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Commentary Tales

Workers Needed at DiGiorgio Farms

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.”

 

Categories
Commentary Tales

President Trump: A One-Man Wrecking Crew

 

IMAGE: A street in New York, sometime in the winter of 2019. Themexicannextdoor art by Rebeka Schoffer.

 

NOTE: This tale of an imaginary world with Trump as President was first published on November 7, 2016, a day before the general election. Some facts have changed, but the probability of an ominous future still looms.

 

A TALE OF A PRESIDENT GONE BERSERK

It was the winter of 2019. Donald Trump had already been the president of the United States for close to three years. But he was about to be impeached, in absentia, because he was nowhere to be found. For more than a year he had been trying to run the country from a hiding place through members of his family and a few underlings. Most people thought he was in New York, in some underground tunnels. It was believed too, though it was mostly hearsay, that he feared for his life and that the paranoid traits that he had shown during the presidential campaign were nothing compared to the psychological mess that he had become. He suffered a severe mental disorder, some close anonymous associates mentioned to the press. His speech and his behavior, they added, were disorganized and he was often the subject of delusions and hallucinations.

Trump had won the presidency because of a fluke. Although early on in the campaign he lagged behind his opponent, Hillary Clinton, on different national polls and was not projected to win the election in November of 2016, he won it in a bizarre way. Though Clinton won the national popular vote and Trump won many key states, neither one received the 270 Electoral College votes required to be elected president. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, who won a small state as a third party nominee, can probably be blamed for the fluke.

Due to the lack of a majority of electoral votes for any of the candidates, the House of Representatives decided the selection of the president. Members of that legislative body voted for Trump just a few days prior to the January 20, 2017 oath of office ceremony in Washington, DC. Three months after he became president, those in the House that sided with Trump wished they had not done so.

President Trump quickly became a one-man wrecking crew, at home and abroad. On the same day that he took the oath of office, he signed his first executive order, ending the nation’s participation in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A day later, Trump ordered the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act. Other executive orders followed quickly.

Without consulting with Congress or the Pentagon, he broke ties with NATO and ordered the complete pullout of American troops from the European theatre. A few days later Trump signed an order to also pull out troops from many strategic outposts in the Pacific Rim and the Asian theatre. The Defense Department generals were flabbergasted.

“America will no longer pay for the defense of other nations,” said President Trump on a tweet.

Congress immediately filed suits in federal courts to stop some of the actions called for by the stream of executive orders. Sadly, before any court could issue stays on key defense related matters, American troops began to arrive to the mainland from their worldwide military bases. Those soldiers, along with thousands and thousands of dependents, quickly overwhelmed most military installations in the United States. Once those domestic defense posts were filled to capacity, soldiers and their families were forced to live in hotels and other temporary quarters.

To make matters worse, the schools that served those bases were also overwhelmed by the needs of the newcomers. Because there were not enough classrooms for all the new students, many of those dependent children had to be bused to schools in far away districts. It was a mess.

The biggest problem related to this redeployment of troops had to do with finding work for all those unneeded soldiers, airmen, and sailors. There were no chores for them to do and instead of dedicating their time to doing what they had learned during their military careers, they passed the hours of the day doing nothing. Eventually, some of them were used to work in mess halls and military hospitals or other service oriented facilities, putting out of work the civilians that had previously done those jobs.

By the end of the third month of being immersed in this boondoggle, Trump signed an executive order to cut the size of the military by half. Congress stopped him, though. That body of government was able to get a stay of execution from the courts, postponing, in a way, the reduction in force. Most troops, however, still lived off base, in temporary shelters. The civilians whose jobs were now being done by servicemen, were mostly unemployed or scratching a living with the meager income derived from doing odd jobs. Some survived off the benefits of unemployment insurance.

THE CHINA SYNDROME

During his second week as president, Trump announced that all trade deals with China would be abrogated immediately, although some clauses in the agreements did not allow for the instantaneous cancelation of those pacts. He followed his announcement with an executive order revoking all previous trade accords with the world’s second largest economy. He also warned American companies that all products imported from China would be subject to newly created tariffs.

Though most Americans were beginning to get used to Trump’s capriciousness, his arbitrary tendencies, and the inordinate number of executive orders signed on an almost everyday basis, the abrogation of all China deals was seen as an ominous sign by corporate America. They would not allow such irresponsible mandates to take place, leaders of many global companies said.

By the beginning of March 2017, relations with China had already derailed and were heading towards a point of no return. The Asian nation was caught off guard; its leaders had believed that Trump’s bombastic presidential campaign messages about trade and other matters were just part of the showman’s scheme to attract support for his make America great promise.

In an act of retaliation for the trade actions, China began to demand the immediate repayment of the $1.5 trillion debt owed to that Asian nation, mainly by the U.S. federal government. Trump balked and stated through a tweet that the terms of all of America’s debt would be analyzed and more than likely would be renegotiated with all the lenders.

