- I mean if -- if you had a -- a -- a renegade, potential criminal element that was poor and unwilling to work, and you had a chance to get rid of 500,000 every year, would you do it?
The first time I encountered Mexican workers was in 1975, when I came home to Idaho Falls from college in Moscow, Idaho, looking for work for the summer. The first place I could find that would hire me was a potato warehouse out on Lindsey Boulevard, next to the rail tracks.
Most of my co-workers were from Mexico, were likely illegal immigrants, and most of them spoke only Spanish. But they were friendly and tried to help me and my friend Scott, who had also gotten a job there. We both towered over them, and we were both in pretty good shape; I was 18 at the time, and had spent the previous summers hauling pipe in potato fields, so I knew what hard work was about. But we weren't quite prepared for this work.
Basically, the job entailed loading 100- and 50-pound gunny sacks of potatoes into rail cars: stacking them onto a dolly, rolling them into the car, and stacking them up. This is a reasonable job when the stack is less than chest high, but loading them over our heads was a real test.
After two weeks, I failed it. I was completely exhausted and broken down by the end of that time. I called in, said thanks for the opportunity, and quit. (So did Scott.) I wound up setting up my own house-painting business that summer and making my tuition that way.
But I'm sure that most of those Latino co-workers not only stayed on, they probably worked at the warehouse year-round. Because they were simply unfazed by it all. They could load, stack, and load some more, all of it far more efficiently than I ever could. And at the end of every day, as I collapsed in a heap, they were still in good spirits.
Not only were they the hardest-working people I ever met, they also had the best work ethic I ever saw. That is, not only did they work hard, they worked smart. I muscled those 100-pound sacks of spuds up to the top row, while they simply tossed them up with a little leverage and technique.
Oh, and my old boss back at the potato farm where I hauled pipe? Within a couple of years after I left that farm, he went to an all-Latino crew, and he admitted to me that they were mostly illegals. But, he said, they worked harder and better and far more reliably than any crew of teenagers ever had for him. Having been one of those teenagers, I knew exactly what he meant.
Since then, I have had many other encounters with immigrant Latino workers -- as well as many working-class people living in Mexico -- and my experience has been uniform. These are hard-working, decent people. America can use more people like them.
Yes, they are often poor, and poverty does spawn crime. But the notion that they are innately criminal is absurd.
And the notion that they are lazy? On what planet?
But reading Limbaugh's rant, the big question that lingers is: How does he propose "getting rid" of 500,000 illegal immigrants annually?