Monday, May 15, 2006

Call me Ismael

Over a year ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Dallas for the trade show. While there, I got a chance to talk to the cab driver who would be on call while we were in town. His name was Ismael; he was from Eritrea, a little African country next door to Ethiopia. He looked like maybe he was in his early 40s. Ismael was working as a cab driver and he lived in his vehicle. During his off-time, he slept in his car. I didn't ask how he managed his hygiene needs. Ismael was a married man, but his family was back in Africa. Most of what he earned he sent home to his wife and, I think, six children. Ismael came to this country legally so that he could provide a better life for his family. He planned on going back home within a couple of years. One thing that I've noticed from people like Ismael and other immigrants who come to the U.S. as resident aliens is that they don't feel victimized. They don't feel like second class citizens. They are doing what they came here to do, work and earn a living. Some bring their families, others come alone and send money home. Either way, they sacrifice to come to America and they make things happen for themselves. People who "defend" illegal aliens don't see the injustice committed to people like Ismael who did what it took to come here legally.
Many of the arguments about immigration being the new "civil rights" issue is a bunch of nonsense. The United States does take in immigrants who come here legally. We even provide benefits, to some extent, to illegal aliens. Our country has no moral failure on this issue. The failure is on the side of the governments from where these people come. Those countries have failed to provide equal opportunity for their citizens. They fail to provide "economic justice", which many illegal immigrant defenders claim we should offer. If illegal immigrants had some of their basic needs met back home like they do here, they would not have to come here. If anybody should be protested, it should be the home countries of the illegal aliens for their total lack of responsibility in providing for their own people. That is where the injustice lies.
People like Ismael are an inspiration. I admire the strength of character in his sacrifice to provide a decent life for his family, even if he does not get a chance to see them. As I contemplate the possibility of leaving the RGV to work up north without my people, it causes me sadness. I know that in doing so I would miss my daughter's birthday this summer. I would miss my son's first day of pre-K. My wife would have to be a temporary single mother raising the two. Things like this are reasons for pause. Another side of me, I imagine similar to immigrants, tells me that I need to do whatever it takes to get ahead. I can stay here and barely scratch out a living, or I can sacrifice for a few months to work towards a decent future. By staying here, I am simply putting off paying for my past mistakes. So, I am weighing the alternatives for my success. I can either be a great, but broke, husband and father; or I can earn a decent living for my family, but be apart from them. What choice would you make? Would you stay home or would you be like Ismael?

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