As accusations and unrelenting allegations were heard from the leaders of both nations, China’s economy continued to unravel. It had already been suffering from a series of adjustments prior to Trump shutting off most trade with that country, but the convoluted situation became worse once thousands of its factories were forced to stop production. Workers were laid off and soon began to feel the outrageous pains of an economy gone bad. To make matters worse, China, the communist nation that for decades had flirted with capitalism, did not have viable mechanisms in place to deal with an economic downturn. The precarious condition was further thrown into a downward spiral by civil discontent and unending violent unrest.

THE RUSSIAN BEAR AWAKENS

Once the United States completed its military pullout from NATO, Vladimir Putin’s Russia began to flex its warmongering muscle and again threatened the old continent and its balance of power. Russia’s push to regain strongholds in past Soviet nations, though, were immediately met by strong opposition from Western Europe. It responded by forming a new defense pact that united most nations, including France and Great Britain. It wasn’t a strong union, but it was good enough to eventually nip Russia’s thirst for power and continental hegemony in the bud. Putin was told in an ultimatum that there would be serious consequences if Russia continued its belligerent push in the continent.

Putin answered back claiming that his country’s new generation of nuclear missiles nicknamed “Satan 2”, could wipe out Western Europe on a heartbeat. But, it was a bluff that didn’t work. Vladimir was told with few words that the new continental union was ready to preemptively launch a nuclear attack against Russia if it was deemed necessary. “We’re ready to die to preserve our liberty,” the leaders of the new European defense union said in a statement.

The threat worked and Putin halted for the time being his belligerent actions in the European theatre. It was a sort of new détente, similar to the one forged by the world’s two superpowers during the Cold War. In an unspoken way, Russia would be allowed to practice its warmongering in other parts of the world as long as those actions did not affect the interests of the nations in the new European union.

Taking advantage of the absence of America’s military presence in the Middle East and Africa, Putin decided to direct his military quests in those regions instead. He partnered with one Arab nation after another, promising security, peace and wealth for the region, while placing in harm’s way the lives of hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers. By early 2019, Putin and a few Machiavellian Arab dictators managed to exterminate most revolutionary combatants, including all ISIS forces. But millions of innocent people also died, some of them caught in the crossfire, others annihilated by the ruthless new rulers of the region.

Bitten by the bug of waging war and building strategic global outposts, Russia decided to continue its military undertakings in Northern Africa. It was a natural choice for Putin. It was next to the Middle East, it had oil, and was basically defenseless. The area would also, Vladimir thought, provide a vantage point for Russia to eventually conquer the rest of the world.

But he had forgotten about taking care of something very important: The home front. Russians were turning on him. The masses of parents of the thousands of soldiers who had come home in coffins from foreign wars had had enough of Vladimir Putin. Times weren’t good either. While he was waging war and looking for global hegemony, his country’s economy was falling apart. Self imposed isolationism and decreased commercial international trade had taken its toll on Russia and its people. Just like other rapacious and predatory warmongers found in the annals of world history, Putin failed miserably in his attempt for world dominance and as political leader. A few days before he was supposed to land troops in Africa, he was deposed as president of the Russian Federation.

Once Putin was gone, Russia, the old bastion of communism and former head of the Soviet empire, had become a house of cards. Though the nation had once had a large economy, it lacked the nuts and bolts that provide the checks and balances in a capitalist world. It spent too much on defense efforts and weaponry and very little on finding ways to create jobs and feed its people. On top of that, the country was jam-packed with swindlers and corrupt government officials that stole the people’s money at every turn. It was a sad time in Russia. And just like in China, violent civil unrest kept sinking the nation into an apocalyptic total destruction.

THE CANADA-MEXICO AND LATIN AMERICAN ALLIANCE

The dissolution of NAFTA became a blessing in disguise for Mexico, Canada and a host of Latin American nations. Soon after Trump announced that the United States would no longer participate in the North America Free Trade Agreement, Canadian and Mexican representatives met to find ways to continue to work together as trading partners. They were later joined by envoys of global companies that were already involved in doing business in Mexico and Canada. An agreement was soon reached and by the middle of the summer of 2017, those initial talks had evolved into an innovative and visionary plan that included creating jobs in Latin America and growing viable consumer markets in many of its countries.

Like all plans that offer much, but deliver little, the deal reached in that first attempt to partner with a group of nations that until then had been overlooked, was at first sight nothing more than a utopian dream. But once put in place, it wasn’t really so. The plan made sense and offered a rational strategy to attain long-term economic growth. It also offered a welcome ray of hope and enticed the minds and vigor of millions of people of a vast continent who were fully committed to work hard and judiciously to make the arrangement successful.

