Much ado is made of the treatment of Latin Americans coming across our borders looking for illegal work.
But what happens when an American goes to Mexico to get a job. Roses are not exactly strewn across his path either.
When I was much younger I had had a bad experience volunteering for the forest service (don’t ever do it!) in Wyoming and, angered and upset that I had wasted a whole summer of no pay for thankless U.S. Government Rangers, I headed down to Mexico to escape for a while from the so-called ‘American Dream’.
Not speaking much Spanish I was aided by friendly Mexicans in finding my way to buses and a train that took me south deeper into that vast strange land called Mexico. I ended up in Mazatlan, a lovely Mexican coastal town on the Pacific.
Tired of the cut throat attitudes of my supposedly American comrades, I soaked in the laid back Mexican atmosphere. Always wanting to learn Spanish, I thought wouldn’t it be cool if I could get a job in Mexico and get away from my land of birth for awhile.
I went to a resort and talked to a manager there who spoke English and said “Yes”, I could work for him. I made it a point to go straight to the Mexican version of an Employment Office to make sure everything would be OK with them.
Let me stop here to make sure certain things are clear about this story:
First off, I was willing to work for Mexican wages; I wasn’t out to make any more than they did. I was not in it for the money but for the experience and as long as I had enough to survive that would be alright for a while. There were also no other ulterior motives.
I was not there to bang on Mexican girls, to get high, to do anything illegal or immoral, to take anything that didn’t belong to me or to cause anyone trouble in any way. I was just there to experience Mexico, learn about the land and enjoy the sunshine and surf.
After getting the bosses affirmation on working, I did what I thought was the right thing and headed straight over to Mazatlan’s version of a governmental labor office. Going in and using my scanty Spanish to introduce myself I then explained my situation to the secretary who fortunately spoke English. She went into the back office to speak to her boss, a mystery man who I never got to actually see.
When she came out again she said that he would have to see how much money I had with me. He wanted to physically see it. This made me very uncomfortable. If I put all my money in her hands and never saw it again I would be royally screwed. I consented and passed a few hundreds of dollars and travelers checks into her waiting hands, my entire survival currency.
She disappeared into the back office from whence I could hear only fragments of a language I didn’t yet understand. After a bit she returned and handed me back my money. I was then informed I that not only would I not get a work visa but they were going to shorten my present visa.
There was no protesting the situation; Mexico is a notoriously close-minded and authoritarian society at the higher levels. I collected my money and left. Although I had enough cash for quite a while by my frugal standards, I now had to leave the country early which meant catching an expensive plane flight home rather than traveling back by train and bus.
It is interesting how the situation is when the shoe is on the other foot. Aliens illegally entering our country are allowed drivers licenses and allowed to stay even though they broke the law by crossing our borders. Their children who are also illegal are allowed to stay and even get preference for getting into college. When an American goes and LEGALLY tries to get work in their country it is a different story.
Something to think about.