Allen B. West

Hi-ho, hi-ho: Would Snow White’s helpers all be immigrants today?

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Most of us know work is good — although for some it is better than others. A scripture often overlooked is Psalm 128:2: “You will eat the fruit of your labor; blessings and prosperity will be yours.”

My first job in New York was full of glamour, friendship and fun. I worked for one of the largest beauty companies – Clairol. I remember the model shoots, the travel, the trade shows, and the funny an interesting people. Even though I worked primarily in the finance/IT area, the feel was decidedly exciting. I was just out of school when Gretchen Carlson (of Fox) won the Miss America title and she would come to have her hair done for an interview or other appearance. My office at 345 Park Avenue was a fun place to be.

I lived in a studio apartment — 450 square feet and paid almost ALL of my paycheck to live there. My grandma thought I was the most attentive granddaughter in the whole world because I dropped over often just in time for breakfast and dinner. I had no money left over after paying for my living and commuting expenses. So I got a side job. I was an “apartment finder” — basically I matched people with available apartments.

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I worked through an office at the local real estate office and began to make a good deal of money, with a great deal of effort matching the landlord’s desires with the renter’s desires for a pretty good percentage of the year’s total rent. At times it proved to be as difficult as marriage matchmaking. But it was WORK because sometimes I had to clean and “beautify” the residence in order to make it palatable — and I did. I remember the owner of the agency told me “you work like Chinese” – yes, yes, I know that’s no longer politically correct.

But what exactly did that mean, “work like Chinese?” Basically she was saying I didn’t work like the average American 22-year-old she came into contact with. I explained to her that my Jamaican aunts would work two jobs with three-day, 12-hour shifts. In other words, three-day, 12-hour shifts at one hospital and three-day, 12-hour shifts at another hospital for a total of 72 hours of work per week. Their husbands worked as electricians, mechanics and security guards — sometimes in multiple jobs. Yes, there’s an old joke — one Jamaican dies and 30 jobs open up — remember the satire of the Jamaican family on the show “In Living Color”? Once upon a time it was just a little exaggeration of the truth.

Immigrants enter this country for a number of reasons. Perhaps they will escape persecution or degradation in their own country. Maybe they are looking for better opportunities, maybe they are escaping something, anything.

But this immigrant, looking around at the lack of restrictions on the height that a man or woman may reach will work hard because of the “fresh possibilities.”

I know of a Haitian woman who volunteered for the night shifts and working in the freezers of a food production company because each of those designations added 10 percent more pay per hour to her paycheck. Her son became an accountant and her daughter is a nurse practitioner. Through this immigrant mother’s toil, she lifted her family into the a higher income level

So are there jobs Americans won’t do? Are there jobs left on the table because they cut into the fun, require that you do dirty things (I mean real dirt, not lasciviousness) such as cleaning manure, digging ditches, tending farm animals? Well, yes, I believe so.

Right now I’m watching workers install a fancy roof on the house next door. These workers will be out there all day for as long as it takes. They’ll work fast because we get lots of rain in the afternoon and it’s already 93 degrees. They take lunch in shifts, no breaks, balance themselves 30 feet or so off of the ground, and will do an excellent job. All of them are from where? You guessed it, south of the border.

Before I leave for work, I will drink a glass of milk. My milk probably came from a dairy cow in the Northeast, or maybe right here in Florida. As the Wall Street Journal wrote about the dearth of American workers in the dairy industry, “a Mexican worker who can’t read or write, sometimes mixes up the numbers that identify the cows that he milks. But he can easily tell one brawny black-and-white Holstein from another, and discern when they are sick, in heat or just plain moody.”

“Farmer Ray Souza credits immigrants like Jesus Rodriguez, an employee for nearly 20 years, for saving the U.S. dairy industry. “I haven’t had a non-Hispanic want to do this work in 10 years,” says Mr. Souza, a descendant of Portuguese immigrants, a group that helped turn California into the nation’s largest dairy state.”

Working in a dairy farm, milking and cleaning guarantees you’ll be wet, kicked by a cow once or twice, cold or hot depending upon the season, pooped on and you’ll stink by day’s end. But it also means that you, your children, and children many states away will get a nice cold healthy glass of milk.

So, are there jobs Americans won’t do? Sadly, yes. But when I watch the news commentators exploiting the plight of “Maria” or “Pedro” (yes, they use those stereotypical names when they outline their fictional stories) for their own political desires, this question is not answered. One thing for sure, flooding the borders and overwhelming the system will not work. It’s a strategy that will allow criminals to prosper at the expense of those who truly are the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

Anarchy and chaos will only guarantee that the conditions they try to escape will meet them once again in the future. This time, in their new home — the USA. We must work hard to ensure that is not the case. Unfortunately, some desire the anarchy and chaos for political reasons, and see it as a selfish opportunity, not the opportunity for success.

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