April 14, 2006


By Richard Rodriguez
New America Media

In the noisy argument over what to do with illegal immigrants, the common assumption is that America has done a great deal for them already. The question now is: What more should we give them? Should we give them a green card? Grant them amnesty? Or stop all this generosity and send them packing?

No one speaks of what illegal immigrants have done for us.

It occurs to me I have not heard two relevant words spoken. If you will allow me, I will speak them: “Thank you.”

Thank you for turning on the sprinklers. Thank you for cleaning the swimming pool. And scrambling the eggs and doing the dishes.

Thank you for making the bed.Thank you for getting the children up and ready for school. Thank you for picking them up after school.

Thank you for caring for our dying parents.

Thank you for plucking dead chickens.

Thank you for bending your bodies over our fields.

Thank you for breathing chemicals and absorbing chemicals into your bodies.

Thank you for the lettuce and the spinach and the artichokes and asparagus and the cauliflower, the broccoli, the beans, and the tomatoes and the garlic. Thank you for the apricots and the peaches and the apples and the plums and the melons and the almonds. And the grapes.

Thank you for the willow trees and the roses and the winter lawn.

Thank you for scraping and painting and roofing, and cleaning out the asbestos and the mold.

Thank you for your stoicism and your eager hands.

Thank you for all the young men on rooftops in the sun.

Thank you for your humor and the singing.

Thank you for cleaning the toilets and the showers and the restaurant kitchens and the schools and the office buildings and the airports and the malls.

Thank you for washing the car. Thank you for washing all the cars.

Thank you for your parents, who died young and had nothing to bequeath to their children but the memory of work.

Thank you for giving us your youth.

Thank you for the commemorative altars.

Thank you for the food, the beer, the tragic polka.


Essayist and commentator Richard Rodriguez is author of, most recently, “Brown: The Last Discovery of America” (Viking, 2002).

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