voted for Lying Donald. Remember what I said when you are going down with the ship. Glug, glug, glug.

          • Henry Wilson

            Lol! How old are you nitwit? Log off, l hear your mama calling you to do the dishes. I suggest that you first remove her panty hose and ditch the stilettos. You know how upset she gets when you come out of her bedroom closet still dressed like Caitlyn.

        • gypsyken

          Being an s.o.b. who states facts is much to be preferred to being an unthinking acolyte of “the narcissistic vindictive Orange Warthog” who claims that inconvenient facts are nonsense.

          • Henry Wilson

            It will be to our mutual best interests never to encounter each other in person.

          • gypsyken

            I don’t want to encounter any ignorant acolytes of the narcissistic vindictive Orange Warthog. (I’ve adopted Mike S’s marvelously descriptive term for him.)

          • Henry Wilson

            Have I sent to you my daily missive that you are an idiot? Consider it said.

      • J. M. Davis

        The truth is we have no idea that “immigrants actually commit crimes at a lower rate than non-immigrants”. The Uniform Crime Reports that the FBI is responsible for do not ask or allow crimes to be reported by immigrant or citizen category. this is something I have written to the Washington about for the last 10 years. The report just needs another data line.

        • gypsyken

          “several studies, over many years, have concluded that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. And experts say the available evidence does not support the idea that undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate share of crime.”– “most research indicates immigrants actually commit crime at lower rates than native-born citizens.”–

          • J. M. Davis

            As I said there is little known about the citizenship status of perps for researchers to work with. Even local news papers won’t report status. That is why a change in the already existing UCR or Uniform Criime Report that is a mandantory report annually to the FBI should be changed. I am sure you can agree that more information is better. Researchers can only base their research on known facts, lets get them!

          • gypsyken

            I do, of course, agree that more information is better, up to the point where more data doesn’t change the conclusion already reached, and researchers agree that more data on crime committed by immigrants is needed. I do not know enough about the UCR to know if it should be changed. In the meantime, I will rely upon published, peer-reviewed studies that appear to be reliable and valid, and these contradict the assertion of the ignorant, narcissistic, and vindictive Orange Warthog and his ignorant acolytes that immigrants are disproportionately responsible for crime. Their assertion represents scapegoating that is a well-established technique used by fascist regimes. Hitler and his followers claimed that Jews were responsible for Germany’s problems. Il Duce Trump and his followers claim that foreigners, especially immigrants to the U.S., particularly Mexican ones, are responsible for the U.S.’s problems. That is why VOICE has been established in the Dept. of Homeland Security. It is a symptom of fascism.

          • Peter Maiz

            True, but many people react to unfounded deplorable ideas. including several people that post here. Apparently, as Mark Twain once said it’s much easier to fool someone than to convince him that he’s been fooled. Before the rage against Mexican immigrants there was the rage of black Americans being lazy and living off welfare.

          • gypsyken

            Yes, ignorant and uninformed people do support unfounded, deplorable ideas. We are seeing that now in the comments made by several Republican legislators regarding health care for undeserving poor people.

        • GOPerson

          We do know the immigration status of the people in prison and illegals make up about 37% of the prison population at a cost of $7.8 billion a year. (Info is easy to find on the net.)

  • miabeach

    Two words. Legal. Illegal.

    Many of the jobs illegal immigrants have soped up are jobs earned by low labor rates. Illegal immigrants have been doing jobs cheaper than expensive automation. An unending supply of cheap labor is less expensive than investing in expensive machinery and farm implements that require skilled operators and maintence. The problem is not the United States being cruel by enforcing immigration laws but the Latin American ruling class who abuse their people and positions. Just a few short years ago Brazil was flying high and the next big government, now it’s a disaster. Same with Venezuela. The problem is not the United States but we can be if we don’t defend our people, our borders and our laws. We traditionally have respected law and Latin America hasn’t.

  • K. Chris C.

    While the Khazarian grift-machine plunders the core of the American economy, their tyrannical partners tax and regulate to death the rest. Then, to forestall the grift-machine’s price-inflation, and sidestep the government’s cement shoes of taxes and regulations, the connected are permitted to import foreigners to toil as de facto slaves.