Like most strokes of luck, the plan was the result circumstances and timing. Mexico and Canada had to find a way to continue the economic growth afforded by NAFTA. American multinationals had to find ways to serve other markets in case the U.S. economy went south under Trump. Most of the global corporate entities that participated in the meetings already had a manufacturing presence in Mexico. They knew the ropes and understood well the opportunities at hand.

Just like planned, a year later a consortium of large construction companies was plowing through the Darien jungles, building a highway that would for the first time connect the north with the south of the American continent. To build the road, the consortium used local labor and provided opportunities to local professionals with the appropriate know how and others from the local labor force, so they could benefit from the project. It was a win-win plan.

To insure safety for the visiting workers, the manufacturing plants and other workplaces, Mexico and other Latin American countries in the compact allowed the creation of a private security police force. It was made up of professionally trained officers from all the participating nations in the alliance. Just six months after its inception, crime in most countries decreased and took a turn for the better.

By the beginning of the year 2019, economic growth in Mexico and some nations in Central America had done so well that many of the undocumented immigrants in the Unites States had decided to go back to their places of birth. Jobs were blooming in those countries. It made no sense to live in the shadows in America anymore.

SOUTH KOREA TAKES ON THE NORTH, CHINA AND RUSSIA

Once Trump’s America left South Korea to fend for itself, the nut case that led North Korea, Kim Jong-un, decided to escalate his threats to the nation to the south. He launched rockets into the ocean and repeatedly made claims of having nukes that could destroy many nations along the western end of the Pacific Rim. Those were old threats and shows of force that the United States had not in the past countered with ultimatums or actions for fear of upsetting China or Russia. South Korea, however, now that it was left to defend itself, decided to do something about the ongoing threat from the kid-turned-dictator from the north.

Fortunately, South Korea already had an operational squadron of Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II fighter planes. It had received the first shipment of those advanced air and ground superiority supersonic aircraft a few months before Trump decided to pull American troops from that country. They were stealth planes with leading edge technology that could help them penetrate the most well guarded sites of any country on earth. South Koreans were proud of having such planes at their disposal and were ready to use them if needed. As mentioned before, unlike the United States, South Korea decided to neutralize the child-dictator from the north.

Less than a month after U.S. forces left the country, South Korea was ready to invade the north and capture Kim Jong-un dead or alive. It hired mercenaries, mostly former U.S. Navy seals trained for such missions, and an array of professional (former) soldiers with only one objective in mind: get the job done. It also employed the services of battle planners from different countries whose skills in military secret operations had been well documented in the annals of such undertakings.

On the day South Korea was about to launch its mission to find Kim Jung-un, it sent a message to both China and Russia. The missive was explicit. “We’re in our way to destroy all missile sites in North Korea and capture that nation’s leader dead or alive. If we perceive that you’ve decided to try to stop us from our objective, we are ready to destroy you, too. We have several fighter airplanes heading your way with nuclear bombs on board.”

The statement about having nukes was true. American forces had left the south in such haste, after being ordered to do so by Trump, that they had decided to retrieve all nuclear bombs from their guarded shelters at a later date. With the help of experts from third countries, South Korea was able to figure out how to enable the bombs for possible detonation.

The mission was successful. Neither Russia or China intervened. Both nations had been caught off guard and had given little validity to the messages sent by South Korea. A day later, however, Kim Jong-un was securely locked up in a cell in the south. It was believed that all weapons and all the military installations in the north had been completely destroyed. As the poem says, there was joy in Mudville that day. In the south and in the north.

APOCALYPSE NOW

In less than three years after taking the oath of office, Donald Trump had turned a great country into a third world nation. The United States and its people were desperately looking for a way out of their misery. The nation was in complete disarray, leaderless and out of control. The economy was in shambles. Jobs were scarce, the soup lines of yesteryear (of the Great Depression) were present again. The affluent society of yore was gone.

America the beautiful, the great, had also become a rats’ nest, a place for thieves and scoundrels that preyed on the have-nots and the weak. The safe country of the old days had disappeared. Most people lived in fear, behind bars in their own homes. It was worse in the streets.

The do-nothing Congress that had plagued the country with inaction for years was still an impotent legislative body of government. Though it claimed it tried, it had been wistfully unable to stop President Trump from ruining the country. Instead of protecting the people from the malicious actions of a president gone berserk, the scoundrels in Congress acted in hideous ways, shunning their responsibilities.

There was no hope in sight. Company after company had already left the country for other places and so had millions of jobs and millions of people. Some went to Europe, others to Canada and even to Mexico. The nation was done.

The reality TV showman from New York who had promised to make America great again, had run the country into the ground.

 

Categories
Commentary Tales

The Tireless Honeybees from Mexicali

IMAGES of the bees drawn by a young artist from Hungary, Rebeka Schoffer, for this blog. Art property of Pedro Chávez.

