As the fight over the latest attempt at coming up with new immigration legislation continues, we continue to hear every so often in the press that it's important to bring immigrants in to do "work Americans won't do".
Without question, immigrants (legal and illegal) do backbreaking and poorly paid work throughout this country. (Though the book has its flaws, Mexifornia by Victor Davis Hanson talks about the work and life of illegal immigrant agricultural workers in California from the point of view of someone who's worked beside them in 110 degree vineyards wafting with dust and pesticides.)
However, the phrase "work Americans won't do" has always bothered me. Perhaps the more accurate phrase would be "work Americans won't do if they can afford to palm it off on someone else without paying too much, and thus avoid any incentive to make the work more efficient and less manual."
Partly because of my annoyance with the phrase, and partly because of some lingering "a man's land is his own responsibility" idealism, I've never been able to stomach the idea of hiring a "yard guy". So every other weekend or so finds me and/or MrsDarwin out sweating in the yard.
A year or so ago, this meant I spent a hot May afternoon digging persistent holly roots out of our front yard (in what had been an area of shrubbery and was about to become the rose bed). If you haven't dug out holly before, you must understand that it really does belong in the company of ivy (as in the old carol), because like ivy is it nearly impossible to dig out or exterminate. The roots go down deep and they criss-cross all over with no seeming pattern -- and even the slightest bit that remains in the ground will send up sprouts for years.
I was pounding away with a short-handled mattock when one of a group of teenagers slouching by shouts in my general direction, "Stupid wetback! What ya doin?"
Now, I'm half-Mexican in ancestry, but no one ever guesses it. My hair isn't that dark, and although I take a tan if I get around to going outside enough, I'm not really olive at all. But apparently if I'm wearing workboots, jeans and a white t-shirt and covered in sweat and dirt while working in the yard -- it is actually possible for people to recognize my Mexican background. Perhaps I was even doing some of that famous work that Americans won't do.
So I'm sticking with doing my own yard work.