    The three then spin compelling tales of foreigners taking jobs, and destroying the economy. Never mind the scapegoats not printing the grift, not taxing and regulating capital and labor into extinction or overseas, nor pursuing ever deeper bankruptcy plundering and murdering foreign peoples; Foreign peoples too scapegoated for their imposed predicament.

    Spun tales that enable so many to so enthusiastically direct animosity at the scapegoats, instead of finding the courage and resolve to stand up to the plunderers, occupiers, and oppressors of the American country. So many desiring to hide their meekness and cowardice in the ignorance of lies fed them by those responsible for the destitution and misery.

    An American citizen, not US subject.

    • Richard

      Very well articulated, if Zapata was a Gabacho he would sound like you. Two words I always use describing the right wingers, cowardice and/or ignorant, lets add greed. now just to piss off the righties Viva Che Viva Zapata
      hope Regan is rotting in his grave. #FUCK tRump.

  • TioDon

    You owe them nothing, they were paid for what they did. If they didn’t want to do it they could have stayed in Mexico. Get over your White guilt and get on with your life.

  • 101st

    ” Who will take their jobs?” Lets try another:

  • Pete L.

    Alabama cracked down on immigrant labor some years ago and ended up having to let convicts out of the state prisons to do the stoop labor that the immigrants used to do and that the U.S. citizens would not do. The rational option would be to have a guest worker program like the old Bracero program of the 50s and 60s where immigrants could legally enter the U.S. for 6 months, follow the harvests, and then return to their home countries (where most of them wanted to be anyway). Of course, being a rational idea it has no place whatsoever in our current political climate in the U.S. and consequently will never happen.

  • alance

    Gringo guilt is an oxymoron.

  • mariache

    Will we bring in Canadians? How do you plan to lure Canadians down to work in minimum wage jobs? No takers I am afraid. I only set foot in the U.S. to go to Vegas or while changing planes to go to Cancún.

  • GOPerson

    Yes or simply a guest worker program.

  • Mark Schneider

    I used to be surprised when the “press” blurred the distinction between “illegal” and “legal” immigration. Not any more … now the “press” always says “immigrants” as if to tell us that the 20-30 million persons living in the US without the proper documentation is somehow OK.

    My grandparents were immigrants (Ellis Island, 1921). They came to make a better life for themselves and they followed the rules that were in place at that time.

    That’s all the people of the USA want. If you follow the rules, we will accept you. If you don’t, then we won’t.

    IMHO, I believe that it will be impossible for the US Government to implement any change to allow a “pathway to legality” that will not get someone’s panties in a bunch. If they make this “pathway” lenient, the once-illegals will tout how smart they were to game the system. If they make the “pathway” difficult, the left will cry about how unfair it is.

  • Jim Anderson

    When I was in college we all worked in the fields during the summer. It was a great job. We cut lettuce, bucked hay bales, and picked fruit. Towards the end we were pulled aside by the group leaders and told not to come and work any more or we would have “accidents” since they were saving those jobs for “their People”. So I hear the BS about taking jobs Americans do not want, but my experience was entirely different and we actually liked those jobs.

    • Thomas Thompson

      Interesting Jim,what year and what area did that happen in ..thanks for sharing.

  • J. M. Davis

    Let us find out how many migrant workers we need in order to get the crops harvested. Once that is established we can pass a migrant temporary worker program that actually works. It could be patterened on Ontario’s temp worker system, Farmer provides transport from and back to the border as well as room and board. Wages are mostly deposited at a bank in Mexico and must be retreived in Mexico. We might want a mix of Latin Americans and Asians, but it should be our chioice.

  • AlSil

    Looks like you sure hit a sore spot, Dennis. Good on you!!!

  • Peter Maiz

    Dennis, thanks for telling the truth. If one illegal alien kills someone, Trump uses it as if all illegal aliens committed crimes. This, is how demagogues get to fool the people once, twice, and many times over.

  • mrbacchus

    I worked alongside those braceros when I was in high school. Hard work! The program was basically a success, and an improved version might be the answer-if anyone in government would ever bring it up.