A Day Without a Mexican Serves as a Cautionary Tale

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Immigration is a prominent issue that affects the American people in various ways. However, Americans usually focus only on the influx of immigrants and the space and resources they use, instead of the services they provide and talents they bring to the United States. This film sheds a light on the positive impact immigrants can make to the daily lives of people by demonstrating, in a satirical manner, how life would be without any immigrants.

Suddenly one day a thick fog comes down on California and closes the entire state off from communicating beyond its borders; the fog also seems to cause all the Mexican immigrants to disappear. Without an explanation, all the Mexican farm workers, store owners, employees, and families abruptly vanish. The sudden disappearance of immigrants leaves California’s farms with unpicked fruits and vegetables, children without their nannies, houses without their maids, and restaurants without cooks. As time passes, the people of California slowly start to realize that they had taken the work the Mexican people did for them for granted. Eventually the vegetables and fruits are not picked and thus spoil, trash collects on the streets, and even the border patrol agents are upset because they do not have work. The California residents see that immigrants not only significantly increase the labor force, but they also provide a large and growing market of consumers. Without their buying power, businesses are closed and unemployment rates are at an all-time high.

 Unfortunately, there are a large number of people who view immigration as an attack on the United States that will result in undocumented immigrants taking over the work force and abusing the opportunities this country has to offer for long-standing citizens. It is true that states like California are dealing with a problem of a drastically increasing illegal immigration population; in 2000, two-thirds of all immigrants lived in the traditional immigrant states: California, New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and New Jersey (GCIR.org, U.S. Immigration Statistics, 2012). Due to the increasing number of immigrants, many would want the premise of this film to become a reality; however, it is not that simple. As A Day Without a Mexican shows, there would be dire consequences to the economy and people’s daily lives if immigrants were totally removed from this country. The film successfully uses a humorous and satirical approach to portray the issue of how immigration affects individuals as well as its effect at the state level. It is a common myth that states’ economies are hurt due to undocumented workers but in reality, “the Texas State Comptroller reported that unauthorized workers added $17.7 billion to the gross state product in 2005, and paid $1.58 billion to the state revenue” (The U.S. Immigration Debate- Some Myths, Busted, SPSSI, 2010). This further demonstrates the film’s message that immigrants can have a positive impact on their communities and the states in which they live.

A Day Without a Mexican reminds me of the effect the anti-immigration laws in Arizona (SB 1070) and Alabama (HB 56) had on the lives of immigrants as well as the states as a whole. The laws require immigrants to carry paperwork to prove their legal status, prohibit undocumented people to apply for jobs, and allow for warrantless arrests that could cause the person to be deported from the country, among many other rules and restrictions.  Not surprisingly, many immigrants have moved away from these states in order to avoid being deported. In addition, many immigrants were too scared to go to work or school when these laws were enacted so they “disappeared” from their normal life by staying in their homes and avoiding contact with authority figures as much as possible. Although exact numbers are not available, according to a 2010 report from the University of Alabama, about 40,000 to 80,000 undocumented workers earning $15,000 to $30,000 a year left the state due to HB 56 (Addy, 2012). The loss of such a large amount of the workforce has cost the state of Alabama thousands of jobs and billions of dollars.

However, it is not simply economic loss that is occurring due to these anti-immigration laws, both legal and illegal immigrants are living in a constant state of fear because they are being racially profiled, persecuted by police, and maltreated by employers and neighbors. These laws also negatively affect non-immigrants as well, according to a 2010 meta-study conducted by the Equality Trust, which noted that there is a significantly strong correlation between social inequality and adverse health for everyone in society (The U.S. Immigration Debate- Some Myths, Busted, SPSSI, 2010). Using the procedural justice theory, one can demonstrate that the anti-immigrant laws are unjust because immigrants produce a lot of inputs through different industries such as farm work, construction, domestic work, entertainment, etc., but they are not receiving fairly distributed rewards for their work. In fact, they are denied equal pay, fair hours, and healthcare benefits, that is, if they are being hired at all.

As Father Arroyo (2011) described in his testimony against HB 56, the methods the bill is using to fix the immigration issue are unjust and they are causing more harm than good. It is clear that these laws aim to depersonalize immigrants as “aliens” instead of regarding their human dignity and showing them respect. Using interactional justice theory, one can demonstrate that in order for reform to occur, respect needs to be present through the process of justice and thus HB 56 is not the correct way to enact positive change and reform to the current immigration situation in the United States. Father Arroyo also mentions in his testimony that the current law is flawed because being undocumented in the United States has traditionally not been a criminal offense; therefore the punishment of being an undocumented immigrant, in accordance with the theory of retributive justice, should be in proportion to the offense which would mean deportation instead of jail time as well.

A Day Without a Mexican raises the issues about immigration injustice and focuses on immigrants’ effects on the country using tongue-in-cheek ways such as the mock-documentary style of the film. These tactics help the viewer understand the harmful repercussions to deporting and excluding immigrants from the United States. It serves as a cautionary tale of what could happen in situations of xenophobia where people are discriminated against to the point that they are no longer around. Although I enjoyed the movie and its message, I found it to be too long and it had too many narratives that were not executed properly because they weren’t always resolved. In addition, I did not like the science-fiction element to the film because it allowed the Mexican immigrants’ disappearance to be explained as a cause of an alternate universe type of situation which I thought was a weak ending. Although the fact that everyone quickly learned their lesson in the end was unbelievable, I think it was part of the sarcastic aspect to the film that demonstrated that in reality fixing the anti-immigrant sentiment will be a lot more difficult. I recommend watching this film to get a humorous perspective on a serious issue that shows how important it is for this country to have a progressive immigration reform that provides a pathway to legal status in this country.

 

References

 

Addy, S. (2012). A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the New Alabama Immigration Law, Center for Business and Economic Research. Retrieved from

            http://cber.cba.ua.edu/New%20AL%20Immigration%20Law%20-

            %20Costs%20and%20Benefits.pdf

 

Arrieta, R. M. (2012). Alabama's Anti-Immigrant Law Will Cost Billions and Allow Bosses to

            Abuse Workers Freely, In These Times. Retrieved from

            http://www.alternet.org/story/154409/alabama%27s_anti-

            immigrant_law_will_cost_billions_and_allow_bosses_to_abuse_workers_freely?page=0

            %2C0

 

Arroyo, E. B. (2011). Alabama House Public Hearing Omnibus Bill HB 56, Jesuit Social

            Research Institute. Retrieved from http://www.loyno.edu/jsri/father-arroyo-testifies-

            against-alabama-anti-immigrant-bill

 

The U.S. Immigration Debate- Some Myths, Busted (2010). In the Society for the Psychological   Study of Social Issues. Retrieved from

            http://www.spssi.org/_data/n_0001/resources/live/Immigration%20Debate%20...

            0vs%20Facts_Final.pdf

 

U.S. Immigration Statistics and Immigrants in the U.S. Economy (2012). In Grantmakers

            Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees. Retrieved from

            http://www.gcir.org/immigration/facts/statistics