From the Los Angeles (actually, San Fernando Valley) Daily News:
Too broke to buy a ticket home, Valley's immigrant day laborers just hang on
They are down and out in the United States and homesick for Guatemala. And El Salvador. And Honduras. And Mexico.
And they would go back without even an American penny in their pocket if only they had enough to get home.
They are the discouraged and disillusioned Central American and Mexican day laborers who, in a sign of how hard times are in this economy, find themselves so broke they can't send much, if any, money back to loved ones they haven't seen for years.
"We have lost our reason for being here," laments Jose Perez, 42, a Guatemalan living in the San Fernando Valley who vows he will be back home by next Christmas - and wishes he could leave sooner....
A glance at Ochoa's and Perez's decline in earnings over the past year underscores how far their dream has fallen.
For months, both have been averaging one day of work a week, earning from $60 to $80 a day. They used to work up to seven days a week at that rate.
"We didn't realize how good it was until it was gone," said Perez.
"In Guatemala, I could live with my family at my parents' house," Ochoa said.
"I would find some kind of work. I might not make much more a week there than I do here working only one day a week. But I would be home. I wouldn't be a stranger in another country."
But now Guatemalan day laborers wishing to go home face the task of saving $400 or more for the airfare to return home.
"If you're from Guatemala and you want to go home, it has to be by plane," said Ochoa. "We're not trying to be picky. But it's not a trip that can be done safely by bus."
Turning themselves into U.S. immigration authorities for speedy deportation is no easy answer. Illegal immigrants often languish for months as prisoners in detention centers. When they are deported, they may end up hundreds of miles from their home towns, families and friends.
Perez suggested a novel solution for how immigrant day laborers could return to their homelands even quicker.
"If those people and groups who are crusading to get immigrants out of the United States would offer the air fare for us to go home, we would," he said, making direct reference to members of the anti-illegal-immigration Minuteman Project.
The long journey through Mexico, especially with the ongoing violence of the drug wars in that country, is especially intimidating to Central Americans.
"It's not like there's any great love there," said Perez. "If you're Guatemalan, Salvadoran or Honduran, you want to fly home.
"If we're going to go home, we want to make sure we get there alive."
Sounds like a good way to stimulate the airline industry. I'm sure paying to send unemployed illegal immigrants home (after being photographed and fingerprinted), because it's so much cheaper for all concerned, is included in President Obama's 800 bazillion dollar stimulus bill, right? I mean, it's got to be in there somewhere. Oh, well, probably just an oversight. I'm sure the Democrats will put in such a humane and sensible measure as soon as their mistake is pointed out to them.