Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Where's Tom Joad?

Amidst all the immigration reform/restriction/whatever you want to call it, I keep wondering: where is the American worker? One of the supposed victims of illegal immigration is completely invisible--physically--from the debate. And this is strange for a society that relies on visual media.

The easy solution is to point out that this matter is simply politicized. The jobs that illegal immigrants take are not jobs that American citizens want. Certainly, if Americans wanted the types of jobs that immigrants took, they would be physically present in the places where day laborers are hired. The preference of the illegal immigrant versus both citizen and resident would be obvious.

There are, however, no Tom Joads. During the Great Depression, the Okies* who packed up and moved out West also confronted migrant workers, both legal and illegal, and work became an arena of social and racial tension.

The invisibility of American workers (as workers) will be a problem for future historians. Should they discount work as a real battleground? Or perhaps the citizen-worker has become a consumer of politics, and the immigrant, illegal or not, must produce his or her own politics. Any other ideas?

* I must always mention that, growing up in LA in the 70s and 80s, we still referred to the people who settled in the central valleys in a derogatory manner.


At 3:53 PM, Blogger sepoy said...

speaking of see this:


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