Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, & Your Mexicans

by Steve Corbett – Greetings From Scranton

Local yokel news talk radio and braying white nationalist social media “broke” the shocking news story. Vague newspaper and television reports followed suit. Scurrilous false rumors spread throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania neighborhood bars, supermarkets and other overwhelmingly white ethnic gatherings.

Non-English speaking children, for God’s sake, brown children were landing like aliens from Mars at the Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton International Airport.

And by non-English-speaking I’m not talking German, Italian or Polish. No schnitzel or pierogis for this wild bunch of south-of-the-border desperadoes. Forget the pasta fazool, fool. Call out the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, KKK, the National Guard and mirror-shaded tactically challenged local cops. Barricade the doors. Lock the windows. Women and white kids first.

Another irrational national insecurity panic attack was underway.

Back in December several United States government-chartered jet flights carrying immigrant minors, who had been taken into custody at the Mexican border in Texas, landed at our would be cosmopolitan airport nestled in the heartless core of Pennsylvania hard coal country.

Right wing ignoramuses went nuts.

Republican white rights zealots U.S. Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA) and aspiring Pennsylvania governor Lou Barletta, a former fanatical local congressman and loyal ally of former President Donald Trump, behaved like concentration camp guards alerted to an escape. Meuser and Barletta, both descendants of immigrants, whipped their feral followers into an ugly frenzy.

Intimidating bigots accused these poor kids of everything from carrying terminal diseases, smuggling guns and hard drugs as well as wanting your daughters for their wives with whom to produce mixed race grandchildren who would demand pinto beans on their pizzas.

Ole!

Instead of killers and rapists, though, the children were merely children seeking asylum, passing through on their way to live with relatives and friendly sponsors willing to extend a sliver of the American Dream in our fast sinking democracy.

To take liberty with the Emma Lazurus poem mounted on the base of the Statue of Liberty, give me your tired, your poor, your undocumented immigrants.

To get even, you huddled Mexican masses yearning to breathe free might want to move to Scranton. New Latino arrivals will also include immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador and elsewhere in Latin and South America. But because Yankee racists targeted and demonized Mexico first, we’ll embrace Mexicans first.

Caucasian zealots blamed Mexicans for everything except picking fat strawberries and broccoli green as precious emeralds that native born Americans crave on our plates. The haters also forgot to credit Mexicans for doing other hard work white people refuse to do.

I see young men working on rooftops in my neighborhood in the worst cold weather. When I hear ranchera and banda music playing on their radios I know they’re carving out their piece of tomorrow the same way countless Eastern and Western European immigrant greenhorns turned coal crackers did at the turn of the last century.

It is in this united spirit of universal cooperation we white fake native Americans should rejoice, particularly those of us living in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area where hundreds of thousands of immigrants including my Irish coal miner grandfather arrived to risk life and limb in underground hell holes owned by the same strain of degenerate robber baron who stole Mexico from the Mexicans.

When I moved to California in 2002 I saw documented and undocumented Mexicans working the fruit and vegetable fields en masse, the same way NEPA coal fields transplants labored at the height of the mining industry.

My ancestors came here legally, say the know-nothing white nationalists. Actually, just a few generations ago lax immigration laws with few restrictions allowed most new arrivals entry. They worked the same way the Mexicans work now, taking any job on any shift for any wage until they established themselves, started to climb the ladder and became full-fledged American citizens.

“When I see the Mexicans I see the Irish,” I often said during my almost five years living in Santa Maria, a Central Coastal California city of about 100,000, about 75 percent of whom are Mexican or Chicano.

One of my most honored moments occurred a few years ago when my goddaughter who’s now a student at The University of California, Berkeley, and whose parents are Mexican immigrants chose my wife Stephanie as “madrina” and me as “padrino” for her coming of age quinceañera. Standing before a crowded audience celebrating her maturity, people who knew far better than I the struggle of immigration, I spoke in my halting Spanish.

