Thursday, January 12, 2006

Illegal Immigrants and Our Comfort

This is not an opinion either way on illegal immigration, just an observation of an effect of it.

Many people say that immigrants take jobs such as construction, agriculture, etc. away from citizens by working at the same jobs for much less money. This is often true. Employers can sometimes get away with paying an immigrant (illegal or otherwise, I suppose) minimum wage or less with no benefits, when a citizen would demand twice the pay and benefits. How is it that when citizens seem to have so much trouble making ends meet, immigrants don't seem to complain about the low pay? They seem to have plenty to eat, and they come to work wearing clean clothes and looking like they've slept well. And we know that they also send money back home to their families in other countries because of the proliferation of so many Spanish-language money transfer establishments. Why, then, do we have such a problem working for so little?

Perhaps the answer lies with lifestyle. Many immigrants share housing costs by having numerous roommates. They don't seem to mind sharing close quarters with several friends or family. The sacrifice of privacy is apparently worth it to be able to save hundreds of dollars on rent each month. Lots of citizens complain about this mode of living that seems so foreign to us. Many of us wouldn't want to live next door to a three bedroom house that is occupied by ten grownups. We have grown accustomed to having our space and our privacy, and we mistrust those who don't conform to society's norms. (Oh sure, it's OK for college students to bunk up to save money; we expect it from them. But the time comes when they must grow up and conform. If they persist on bunking together after college, it must be because they are having drunken orgies and are manufacturing meth in the bathtub.)

We work hard and save our money to buy nicer cars and bigger houses. Many immigrants work hard and save their money to send home to mothers and fathers, grandparents, aunts and uncles who don't have the opportunity to work for a "decent" wage. These immigrants will sacrifice their own comfort so that their relatives back home can eat a good meal every day. When is the last time that we sacrificed our comfort for the good of someone else?

Jesus sacrificed his comfort for the good of those around him. Think about that.


Tony Arnold said...

Excellent thought JMG.

Space is also a more Southern/Midwest/West thing that has its roots in an agrarian culture in which there was more available land for each family, in fact it was required to be agrarian. Most southern urban and suburban areas are much more spread out and less dense than north eastern cities.

jettybetty said...

Interesting thoughts--I don't think Jesus ever owned a home--he just slept wherever--I'm guessing not a lot of privacy--yet, we think we *need* our own space/privacy!

JMG said...

I really enjoy my space and privacy. I think I could become a hermit. But our culture had made it unacceptible for groups of people to live together without being suspected the worst of. My main point, though, is that here we have these immigrants who are willing to work for less and live on less, foregoing large houses and lots of possessions in favor of being able to house and help their extended families, and we belittle and despise them because they choose to live differently from the majority (I'm leaving their legal status as a whole separate issue).

Sort of ironic that this is the way the mainstream should be talking about disciples of Jesus.

jettybetty said...

I think that's very good point!