 

During the very, very early 1940s, a group of bugs (dragonflies, cicadas, and butterflies) came to Mexicali to invite that valley’s honeybee swarms to come and help pollinate the farm fields across the border. Their own bees had been recruited to go fight the Big Bug War, across the big pond, and for a while now most of that farmland had been without the services of those flying insects whose expertise was needed to spread around the pollen. The Mexicali honeybees had been known to work hard and for long hours, just like all the other bees in Mexico.

The Mexicali bees declined the offer from the American bugs. They said that they were happy spreading pollen in their own valley’s cotton fields.

“But that work doesn’t last very long,” the bugs from the north replied. “Once the cotton blooms, you have no work left to do.”

In a way, the bugs from the American side (Imperial Valley) were incorrect. The bees had plenty chores to do throughout the year in that area on the Mexican side. After the work ended in the cotton fields, the bees continued their pollinating activities on fig and pomegranate trees, on grape vines and “nopaleras” (gatherings of cactuses) that grew everywhere.bee-2

On the other hand, the bugs were also somewhat correct. The fertile valley on the American side was flush with all types of crops. Besides a few cotton fields, in that land were cultivated carrots, tomatoes, oranges, wheat, barley, lettuce, and many, many other farm products. It had year-round work.

Due to the nagging and persistent insistence from the bugs from the north, the bees from Mexicali eventually agreed to help them pollinate their fields. A few days later, in early spring, thousands and thousands of bees, accompanied by their appropriate queens, left their hives behind and flew north. At one point, as they continued their aerial exodus, the massive amount of bee swarms darkened the sky over the then meager border fence.

Once at their destination, the bees went right to work. They carried pollen from here, from there and tirelessly took it to other plants all over that land. A few days after their arrival, the fields in that valley regained their color and by the beginning of summer, the fruit grown on that earth showed the results of the hard work done by the Mexicali bees. The watermelons were huge and so was the grapefruit. The cantaloupes were also big and juicy; the alfalfa fields were green and full of life. The entire Imperial Valley had regained its past glory.

Two, perhaps three years later, the American bees returned from the Big Bug War and wanted back their jobs. The bugs in charge of the Imperial Valley fields told them that there was enough work for everyone and that they could toil right along the Mexicali bees. The American honeybees, however, did not want to share the work with their counterparts from the south and accused them of stealing their source of employment.

“Besides, they’re illegal,” the American bees complained. “They’re from Mexico and must be sent back to their country.”

Because their complaints fell on deaf ears with the bugs in charge, the bees from the north went to court and demanded that the Mexicali honeybees be sent home. The bugs in charge counter suited, claiming that the American bees were not as good as the ones from Mexico when it came to the task of pollinating.

“Our fields and our harvests are so much better now that the Mexicali honeybees have been doing the spreading of the pollen,” the bugs in charge told the court.

Tired of the war of words and of so much ill will, the Mexican bees told the bugs in charge that all the members of all the swarms that had come from Mexicali had agreed to go back home.

“We don’t want to stay where we’re not wanted,” they said.

bee-3The bugs in charge tried to convince them to stay, but to no avail and soon thereafter, in the same manner that they traveled on the day they came to the north, hundreds of swarms darkened the sky again as they flew south. Once back home, the Mexican honeybees noticed that the Mexicali Valley desperately needed their help, their pollinating expertise.

Although a few swarms had stayed behind to care for those fields, it was too much work for them and had therefore been unable to spread pollen in the entire valley. The workload had also grown. Just like in the north, the region to the south had decided to diversify its crops. It grew melons now and all kinds of citric fruit trees: oranges, grapefruits, and lemons. Instead of mostly cotton plants, the valley was now peppered with fields of wheat, barley, alfalfa, and corn.

Regardless of the heavy workload, the Mexicali honeybees welcomed it and were happy to be back home. They felt good. They belonged there, they said. They were also appreciated at their land.

A few years later, some bugs in charge from the north returned to Mexicali to again invite and try to persuade those bees to help pollinate the Imperial Valley fields. They claimed that it was too much work for the bees from the north and after the Big Bug War, most of those bees had become lazy and unwilling to work long hours.

“We need you,” one dragonfly said. “We won’t allow our bees to get in the way and we will care for you and protect you.”bee-1

“No, thank you,” replied the bee in charge of speaking for the Mexicali honeybees. “Besides, why would we want to return to the north? So we can be insulted again and be called this and that and be told that we’re not the same as the other bees from that place?”

Although the dragonfly and other bugs from the north insisted on convincing the Mexican bees to return to Imperial Valley, those bees were set on their decision, which meant that they would forever stay in that valley to the south. They continued to toil there and with their help that land grew greener and with the passing of time that valley in Mexicali became filled with imposing, formidable and luscious vegetation.

As it is often said at the end of a tale in Spanish: “Colorín, colorado, este cuento se ha acabado.” (End of story).