I’ll fess up — my life as an illegal alien
(I forgot who I originally wrote this for… it was about the time I was moving out to the wild west, and was probably in response to someone somewhere. Out here, I don’t bother with TV, but I assume Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan, and Bill O’Reilly haven’t seen the light yet).
For the benefit of those boneheads on the right, who think it’s cute to pose the question, “What do you think would happen to me, if I went to Mexico illegally?” the answer is, “Probably nothing, really.”
No, I didn’t swim the backstroke across the Rio Bravo del Norte, though that sounds better. I became an illegal alien in Mexico the same way most Mexicans become illegal aliens in the U.S. I took a job while on a visitors’ visa and didn’t get a work permit, or go through the bureaucratic process (which in Mexico would have taken a couple of hours. Ask any “Green Card holder” how many visits to the INS and the U.S. embassay in their home country they made, and ask them to calculate the days spent in that task).
It’s a dirty little secret, but there are about a million “illegal Gringo aliens” at any time in Mexico, and no one gets too upset about it. In theory, I could have been deported, but it was highly unlikely. About the only gringos I ever heard of being deported were the usual suspects: narcotics addicts, kiddie pornographers and the like.
While unfortunately, Central Americans passing though Mexico are too often abused or deported, my fellow “illegals” from less wealthy nations (I had neighbors from Ethiopia, Congo, Brazil and Pakistan, all as illegal as I was) were largely left alone. Like all foreigner in Mexico (even tourists) Article 33 of the Mexican Constitution grants us the same civil rights enjoyed by citizens.
Other than not having to tax ID number to open a bank account and file for a tax refund, there were a few financial challanges. Mexico, like the U.S. withholds taxes from your paycheck. I have to assume my employers sent in the taxes. But, not having papers, I had no way to get a taxpayer ID number, or to file a return – and should have gotten a refund at least one of those years. And, of course, I paid the same sales taxes as everyone else. If people here want to complain that “illegals” aren’t paying taxes, their issue is with the employers and the IRS, not the workers.
Granted, most “illegal alien gringos” are fairly well-heeled or relatively well-paid. As a part-time English teacher and translator, I made less than many other “illegal gringos”, but that was partially by choice. I was single and could get by on less than someone supporting a family (or sending money home) and hadn’t moved to Mexico for the job opportunities (I may be eccentric, but I ain’t crazy. I lived in Mexico for the same reasons I now live in the TransPecos. Writing is no way to get rich. Single writers without extravagent vices can get by on less than full time employment if they have to.)
OK, I was relatively healthy (or, maybe just not concerned with my health) enough to overtax the local health care facilities like… illegal aliens? No health care facility I used ever asked my immigration status.
Mexico, like any civilized country, has affordable health care and public health services. With universal care payed with tax dollars, “illegals” are unlikely to “bankrupt the system.” Hospital administrators in any part of the country with a lot of uninsured patients are all talking about bankruptcy. It isn’t the “illegals” – it’s the uninsured, or, rather, the whole concept of private insurers – that are bankrupting public health care in the U.S. Illegals on both sides of the border are taxpayers.
Obtaining proper documentation, after overstaying my time, was a hassle I could have avoided, but nobody proposed any “leave the country, pay a huge fine and wait in line for thirty years”. As it was, I DID leave the country (Over a long weekend, I took a bus across the border into Texas, and returned with my working visa application in hand). It was cheaper than hiring a lawyer and paying an administrative fine. While a reasonable fine could be worked out for those “illegals” now in the U.S., there is no way NOT to disrupt business activities if thousands – or tens of thousands, or millions – of workers have to leave the country (or be replaced).
Outside of dictatorial regimes like North Korea – and the minds of some right-wingers – no sane person (which, of course, excludes the right wingers) would think of something so barbaric as making an immigration violation into a criminal offense – depriving dependent children (including U.S. born citizens) of parental support. Even if the milder suggestion of forcing the “illegals” to leave is followed, what happens to their kids, including those that are U.S. citizens? Do they depend on Social Services? Who is going to pay their medical and dental costs? Do they drop out of school without obtaining an education or trade that will make them productive citizens and taxpayers?
An “illegal alien” friend of mine in Mexico was was court ordered NOT to be deported. His all-but-officially-ex-wife was pissed (as ex-wives – officially and not quite — sometimes are) and turned him into the IMN. Uh, like any civilized country, child support comes before stupid things like proper documentation.
What do illegal aliens do? Work. Live. You don’t want to draw too much attention to yourself, and you try to stay on your best behavior. Yeah, my weird gringo ways probably annoyed some of my Mexican neighbors, but Mexicans don’t call the cops just because they’re slightly annoyed with you. And, I don’t think the Mexico City cops cared about my immigration status either.
I don’t recommend being an “illegal” alien in any country, but we’re going to exist. Mexico has about a million “illegal gringo aliens” and the U.S. supposedly has 12 to 15 million “illegals” from everywhere on the planet. Mexico is going to need English teachers for a while, and there are a lot of retirees who can’t make it at home on their pension and social security payments — and the U.S. is going to need workers of all kinds.
As I mentioned, this was a bureacratic matter, and eventually – grudgingly – I had to fess up and deal with the bureaucrats. Despite what Pat Buchanan and others have told you, it’s not a felony. There’s no such animal in Napoleonic Law anyway. Pat’s an idiot, but we already knew that. I don’t know if it’s just the tenuous grasp of the law most right wingers have, or the imperviousness to small things like factual accuracy that infects TV news bloviators like Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly, but there’s nothing criminal about being “illegal.” Even in the U.S., it’s an administrative matter (which is why deportations go before an administrative law judge, not a federal criminal courts judge). And administrative regulations are often stretched (or just simply ignored) when necessary.
I don’t know whether to be amused or appalled that the same people (and websites) that rail regularly about bureaucratic overzealousness not only expect nitpicking, but want armed agents to back up those regulations, when it involves people with a better tan than they have, who speak a different language. I might have a little pity, instead of contempt, if these jokers just came out of the closet as racist dolts too lazy or stupid to try speaking another language, and too frightened to imagine living without the State regulating their every action.