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Right to work?

6 March 2015

CaptureA post on a facebook page for foreigners living in Mexico City caught my attention.

hi! are you an american living in Mexico city and would you like to help mexicans to improve their english speaking skills and to get some money ( little money ) in exchange. there is no necesary ESL teaching qualifications or experince. It´s required to be joyfull, patient, to like to talk.
age required 20-40 yo. Interested ask by inbox thanks

While only slightly offended… and my reasons are below … the bigger question it raised was whether — as foreigners, one acquiesces to custom, even when it violates the law of the land… and, more importantly, are we (again as foreigners) ethically obliged to stick up for the law over custom, when the law is what we (as good liberal Americans or whatever) see as only fair and just?

The ad itself is typical of ones I see regularly in the papers in various forms…openly defining limitations on applicants… by gender, or appearance, or — as here — by age. Such ads are often enough for dubious forms of employment (especially when looking for, say “women between the ages of 18 and 30 with a good appearance”). Although I can’t say much about the job itself, though this looks exactly like one of the jobs meant for “illegal aliens”.

I think I can say that, mostly because, having been an illegal alien (though I prefer to think of myself as a “mojado reverso”) — helping “mexicans to improve their english speaking skills” while having “no necesary ESL teaching qualifications or [sic] experince” is exactly the kind of job “americans” without papers were taking.

Whether I actually did “help mexicans to improve their english skills”, I can’t say exactly (I hope I did SOME GOOD), but at least the schools I worked for vetted me to make sure I had a relevant university degree and “some” teaching experience. A quirk in the then-extant immigration laws, and a perceived shortage in qualified ESL teachers, let me slide by (one company paid me “technically” in the United States, the others just fudged by RFC — Mexican social security number — and just hoped the authorities never stopped by. If they did, I was screwed), or I just was paid cash.

Given the murky immigration laws at the time, there was little danger in being an “illegal”. Mostly it was the financial hassles of not being able to open a bank account, not able to contract for an apartment, and not able to be hired for a regular position, that were the problem.

Which was ok at the time, but, when I did find a semi-regular employer and they ran into financial problems, I had no prospects for a decent income, and had no choice but to “self-deport” for a time. With the mention that qualifications are NOT required, and that the work is casual, this doesn’t appear to be a legitimate, or at least well-established, employer and the pay is probably not enough to support a person. Which I suppose is OK, provided the person has enough income to otherwise live, and understands this is not likely to be a “real” job in any sense. In other words, it’s for a day laborer.

Obviously have no right to object to “illegals” working, and normally, I wouldn’t expect employers to check the visas of casual workers, but a job offer like this in a PUBLIC FORUM is an invitation to the immigration service (under political pressure to present an “even-handed” approach to U.S. residents) may not be in the best interest of those served, or of those who will be providing the service. Those served are reading that they are receiving less-than-qualified teachers. The wannabe service providers, under the new immigration regulations, are liable to opening themselves up to both fines, the hassle of hiring a lawyer (out of their own pocket) and possible deportation … which those of us young and naive enough to believe that we can just “wing it” in Mexico are likely not to see.

All of which is speculation (based on experience) on my part. What is more troubling is that in a forum for foreign residents, the non-discrimination laws are being flaunted. I’m not so naive as to think they aren’t regularly breached, or that employers don’t discriminate against older workers regularly, but wonder if … as foreigners… we shouldn’t bend over backwards to follow the law. Given that this ad was aimed at US residents — stereotypically a people who talk regularly about “rule of law” and our “Constitutional rights” — ad ad that seems a clear violation of both Constitutional law (Articulo 1° very clearly prohibits discrimination based on age) and the Federal District’s “Ley Para Previr y Elminar la Discriminación del Distrito Federal”. The latter (articulos 5 and 6-bis II) specifically prohibit discrimination in employment because of age (or any number of other categories, including the presence or absence of body piercings). My reading of the “Ley Para Previr” is that restricting the pool of would-be applicants to a specific nationality … as opposed to “Native English Speakers” might also lie outside the law… Canadians, Australians, Nigerians (who were the best of the illegal alien teachers we had, when I compounded by illegality by hiring them myself), Brits, etc.

I dropped a small bombshell asking about the Constitutional non-discrimination issue, which the poster responded to with “examples” where discrimination was valid… a paraplegic can’t be a lifeguard (although there is no reason a paraplegic can’t work for a parks and recreation department, and — of course — being able to swim is one of the prerequisites for that particular job) … and asking if I’d want to hire a 65 year old woman to be a roller-skating waitress. While I didn’t respond, I would note that I know some septuagenarians who can roller-skate rings around me, though I have no idea of their table-waiting skills. And, anyway, why can’t a 41 year old… or a 60 year old, teach English?

There’s a name in logic for raising silly objections, I’m sure, but it’s not worth responding to those types of arguments. The bigger question, and one I’m still not sure of, is whether or not that by raising objections (about, in this instance, age discrimination) are we basing our objections in our own prejudices towards our own moral precepts, or — considering those moral precepts towards non-discrimination are part of the legal code in this country — within our rights to question those, even if they are the majority, who ignore the law?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. lian permalink
    6 March 2015 11:12 pm

    “” are you an American “” que vive en mexico ? , que los mexicanos no son Americanos ? jajaja esto si que es divertido , me imagino que estudiastes historia

    • 7 March 2015 1:01 am

      Me de cuenta la palabra “american” en el anuncio… pero los lectores de ese sitio de facebook son en su mayoría gringos… que assumar “american” es “USAniano” ¿Tal vez el trabajo para “americans” está abierto a los jamaicanos, belicianos y angloargentinos así? 🙂

  2. mexicomystic permalink
    7 March 2015 9:44 am

    Rich, I was a “mojada in reverso” also for a long time. But i preferred the monicker of “Dryback’. I did many things to survive, night watchman, handyman maintenance, translator and mostly freelance photographer. most jobs were cash only so it was easier to get paid under the table without being noticed. But things have changed and I tired of looking over my shoulder. Now with bar codes and holograms you are easier tracked so I legalized myself. As my wife says, “Mexico is the land of legal documents, if you don’t have them you run into a barrier.” Things have changed in 45 years, I have even entered Mexico with No papers & No money at all. But that is almost impossible now. Many Americans are naive as to what goes on in Mexico. I had a lady tell me she was coming to Mexico and going to find a job. I asked, “Working at what?” She said, “Picking limes in Veracruz.” She had heard there were many groves there. That’s what I call living in a dream world.

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