We were told to do a story on immigration by interviewing an illegal immigrant.
Cesar is the only mojado, or wetback, we know and felt comfortable with to interview for this story on immigration. All the other Hispanics, for they are the only group worth mentioning when discussing US immigration issues as they are right next door and have been ignoring our fences and signs for decades and will likely still find a way to breach whatever walls or barriers we erect . They are a famished, desperate and innovative people. they breed like rabbits and are taking our jobs. They want what we have, and many carry sharp knives. They are coming in over the walls. Most are hopped up on drugs. The ones that aren’t are the dealers and shrewd and never dip into their inventory. Many are rapists. They move their legs all crazy like when they dance. All are lazy and a drain on the social services and our only hope of starving them out is to hide their food stamps in their work boots. They do make good landscapers if you can get them out from under their broken down cars. These facts are widely known, our leader has told us so. All the other groups of immigrants, from places poor, dangerous and war torn, have similar dark skin tones and strange, primitive customs. They too are breaching our barricades, taking our jobs and want what we have but we don’t know any to interview.
Cesar we feel safe with. He has been in the country for well over seventy years. At five years of age he blithely strolled across the bridge in Laredo, ignoring the signs and rules that were in place even then, with his parents who kept going north as far as Salida where they worked in the lettuce fields and lived in a small whitewashed shack. Food was meager but sufficient, the weather was cold, the shack let in the wind and they had to walk through the snow to use the outhouse but his parents found it an improvement over squatting in the gully everyone in the town they had left behind used. His father had begun by chinking the cracks in the wall’s wood siding with wet newspaper that soon dried in the crisp Colorado air. His mother was able to snare a few lean conejos their first winter and by the second winter they had dug a small root cellar and stocked it with vegetables from the garden in the backyard. Ten years after crossing the Rio Grande his parents had managed to buy a small farm in the San Luis Valley, how is anyone’s guess being illegally in the country. This was in the sixties when everyone else was becoming enlightened or looking for the meaning of life. Cesar when a teen moved to Denver and found work in a machine shop on Kalmath. We are not sure he took anyone’s job as no one liked sweeping the floor, the spiraled metal burrs stuck in the straw of the broom and would cut your hand when you tried to remove them. He learned to operate the large Bridgeport lathes of the shop, but soon moved from the repetitive task of making part after identical part to custom prototyping. As CNC gained a foothold he found less work and was relegated to maintenance and repair for the production lathes and was content to retire on the the condition he kept in touch with the company to assist when the well used but still useful machines would become truculent. There is something to be said for knowing where to hit a thing with a hammer. He lives in a neighborhood of small houses nearby that is slowly being absorbed by industrial parks. How he bought his house is anyone’s guess as well. Cesar is old, with knotty hands and clouded blue eyes that were once a clear deep brown. He works in his garden behind a three foot tall chain link fence in summer and keeps his short walk shoveled clear of snow in the winter though the snowplows throw up mounds of dirty grey slush from the now busy street that has come within fifteen feet of his door. We trust him. We met him when walking back to the office from the Brewery Bar one early afternoon. They serve an excellent smothered green burrito and we recommend a Tiny Tim. He was picking up a soda can someone had tossed from a car, or truck, the street sees a lot of truck traffic and we had struck up a conversation about litter and why people did, “No comprendo.” he’d said and invited us to spend a minute with him on his front porch. We did, being a bit flush and convivial from the recent Tiny Tim, and for the next hour had a nice conversation while sitting in the two sheet metal chairs watching the traffic go by that was as much silence as it was comment. Cesar is an illegal we feel safe with. We have known him for several years.
First we asked Cesar about the new administration’s immigration policies and the increase in deportations, some dividing families that have resided in the country for years. “No comprendo.” was his reply. Asked about the border wall his reply again was “No comprendo.” Cesar’s answer to all our questions, questions about the growing isolationist. nationalist trend, the proliferation of hate crimes, increased racism, laws that make it more difficult for the poor and people of color to vote and have a voice in the country where they live, in fact all of the topics aligned with the disenfranchised of our nation and his answer to them all was simply, “No comprendo.” Even prodded with questions about white privilege or how a middle aged white male could honestly believe the hollow threat that they were treated unfairly, becoming a minority and his answer was still just a lowered head shake and a “No comprendo.”
As an interviewee Cesar was a complete dud. We know he speaks fluent english, no comprendemos.