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Thread: For Many Migrants, to March Is a Luxury

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    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    Unhappy For Many Migrants, to March Is a Luxury

    For One Migrant, March Is a Luxury
    April 30, 2006


    I happened to be in Brentwood on Friday morning when I noticed five gardeners on a break outside developer Rick Caruso's sprawling manse — yes, five; Caruso says he's got a big yard — and asked if they intended to show up for work Monday.

    No, they said with smiles. They're taking the day off to participate in pro-immigration rallies that could rank as the biggest demonstrations in Los Angeles history.

    "Does Mr. Caruso know this?" I asked.

    He gave the OK, they said of the man who owns the popular Grove shopping center at 3rd and Fairfax.

    When I called Caruso to check it out, he backed up his employees.

    "My policy is: 'We're going to be very respectful of your right to go to the march,' " he said.

    He doesn't want this to become a regular thing, Caruso told me. But he gave all of his employees the option of taking a personal day off, and he welcomes a national debate on immigration policy.

    That sounds generous, but lots of laborers in Southern California don't have the luxury of personal days and other standard perks. Later Friday, I met with Danira Hernandez, a housekeeper who has decided not to boycott work Monday.

    I met Hernandez, 39, a while back at a birthday party for my nanny's son. She and the nanny grew up in the same Honduran plantation town, came north for work and ended up sharing a small apartment with other adults and children. Hernandez is a voracious reader and news hound, speaks fluent English and buys tons of books for her sixth-grade daughter, who rarely brings home anything but A's.

    She has mixed and complicated feelings on the politics, purpose and timing of two rallies planned for downtown Los Angeles and the MacArthur Park area tomorrow, but her decision not to march was based on simple math.

    "I can't afford to."these people are too afraid of being fired for missing 1 single day of work; they don't have benefits or paid time off or even sick days and often work more that the standard 40 hours a week we're all acustomed too.

    We met around lunchtime Friday in the high-rise Glendale condo Hernandez cleans once a week. The furnishings are modern and artsy, with a big-screen Panasonic, spectacular views and two dogs who sometimes go on family trips and stay in hotels Hernandez may never visit. She keeps a total of seven houses dusted and scrubbed, working six days a week, and clears about $2,000 a month.

    Hernandez doesn't go to a dentist, needs new eyeglasses but doesn't have the time or money and is delaying surgery for a fibroid tumor because of the cost. In other words, she could be the queen of the rallies scheduled for tomorrow.

    "The point is to show that without our help, it wouldn't be the same here," said Hernandez, who favors worker permits, earned citizenship and stricter enforcement. "People need us to support their lifestyle."

    That message is fair and just, Hernandez said, in a place where the amount of wealth is staggering.

    "I've got a lot of great people I work for; they'll help you out when you need it," said Hernandez. Still, it's humiliating, she added, to feel awkward about asking for a $5 or $10 increase after several years on an eight-hour housekeeping job.

    She fears there'll be a backlash if tomorrow's demonstrations are huge and disruptive. It'll be one more reason, in the minds of some, to send the brown-skinned ingrates back where they came from.

    Besides, Hernandez said, some people arrive from foreign lands expecting too much too soon, even if they cross illegally. It's presumptuous, she said, to flee countries plagued by corruption and economic injustice and begin making demands on an adopted country.

    Not that she didn't crash the gates herself. Her father was dead and she was desperate to find work and send money home to her mother.

    So at 22, she hired a coyote to get her across the border into Arizona. When Hurricane Mitch destroyed her Honduran village several years later, she managed to go legal with a humanitarian visa.

    She's now on a work visa that's renewed annually, and each and every month, she sends a $150 check home to her mother.

    No, she said, her life isn't easy. And the visa doesn't allow her to go back home; she hasn't seen her mother in 17 years. (could you imagine!? I personally know people in similar situations who will never see their own parents again; the decision to cross the border is not taken lightly by any means and there are many sacrifices they make just for the shot of a better life)

    At night, when she closes the door of her room, she wonders what she could be doing differently, short of meeting Mr. Right. Her daughter's father turned out to be Mr. Wrong, and she is determined not to hook up with another man for the sake of another income. Besides, her life is all about work and her daughter, who once wanted to be a writer but now says she's going to Harvard or Columbia to study medicine. So there's no time for dating.

    That's OK, Hernandez said. She's a proud woman, determined to manage her own affairs. And she values two things in particular that this country has done for her:

    It's provided the jobs, however meager, that help pay for her mother's survival back home. And it is giving her daughter a chance at a better life than Hernandez is likely to know.

    So tomorrow, she'll show up at a house in Pasadena to vacuum and clean, because skipping the job will only mean she has to work harder the following week.

    "I bring my daughter with me sometimes," Hernandez said of her housekeeping jobs. Her daughter sees her mother's hard work, and she also sees the way the other half lives.

    "She dreams, dreams, dreams, always dreaming, and I tell her to study. Education, that's the thing. When I get out of bed in the morning, it's for her."

    *

    Reach the columnist at steve.lopez@latimes.com.

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    Hit By Ban Bus! pacific breeze's Avatar
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    Default Re: For Many Migrants, to March Is a Luxury

    Great story. Telling it like it is.

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    Default Re: For Many Migrants, to March Is a Luxury

    I think Mexico is having a nice laugh on us americans. What shmucks we are.

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    Hit By Ban Bus! AliceInWonderland's Avatar
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    Default Re: For Many Migrants, to March Is a Luxury

    ^ YOu are an ignorant fool! First of all because only 1/2 of the illegal aliens in this country are from Mexico, Second of all; you're not even worth me educating you b/c I'm so sick of educating the stupid, but usually I don't have to on this board

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