One of the few things I watch on television these days is a show called “Locked Up Abroad.” It’s a travel show about people from the U.S. (and occasionally one of the European countries) who find themselves held hostage or incarcerated in a foreign country. Most of the time they are caught trying to smuggle narcotics through an airport or some such similar crime. Their experiences are reenacted while the actual person narrates the story. Most of the time I find myself empathizing with the “victim,” even though they are usually very guilty. Perhaps it’s because they are often U.S. citizens, and it makes me feel some sort of kinship to them. They look like me, talk like me, act like me–except they made a very bad error in judgment.
Allow me to tell you a little story with a different twist.
A few years ago, a Mexican man (I’ll call him “Pedro”) crossed the border illegally and entered the U.S. in search of the “American Dream.” I don’t know what lured him here–probably higher wages than he could make in his homeland. That and the materialism we export South via television: fancy cars, big-screen televisions, nice houses, and all the other trappings of our culture.
Young Pedro couldn’t get a work permit legally. Hardly anyone from down South can. Do a little research and you’ll see for yourself. It’s a rigged game. We’ve got the low wage jobs in abundance that lure people like Pedro up here, but we won’t allow them a legal route to get here. You can walk by the bakery, but you can’t come in and buy something to eat. Try to ignore the aroma and stay out on the sidewalk.
So young Pedro did what many illegals do. He had himself a set of fake papers made. He got a good old counterfeit U.S. Social Security Card and a fake work permit. Before you can say “wetback” he had a job landscaping, roofing, brick-laying, or welding. Pretty soon young Pedro was making the big bucks (well, actually he was making minimum wage, but to him it seemed like big bucks). He had U.S. dollars in his pocket and enough to send the relatives back home.
Pretty soon Pedro learned a little English and met an American girl–a bonafide U.S. citizen. There wasn’t much to this girl, but Pedro couldn’t see that. He was living the dream, after all. And Mrs. Pedro, she wasn’t stupid. She could see she’d found her a man that would pay the bills. This boy would work seven days a week if he could, and she could sit at home and watch t.v. and take it easy. She was living her “American Dream” too.
Things worked out pretty well for the happy couple until Mrs. Pedro got pregnant and gave birth to a little girl. This required that the couple find a better house, and Pedro was ready and willing to work even harder to make his American wife and new daughter more comfortable. She found them a nice place, and although it was going to stretch his minimum wage earnings, he agreed.
There was only one flaw in the plan. It was Winter, and very cold, and young Pedro didn’t have the cash on hand to have the electricity connected. So he made an error in judgment. He cut the lock off the meter box and turned his power on so his sorry wife and his new daughter would be warm. He figured it would be O.K. until next payday, when he would go down to the power company and make things all nice and legal.
It was not O.K.
Several days later, a sherriff’s deputy escorted Pedro down to the county jail. Pedro produced his fake credentials, which were apparently good enough to fool his employers (wink, wink), but not good enough to fool a duly appointed agent of Uncle Sam.
As we sometimes say here in Alabama, Pedro soon found himself “in a whole mess of trouble.”
A year has now gone by and Pedro is still sitting in the Chambers County jail. He has had no visitors except for a court-appointed attorney and an interpreter. Apparently Mrs. Pedro has been too busy to visit and bring his daughter. He has had no trial nor hearing. He just sits.
It is my understanding that the power company will drop the charges on electricity theft. Pedro will still be charged with entering the country illegally, and he will be deported, whenever Homeland Security can get around to picking him up. His sentence will include provisions that make him inelgible to even apply for a visa to return to the U.S. for ten years. If he attempts to return illegally, he faces up to 50 years in U.S. prison.
Pedro will probably never see his daughter again.
Now let me say for the record that I have stated my views on immigration on this blog before. They are simply this: secure the borders, institute a fair work permit system, and allow workers who come here a path to citizenship if they are good citizens during their stay.
Let me also say that if this is not your view, be advised that I could care less. Don’t bother leaving me a comment otherwise. As we also sometimes say here in Alabama “I don’t give a hoot in hell what you think.”
This story is not about immigration. It is about a man who is languishing in a county jail for an unreasonable period of time in the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.” It is shameful, and it is just plain wrong.
I wonder if Telemundo has a Mexican version of “Locked Up Abroad.” Maybe they should.