Saturday, October 27, 2007

Some Are Welcome ...

...Others, not so much.

While residents threatened by wildfires in San Diego Country scrambled to pack cars and evacuate, there were some people not fortunate enough to get to a safe place. Many of them were migrants from Mexico, here illegally and therefore apt to want to stay as invisible as possible. That invisibility has cost at least four of them their lives. In one of the more bitter ironies of this wholesale tragedy is that one of those unfortunates was found by his countrymen who were here to assist in the fire fighting efforts. From an article in today's Los Angeles Times:

Santana and his fellow crew members are bomberos from Tijuana, Mexico, among the first contingent of firefighters to come north to fight a major blaze. The team of about 40 is assigned to the Harris fire, near the border in San Diego County.

Their grim discovery Thursday was an eerie reminder of what others in their country are willing to risk for a new life in the U.S.

"It's the consequences of the United States being a First World country and that Mexico is not," Santana said Friday. "It's sad."

"He's not the first one and he's not going to be the last one that is going to be found," fellow bombero Jose Manuel Villarreal Salgado recalled thinking.

Sure enough, three other bodies, all believed to be those of illegal immigrants, were found by the U.S. Border Patrol farther down the road.

One of the firefighters blamed Mexico for the waves of workers entering the US illegally.

"It's a Mexican problem because they cannot provide stable jobs and good wages for the workers," Salgado said. "Mexico has the capacity to help and they don't. Government officials just stuff their pockets with our money." [Emphasis added]

Sound familiar?

Another of the fire fighters, however, had a different assessment:

Santana argued that Americans profit on the backs of Latino laborers. But the Mexicans, he said, do not always benefit; they cannot always send enough money back to their families.

I suspect both gentlemen are correct. Neither nation has taken the steps to solve the immigration dilemma, and the results, while not as dramatic and shocking as the wildfire, are just as devastating.

The assistance of the Tijuana bomberos was desperately needed and certainly welcomed. It was also very gracious, given the rhetoric against their compatriots they surely must have heard over the past several years. When the fire is contained, they will return home. So will some of their countrymen, only without any fanfare.



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