Thursday, October 14, 2010

Foreigners in Our Midst

I met an interesting Guatemalan yesterday. He spoke English very well, with a noticeably excellent vocabulary, and a Spanish accent. He was picking through my recycle trash barrel trying to secure bottles and various plastic items to bring to a recycle center in return for a small amount of cash.

I walked down the driveway with 2 more bags to see if he could use anything more--gallon milk cartons and empty cleaning bottles. He was very thankful, and then I asked where he was from.

He has three children who are not US citizens and he said it's too dangerous to bring them here without documents. He himself has papers so he's not in fear of deportation, but he said he must return home to Guatemala because of his family.

He had a job as well as picking through trash, but every little amount helps. I asked him about life in Guatemala, and he said it has bad sections, like parts of Los Angeles--maybe not that bad--and good sections, like where he goes to find recyclables.

It was very hot standing in the 90 degree afternoon sun, so I broke off the conversation to get him a bottle of water. I offered him $5--in my mind it was a token confirmation that at least one American citizen doesn't believe all immigrants are lazy drones sponging off the rest of our immigrant-descended society.

He refused my handout! So I explained it was a small payment for a short interview that would go into my book about bigotry in this country. Then he thanked me.

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