Take for example Latino workers performing AgJobs or Construction work. Many people ASSUME these workers are "illeegals." In fact, with all of the hyped up rhetoric promoted by the likes of Dobbs, Beck, Hannity and Savage, extremist ANTIs believe most Latinos they see are "illeeeegals." This ASSUMPTION is just NOT True! We have over 50M American Citizen Latinos living and working in our country today. (Beyond these assumptions, calling human beings "illeegal" and treating them as less than human is wrong!)
As many of my long time readers know, my citizen family has lived in the USA over 200 years. During the depression in the mid 1930s through the early 1940s, my father worked for the State of Michigan/Farm Bureaus transporting workers from Texas to Michigan to harvest crops. He also worked the fields and supervised the workers. All of the workers he transported were Latinos from Texas, they were not from Mexico. San Antonio served as a hub for many Latino workers, almost like today's Day Labor sites. Entire families of workers travelled to Michigan and throughout the mid-west. Even today, some people call San Antonio the Latino capital of America.
My father started working for an auto factory in the 1940s and moved our family to Michigan. By the time I came along in the 1950s, we kids went to school from September through June. Then, in mid-June, our cousins from Texas caravaned up to Michigan to pick strawberries and cherries. We joined the caravan up to the Traverse City area. My dad felt strongly that we join them because he wanted to instill in us a very strong work ethic. My dad often referenced the old quotation: "Idle hands are the devil's playground."
Though picking crops is a difficult job, it is quite profitable if you have a hard working family all working. My mother was our foreman. She woke up at 6am, made us egg/bean tacos for breakfast and packed our lunches, this time bean or spam tacos and a cooler filled with jugs of water and kool-aid. Each morning, the farm owner assigned each family one or two rows of cherry trees, depending on the size of the family. Our job was to clean each tree in our rows. Each of us had a large bucket. We had a suspender like backbrace on our backs and we clamped the bucket to the front of the brace so both hands were free to pick cherries. It took 2 big buckets to fill a lug. The lugs were stacked at every 5th tree. That made it easier for the farm owner to drive by and pick up the lugs. He picked up the lugs and placed them on a long, flat trailer bed which he pulled with his tractor. For each lug, my mother received a ticket worth 50 cents. My brothers picked the most lugs a day. This was on purpose. My mother sent them to the lower and mid portions of the trees with the highest density of cherries. My four brothers were strong and fast and averaged about 25 lugs per day. My two older sisters followed my brothers and semi-cleaned the trees behind them. My mother and I followed them. I climbed to the tip top of the trees and my mother did the final cleanup of each tree. There were eight of us, 7 kids and my mom. We averaged about 150 lugs a day. We worked Monday through Friday from 7am to 6pm and on Saturday from 7am to noon. We averaged about 800 lugs a week, which was about $400, lots of money back then. My mother paid my brothers the most, ranging between $25 - $30 a week, based on their numbers. My sisters earned about $20. I received $10. This was big money for all of us and we appreciated every cent. We usually spent most of it over the weekend when we went into town. We went to the soda fountain and to the movies. We went to the local stores to buy records and brought them back to the camp for the Saturday night dances. My mother bought groceries for the week, usually spending about $50. And she saved the rest and gave it to my dad. My dad continued working in the factory in Lansing and only came up to Traverse City every other weekend. We stayed in camp from mid June to the end of July. Other migrant families went on to other crops, which were harvested later in the year in lower Michigan. These crops included cucumbers and onions. There was a huge pickle factory in Eaton Rapids and many families went there.
I loved the camaraderie in the camps. After work, we spent a great deal of time together playing sports or having camp dances. The locals provided us workers a separate section of the lake for swimming and a separate Sunday Mass at the Catholic church. Though we were all citizens and they were separating us due to our ethnicity, we didn't view this as racist at the time. It just was how things were then. The locals separated us out and we just kept to the places and spaces provided.
My father always made sure we stayed at a nice camp where the owner provided clean living quarters, showers and bathrooms for the workers. There were some owners that only cared about profit and only provided tents for the workers. The owner at our camp was compassionate for the people although he did keep us at arm's length, not allowing his children to play with the children in the camp.
All of us were citizens, most from Texas. We were all hard working people looking to succeed in life. We were all happy to live in America.