“En mi corazon yo soy Mexicano,” I said.

In my heart I am Mexican.

In a better America, trust and love will go hand in hand.

For now, though, white ethnic voters (mostly my Irish tribe) who voted Trump into the White House will put him there again unless the mostly white Democratic elite leadership stops them and him.

So far, no good.

For Herr Trump and his rabid numbskull army of servile millions to lose, Democrats must undertake massive voter registration and mobilization of disenfranchised Latino citizens. National, state and local Democratic leadership must get back to grassroots organizing, into colleges, churches, and the field (literally and figuratively) to truly understand our changing American culture and community, taking leave of privilege and power to ask for Latino help. America can’t and won’t work without them.

Most of those children on the flights that landed briefly in my community will one day become American citizens. People like me – and hopefully you – who support their dreams will do our best to vote for progressive and radical political candidates who share our vigilance and sincere belief in the American promise.

Back when the coal mines even employed children, immigrants thronged to the Northeastern Pennsylvania coal region to work. Population and economic development soared. Now the workforce is in trouble. Our population is decreasing.

Yet, we can again rise from the ashes like the immortal bird and mythic phoenix of ancient Greece – which contributed its own share of immigrants to our shores.

But not without Mexicans.

So forget struggling for permanent residency, green cards, visas and congressional approval, amigos. Forget humility, embarrassment and government papers. Nobody can slap a passport stamp on the American Dream. Liberty and justice for all means just that.

Come to Scranton.

We’ll establish a bold Mexican Underground Railroad all over the city, loaded with secret routes and safe houses to give you shelter from hatred’s storm.

Bring your documented and undocumented relatives and their relatives. Bring your Chihuahuas and hottest chiles, your mariachi bands and professional boxers. Build a shrine on Scranton’s Courthouse Square to Jesús Malverde, the Mexican Robin Hood. And bring as many beautiful babies as you can carry, one of whom one day will hopefully grow up to be president.

Tough tortillas to American hate mongers who will show up wearing red Make America Great Again (MAGA) baseball caps to greet you and lose what’s left of their narrow minds.

We’ll face the “gabachos” together.

Since fair weather patriots in our gullibly prejudiced nation claim an invasion is already underway we might as well give them one to remember. Their continuing unhinged insurrection against virtue will continue unless we stand with good people of great dignity who simply want and deserve the same freedom for which our immigrant ancestors toiled and fought.

President Joe Biden’s silence on this new threat to his Scranton birthplace – the threat of mean spirited bad citizens, not vulnerable and traumatized immigrant children – must end. Biden needs to remember his own immigrant roots. If he keeps dragging his huaraches, I’ll recruit asylum seekers to pitch tents and build lean-tos outside his childhood home at 2446 N. Washington Ave.

Mexicans should also flock to the newly named Biden Street in downtown Scranton, a prestigious address that could easily serve as the new “Little Mexico.”

Businessmen and women could open up a string of cantinas, nail salons, taquerias, Santa Muerte botanicas to buy spells to curse Republican evil spirits and other small family-owned shops to contribute to the ailing local economy. Federal grants should be made available to guarantee their success.

Recently arrived settlers should also move to the Historic Hill Section where I live. Inhabit West Side and South Side. Go to Irish Minooka where my grandfather staked his claim in a tiny company house where he and my grandmother made a home for 10 children on a block where many of my cousins and their children still live nearby.

My late first cousin Ann lived right next door to that snug house where her union leader father and she, too, grew up. A bright, sensitive and courageous woman, Ann saved lives and witnessed death during her combat tour as an Air Force nurse in Vietnam. She told me a few years back she had room for a whole extended family of undocumented guests at her house.

“Send them over,” Ann said as we shared a conspiratorial laugh.

But Ann meant business.

So do I.

Shelter symbolizes the American way. Why else would the Statue of Liberty be harbored in New York Harbor, an international symbol of protection from a raging sea of discrimination?

Open the borders.

Open your minds.

Viva Mexico!

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