IMAGE: Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island, next to San Diego, California.
NOTE: This is part of the Border Tales series fiction stories. It was written in jest in May 2006, the year of the last real attempt by Congress to reform the nation’s immigration laws. Just trying to make a point and have fun at the same time. It was never published before. Image of Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego.
The President hated the idea of meeting with Frank DiGiorgio at the Hotel Del, but opted for meeting there to please him. The President’s father, the first Bush, had advised W, the way he referred to him, to follow the proper political etiquette. “Take care of your supporters, son,” said the older Bush. “If Mr. DiGiorgio wants to meet you there, grant him his wish.”
The hotel at Coronado Beach was to the younger Bush way too fancy. Too upscale. Too much, even for a Texan. “I’d rather be at the ranch barbequing,” he told his wife.
He had a change of heart once he arrived at the hotel, though. After spending the morning in the hot Yuma, Arizona desert visiting the folks that are trying to stop the flow of immigrants that come across the border from Mexico and beyond, the cool Pacific Ocean breeze prevalent outside the hotel pleased the President. He also enjoyed watching the tall palm trees that surrounded the meeting place as they performed their usual lazy dance, swaying back and forth as if wanting to upstage the rest of the beauty there. The whitest of white sand, gentle waves that highlighted the beginning of an endless ocean, a clear shot at the bottom of Point Loma. San Diego at its best. Historic. Picturesque. Decadent.
“Welcome Mr. President,” said Mr. DiGiorgio, head of DiGiorgio Farms and owner of thousands and thousands of acres of active farmland throughout California and other parts of the world.
“Thank you, Frank. Thank you for the invitation,” replied Mr. Bush.
As the President and his wife Laura made their way to the center of Windsor Lawn and Cottage – an area where the manicured turf seemed better suited for the greens at Torrey Pines than for an outdoor reception area – a large mariachi band began to play the usual most-requested songs by non-Mexicans: “Cielito Lindo,” “Guantanamera,” “Vaya con Dios.”
“Gracias muchachos,” said Mr. Bush as he went past the band.
“Isn’t Coronado beautiful?” asked Mr. DiGiorgio as he and his wife Ana Maria and the Bushes sat down at a bright white, highly detailed, ornamental iron outdoor table.
“Please call me George, Frank,” replied the President. “Yes, it’s beautiful.”
“Thank you, George,” Mr. DiGiorgio replied. “I know you don’t have a lot of time so I am going to cut to the chase.”
“I will always have time for you, Frank,” said the President. “But, I appreciate your concern. What can I do for you?”
“I need you to maintain the status quo in the immigration issue, George.”
“What do you mean by status quo,” asked the President.
“Business as usual,” Frank replied. “No amnesty, no guest worker program, no border walls, and no more scare tactics that might discourage others from coming to America.”
“You mean no reform, Frank?”
“No reform. Business as usual,” replied Frank.
“That would be political suicide,” Mr. Bush said. “Among my promises as a President is to do something about guarding our borders and to fix the illegal immigration problem.”
“With all due respect, Mr. President, you might have already committed some sort of political suicide,” Frank explained. He no longer called him George and there was a change of tone in his voice.
“At the end of the day,” Frank added, “you are probably going to be the loser in this immigration reform mess. You are going to be scorned by your own party for giving too much to the illegals and you are going to be hated by the Mexicans for not doing enough for them. The democrats are going to look like the real heroes.”
“So how are things going to be better off with the status quo, Frank?” the President asked.
“Business as usual is a lot better than the mess we’re getting into,” Frank responded.
“I somewhat agree with you, Frank, but I still feel that we must fix the immigration problem.”
“Again, with all due respect Mr. President, there is no practical solution to this mess,” Frank added. “On the other hand, if you were to announce that you would no longer be involved in immigration reform talks because the discussion was not leading to workable solutions that would be welcomed by all parties involved, I believe you would turn a bad situation into a favorable one.”
“What if I decided to continue to try to find solutions to the problem, Frank? What would be the consequences?”
“It would be hell, Mr. President. Business people like me and many others would suffer. America would suffer,” Frank explained. “If people that work for me were to legalize their residency status, they would be free to leave our farms to go work at other places that offered higher pay, because they would no longer need our protection. And if that were the case, where would we get our workers? Who would pick America’s crops?”
“What do you mean by protection, Frank?” asked the President.
“Protection from bad contractors, from scammers, from Border Patrol raids,” Mr. President. “And at our farms, we have always provided other benefits, too, like room and board for most of them, medical attention if they are injured on the job and year-round employment.”
“Do I understand correctly? You hire illegal aliens, Frank?” the President asked.
“Yes, we do,” Frank responded. “But, we all hire illegals, if it makes sense. For certain kind of work we have to use them. As you well know, our profit margins are so small that we have no other choice. We have to do so to survive.”
Except for a short period during the Great Depression, DiGiorgio, Inc. had used mostly Mexican labor to work their farms since the turn of the Twentieth Century. Frank DiGiorgio was the direct descendant of Carlo DiGiorgio, the man who turned a couple of hundred acres of desert land in California’s Imperial Valley into an international farming conglomerate.
“To go back to your earlier question about consequences, it would be hell, Mr. President,” Frank continued. “And let’s say that some of these legalized workers opted for staying with us. What would happen next? I know what would happen: Before long, they would be asking for health insurance. For paid vacations. For overtime pay. It would be hell, Mr. President!”
“I’ll see what I can do, Frank,” Mr. Bush replied as he turned to his wife and asked her: “Do you think this mariachi can play our music, Laura?”
“What music, George?”
“You know, dancing stuff,” the President replied. “The Texas Two-Step.”