Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

After 'A Better Life': Readers' thoughts on immigrant labor

Screen shot from "A Better Life" official film trailer

The Oscars have come and gone and Mexican actor Demián Bichir, who was nominated for his role as an undocumented immigrant in the film "A Better Life," didn't come away with a golden statuette. But Oscar or not, a popular post related to the film continues to draw comments after launching a lively discussion over immigrant labor and the root causes of illegal immigration.

In the film, Bichir plays Carlos Galindo, a gardener and single father working in Los Angeles who buys a pickup truck in hopes of owning his own landscaping business and better providing for his teenage son. His dream is eventually thwarted by his lack of legal status.

The post featured a different kind of film review, a Q&A with an immigrant day laborer from Guatemala who shared several things in common with Carlos Galindo. Hugo Villatoro, who saw "A Better Life" for the first time last week with a group of other day laborers during a special screening in Los Angeles, reflected on how the film related to events in his own life, and how Bichir's character represented "the dream that we carry with all of us."

The post led to a long string of comments. Here's a sampling from the conversation, which was kicked off by Bonzo:

If it keeps going like it is, the United States won't be any better than the countries they are leaving. More disrespect for the laws of this country are exactly what we don't need. The U.S. taxpayers should not be forced, (by our government or the political unrest south of the border), to be responsible for the population-exploding trespassers whose presence continues to swell our government's expenditures on "entitlements".

Adfawe replied (an excerpt only, as it got a bit nasty after this):
would you like to do the jobs that these people step up to do for all of us "americans"?

Lawanda0808 wrote:
Hugo is a human being with children/family he loves and wants to support just like white males in America.....who by the way, make the laws to keep him the unions (in their beginning) made laws to keep minorities out (of competition) the US Congress and Senate pass laws to increase their salaries, do insider trading legally, reduce federal taxes for themselves and their rich cronies.  If Hugo had enough money he could "buy" his way into the US legally.  Their should be disrespect for unjust laws.....and we all working together to change them.

Border Native continued:
The situation is so much more complex than Bonzo wants to believe. The people crossing the border are looking for survival and they come one-by-one... not with an army like the US did in 1847 (and other occasions) to take more than half of Mexico's territory. If the US, who can overthrow governments all over the world, wanted to, it could easily close the border... again, if it really wanted to, but who would do all the work that these "illegal" workers do for the miserable "legal" tender that they get? The US government WANTS these people coming over the border... let's not be or pretend to be naive or patriotic and tell the truth!

Bonzo, who posted a few times, replied:
I do agree that the government is complicit in this scheme; how many wrongs does it take to make a right? Illegal entry is just that. I don't know why the government doesn't come up with some sort of temporary work visa system for the work and workers you mention. I don't believe that naivete has anything to do with it. Are you implying that the United States is capable of absorbing every uneducated manual laborer that Mexico and South America can produce? The notion that illegal immigrants only do "jobs that Americans won't do" is the naive position; I have seen illegal carpenters, pipe layers, masons, plumbers, mechanics, equipment operators, and on and on.

Unless the problems in Mexico and South America are solved by the citizens of those countries, this dilemma won't go away, but that still doesn't entitle people to cross the border into the States and procreate children they can't afford. The school system where I live is in deplorable shape over all the ESL disaster, (as well as other problems), and our local county hospital is barely able to tread water financially due to the burden of "indigent" care. I'm sorry, but that is the truth whether you believe it or not.

Bffalicia added:
Bonzo, these people are not "illegal."  They are undocumented.  Once upon a time, your ancestors were probably in the same predicament our neighbors to the South are in. They are undocumented. They are still people and actually, most undocumented immigrants would rather stay in their respective countries, but many years ago, NAFTA was created, and the opportunity for these people to ride the free market economy slapped them in the face. In Mexico, for example, the farmer could plant for his family and sell crops. Guess where most of the corn that Mexicans eat, comes from? Yup. The US. I don't know about you, but I would drown kittens if it meant that I could put food on the table for my children.

Another from Bonzo:
My ancestors came from Switzerland, legally, and one stipulation at the time was that at no time should they ask for, or receive, ANY form of government aid or assistance. The population explosion in Mexico is a problem, but the solution should not be on the shoulders of the U.S. taxpayer. NO ONE should have children they can't provide for - that automatically creates an unfair burden on others, WHATEVER country they are from. Again, how many wrongs equal a right? (By the way, "undocumented" makes it sound like they are entirely welcome, and that they just forgot to sign in at the door).

And this from Cmok Wawelski, who also posted a couple of times:
Current so called 'immigration' system is in fact new slavery in this country. It creates a class of people with no options and after years or even decades here - nowhere to go. Go and ask the farmer to show you ID's of people picking crops. Ask what will happen if they  are gone.

Care to join the conversation? Post your thoughts below.