Americans take many things for granted. For the majority of the population, life is relatively mild. People are normally not rich, but not poor, not ecstatically happy, but not too depressed either. One might say that the population generally has it easy, as compared to a large percentage of the rest of the world. It is for this reason that a great many people from other countries immigrate here. They are seeking a better life. Often, however, they get mistreated. Like the Mexican immigrants, who arrive here, only to be treated unfairly because of few opportunities, American prejudice, and Americanization. They do not come here to do harm, or to take advantage of Americans, or to do anything but find something better than their current situation. However, their experience here is often not as good as it could be.
First of all, the opportunities the Mexican immigrants are presented with are very poor. This is due in part to the fact that they are willing to work hard for much less than they deserve (Perea 2). So naturally, companies are going to take advantage of this. The normal available employment to the Mexicans is often so bad, as Harris points out, that is characterized by harsh working conditions, enormous amounts of physical labor, and minimal remuneration (190). This work, although not constantly, is often seasonal, like field work, picking fruit, and other such things that bring to mind slave labor. One man, picks strawberries for a living, at only $4.00 an hour (Ungar 137). Not only are the jobs horrible, the pay is worse. Most of the time, if minimum wage is attained, then the worker can consider themselves lucky because it is rare (Alexander 78). The wages for these jobs are low often because the companies know that people will go for them. Often, their workers are illegal immigrants anyway, and cannot request their rights. So whether or not the applicant is legal or not, if they look Hispanic, then they get judged unfairly by the employer (Nigel 46). Because of their appearance, Mexicans get judged as all the same, as Hing speculates, as uneducated, desperate, and hardworking (124). They are even sought after by potential employers because of this. One man speaks of finding some workers for a small job, saying, I’m going to find some Mexicans for the job?they’ve got a good attitude, they work cheap, and they’re dependable deliberately seeking out workers which he can overwork and underpay (Ungar 238).
Secondly, Mexican immigrants are badly mistreated by American prejudice. Something that fuels this prejudice is called nativism, which is an intense opposition to an internal minority on the grounds of its foreign connections?a zeal to destroy the enemies of a distinctively American way of life (Perea 1). Those that believe in nativism, nativists, are against immigration, and are especially against Mexican immigrants. They pose a great problem to Mexican immigrants, especially if they happen to be illegal aliens. Nativists have passed something called Proposition 187, which was to Save Our State by preventing illegal aliens in the United States from receiving benefits or public services in the State of California (Harris 61). Although this is directed only at illegal aliens, it has an effect of legal Mexican Americans too, because many just assume by appearance that if one looks Mexican then he or she is an illegal alien. California Senator Craven even was quoted saying the state legislature should explore requiring all people of Hispanic descent to carry and identification card that would be used to verify legal residence (Against). This same Senator was later again quoted saying more horrible things about Mexicans, that migrant workers are on a lower scale of humanity (Against). Mexicans also face a mass amount of disrespect because of their financial status, as if people fail to realize that they are coming here to improve that. It is not just the white population that is putting these people down, either. There are black groups around against Mexicans also, promoting to other African Americans in speeches and leaflets that Mexicans ?are taking away our jobs, our women, and everything else’ (Ungar 365).
Lastly, all Mexican immigrants are subject to the grossly unfair process of forced Americanization. They are given no slack when it comes to the English language. An immigrant cannot survive in America without knowing English, and even if they didn’t want it, it would be forced upon them. For example, as of 1997, twenty-two states have declared English as the official language (Perea 79). It is also increasingly hard to get a job if you can’t speak English. Furthermore, in July 1992, Senator Robert C. Byrd stated during floor debate that the U.S. should stop accepting immigrants who do not speak English (Hing 150). The government has been so concerned with assimilating all the immigrants, and making them all American, that sometimes it sounds scary. For instance, Americanization programs. Harris states that there was even one Americanization program aimed directly at Mexicans. Such programs taught American ways to an extreme. Sometimes, they were to give up fried foods; tortillas would be replaced with bread, and lettuce served instead of beans. They even intruded into more personal traditions, like a normal lunch for a Mexican child, a folded tortilla with no filling which was forcefully changed because it was supposedly the first step in a life of crime, since the child would be tempted to steal from others (209). Reform Party presidential candidate Richard Lamm is even quoted saying, America can accept additional immigrants, but we must make sure they become Americans and going on later to say that immigrants must demonstrate their desire to become ?one of us’ (Against). Even in schools, Americanization is being pushed, where students must learn English just to attend classes that teach American literature, history, and a myriad of other lessons in American culture (Romo). Being Americanized almost resembles a riddance of the culture of the immigrant.
On last glance, it seems as if even though life as a Mexican immigrant is very hard in America, they persevere. They have done nothing wrong to warrant this kind of mistreatment. They come to America to find better lives, or to make money to support their families. They do not come to do harm to America, they don’t come with any purpose at all but to try and make their lives better for themselves and for their families. They come anyway, despite the fact that they will have to have few opportunities, deal with American prejudice, and Americanization. Because, unfortunately, as bad as it is for them in the U.S., it is often better than what they had back in Mexico. Mexican immigrants haven’t done anything wrong, they are serving as scapegoats, and they know it. They know full well how many people feel about them. A man named Woody Guthrie wrote a poem about it:
Some of us are illegal and some are not wanted
Our work contract’s out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves (Perea 171).