By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Vice President Kamala Harris visited Central America recently to discourage migrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. It’s not going to happen.
“Do not come,” Harris said in Guatemala.
As many as 150,000 migrants crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in March. And 5,000 arrests were made on average per day.
Why are migrants willing to risk their lives, walking thousands of miles, to reach America? Why do unaccompanied children, including those younger than 10, continue to stream across the U.S border?
To explain why migrants won’t listen to Harris’ words, let me share with you my recent Las Vegas trip. It may sound absurd that I bring up Vegas to make my point, but it gives insight into why migrants will not give up on the land of their dreams, America.
In Vegas, my husband and I dined at a Chinese restaurant on the first night we arrived, and the next day, in a Japanese restaurant. What do these two restaurants have in common? Latino wait staff. In Seattle, quite a number of Asian restaurants have hired Latinos to work in their kitchen, but seldom out in the dining room.
My friend, a former staff member who moved to Vegas last year, invited us to dine at Sapporo, one of the 20 Japanese restaurants in Chinatown. When I noticed the customers were mostly mainstream customers and the entire wait staff was Latinos. I asked my friend, “Where are the Japanese people?”
“They are the owners, in the kitchen,” my friend replied.
The Chinese restaurant we went to was Ding Tai Fung inside Aria Hotel. Only one hostess was Chinese, the wait staff and other hostesses were all Latinos. Everywhere in Vegas, the “we’re hiring” sign is up. Labor shortage is evident not just in Sin City, but all over the U.S.
According to the Census, Latinos make up over 34% of the Vegas population.
What do you think these Latinos tell their relatives and friends back home who are struggling with no jobs, no electricity, no water and little food? What would they say to their fellow Latinos at home who are fearing for their lives and their children’s lives due to gang violence, corruption and bribery, and climate change destroying their crops? And what do they see in America during the pandemic that they are eager to share with their countrymen?
“Come to America, and you shall live,” Latino workers would say. “America has jobs. Asian restaurants can’t fill their jobs with their own people.
“Come to America, you can get free vaccines. You don’t need to beg for it. What I am going to say is going to shock you. To get the people inoculated, the American government pays people to do it. Free money. Free beers. Free donuts. Free sports events tickets. Free haircuts. Free scholarships. Free video games and other merchandise. Free food. Free marijuana. Free rides. Free child care. Free equipment rentals…Americans are spoiled. Is there any other country in the world, that would go that far to pamper its own people?
”You wouldn’t believe it, you can win as much as $1 million if you vaccinate. The president of the United States, Joe Biden, has repeatedly pleaded with the people to get the vaccine. Not in our lifetime can we see our leaders back home do that to help its people. America is a great country. What are you waiting for?”
“If you can come, I don’t have to send you money any more. We can both work and save enough money to buy a house after a few years and live the American dream.”
Indirectly, Americans’ obnoxious behavior has encouraged more migrants to come to America. I have never been receptive to the idea of paying people to get vaccinated. This is like paying ransom money. How shameful! Someone gets paid from taxpayers’ money, for doing something to benefit himself.
What if we were the ones to pay for vaccinations? What if we have to beg on our knees to get one dose of vaccine? What if we have to sacrifice a lot to get the second dose? Will that change our attitude to relish what we have? I am grateful that I got the vaccine and even more grateful that it is easily accessible. There were no long lines when we got our shots. The whole process took less than two minutes. Shouldn’t we get vaccinated for our country’s sake and as part of our civic duty?
The pandemic has revealed more conflicts and contradictions within America, which is hard for me and even foreigners to fathom. But the hidden message for these migrants is clear: if they get themselves to America legally or illegally, most of their existing challenges and basic needs will be resolved. Whatever risk and sacrifice they take is worth it. Being in America is like a passport to heaven for themselves and their family. The land of the free is worth any danger, and any price to send their children alone too.
The news of vaccines and an abundance of jobs would immediately convince migrants to pack up and walk away from their homeland. The Biden administration permits migrant children to be reunited with families who live in America.
About 9.3 millions of jobs are available in the U.S., and more will be created as the country opens up. Thousands of places are hiring for menial jobs, which Americans shun. For migrants, menial jobs sound marvelous. These jobs are better than zero jobs at home. These jobs are better than working 15 hours a day at home without much reward, and their families are often hungry. Hard work is never a problem to migrants, they just need an opportunity.
America’s wealth and vaccines
Twelve other countries have developed COVID vaccines besides America. But other countries trust the U.S. vaccines more than those developed by other nations. The Biden administration has also worked with competing pharmaceutical companies to speed up vaccine production.
The U.S. manufactures the Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca vaccines. It plans to share 2.5 million vaccines with Mexico and Canada—750,000 doses were donated to Taiwan with no strings attached. What other countries in the world would be so generous? What other countries can act so fast?
According to the New York Times, the U.S. will donate 80 million vaccine doses, which is five times more than any other countries’ donation and with no expectation of favors. Wow! That would inspire many to leave their homeland.
If I were a poor woman working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with little reward in Honduras, I would be determined to face the dangerous journey, for a brighter future inAmerica. Americans have not learned anything from the hardships of these desperate migrants how blessed they are.
A Chinese proverb says, “Those who live in plenty, do not appreciate it.”
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.