Dear Mr. President,
On the same day when the New York magazine said, like most critics, that House Speaker John Boehner has spent his summer “punting” instead of choosing to pass historic legislation such as immigration reform, CNN’s Morgan Spurlock’s “Inside Man” focused on the hot-button issue of illegal immigration.
The show not only made me very emotional, but took me back to my own struggles as a new immigrant in this country some 17 years ago this August. Spurlock, if you did not see the show, took a job as an orange picker in a Florida grove, earning just about $9.50 per tub of oranges he picked. It takes nearly 10 bags to fill the huge tub.
The tedious, backbreaking work that starts at the crack of dawn six days per week proved too much for the undercover Spurlock, who managed to pick only three and a third tubs of oranges all day compared to more than double that by the immigrants he worked alongside. The harsh reality check, as Spurlock put it, gave him better appreciation for the immigrant workers, as he was sure no Americans would want or keep the job, especially given the paltry wages. And as he smartly pointed out, without these migrants, we may end up paying double or triple the prices for the basics at the grocery store, including oranges and orange juice.
Spurlock’s undercover look into the lives of fruit-picking undocumented and unskilled legal farm workers also made me think that immigration reform may not be as dead in the water as Boehner insists—but this could be all dependent on you and how much this issue really means to you.
I say, Mr. President, that you challenge Republic lawmakers, including Boehner, to work one day alongside the migrant workers in the orange groves of Florida. If they can do even one day of work at the pace of the immigrants, then they win—no immigration reform. But if they can’t, then you win and the Senate’s version of the bill moves forward.
It’s a simple but very logical and powerful challenge that will drive home the real need for immigration reform and immigrant workers for every American, including fat cat lawmakers who think this is simply about border fences and the myth that undocumented migrants will simply add to the welfare rolls of this country.
As Spurlock made clear for all America, no undocumented immigrant qualifies for any benefit, even though they pay taxes into the coffers of this country. They receive no Social Security, no welfare checks, no Medicare, Medicaid, no driver’s licenses, no health benefits, no food stamps—no nothing! All they want is a chance at a better life for themselves and their family, and they are happy to work extremely hard to get it.
Challenge Republicans and even Democratic lawmakers to become “Inside Men” on the issue like Spurlock, and watch how fast they change their tune and we get reform that will help the lives of millions become better, putting many on the path to making a bigger contribution to this great country.
The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.