She comes in every day—in fact, she never misses a day. When she’s there, she works hard, paying attention to the duties of her job. She seems glad to have a job and expresses her gratitude in simple ways all the time. There’s a certain pride in how she does her work and a dignity about her that coworkers have come to respect.
“Wish we had more like her” is a comment often overheard from her supervisors.
There was a bit of a problem with her accent at first, and even now she is not exactly talkative or chatty. She’s a little shy, but not with her smile, which she shares with everyone. No one listens to announcements or instructions as intently as she does. She’s all ears when the boss is talking. She catches on quickly.
A relative or friend drops her off every day at the far end of the parking lot, usually well before her shift starts. She is always neat and clean, but it seems as if she watches closely how her coworkers dress so that she can wear the same kind of clothes and styles. As much as she tries to blend in, it’s her drive to excel and please others that makes her stand out.
No one dislikes her. In fact, when the bowling or softball league forms each year, at least one or more teams pleads with her to join, but they always get the same response: “I have family. I need to be home right away. I am very sorry.” You can tell, though, that she would love to be with the gang every Wednesday evening. Some loyalties are simply stronger than others.
Loyal. That is a good word for her. She is loyal to her job, to her employer, to her coworkers and to her family.
I’m describing a person that I only imagine to exist, but I’m sure her real-world counterparts with names such as Asha, Ernesta, Noor or Trinh can be found in many workplaces in America. Some of these people are likely to be illegal immigrants or have illegal immigrants living with them.
Of course, not all illegal immigrants can be pictured as positively or sympathetically as my fictional image. That is my point. Our country is currently engaged in a great debate about illegal immigration. It is a complex issue that stirs up strong feelings and deep anxieties. Clear thinking is difficult. As I sort out the proposals from leaders in society and government for myself, I keep my imaginary worker in mind. Her picture serves as a reminder that, ultimately, real lives in real places will be profoundly affected by our decisions. However, we must be wary of stereotypes and wishful thinking.