Commentary: A change of heart on illegal immigration

Bob Ray Sanders is a writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Bob Ray Sanders is a writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. MCT

The phone call at home Sunday evening didn't begin with "Hello" or "How are you doing?"

Instead, the caller blurted out, "I've had a change of heart. I've seen the light."

I instantly recognized the voice, and I knew he was not talking about a sudden religious conversion but for the life of me couldn't imagine what he meant.

Mark [not his real name] is my most conservative friend who argues with me about many issues, so he could have been referring to a number of issues.

"It couldn't be the death penalty," I thought, knowing that to my astonishment he had changed his mind on that controversial subject a few years ago.

So I asked what he was talking about.

"I think all illegal immigrants should stay here," he said. "They should not be deported."

I thought he was being facetious because just a few weeks ago, after my column about needed comprehensive immigration reform and passage of the DREAM Act, he went on a tirade about how all illegal immigrants should be rounded up and sent back to wherever they came from. They were hurting our economy, he said.

At that time, he gave me a dissertation on the word "illegal," and how I should not be encouraging or rewarding people who broke the law.

Mark assured me he was serious about his latest stance on immigration and proceeded on a rant about all the "lazy" Americans who were unwilling to work, making it not only desirable but necessary to hire undocumented workers.

"It's a sad state we're living in right now," he said. "[Americans] will be sitting in front of their TVs in air-conditioning b----ing about Mexicans taking their jobs and about how they're having their unemployment stopped. ... They're hypocrites. They're not going to work."

All the time I'm wondering -- what brought on this epiphany?

Mark, who runs a sizable ranch in southwest Tarrant County, had 1,800 bales of hay that he urgently needed to get into a barn before it rained.

Sudden rain showers had popped up in the area. He'd been watching the radar screen and praying that he could get the hay put up before the rain got there.

He started calling around to hire some hands but was turned down by everyone he contacted, including former high school friends and young extended family members.

No one wanted to work in the 106-degree temperature, he said, even though he was offering to pay $1 a bale. It's been a long time since I've baled hay (at a nickel a bale), but that seemed like a pretty good one-day job offer.

"We have become a nation of lazy slobs," he declared.

"If you run all the Mexicans out of here, somebody will have to do the job."

He added, "The white boys are not going to do it. The black guys are not going to work. But in the same breath they complain about Mexicans taking their jobs. They are lazy, spoiled, fat hypocrites. ... If the black people and white people want to starve to death, run the Mexicans out."

Continuing his sermon, he said, "They don't have a job; don't want a job, but they justify that by blaming the Mexicans."

He then gave a long list of agricultural industries that would go out of business if illegal immigrants were suddenly deported, including dairies, slaughterhouses and the poultry farms.

"There would be no Kentucky Fried Chicken," he said.

When I was talking to him Sunday night, Mark said he was still "hoping and praying it don't rain," because he had solved his labor problem for collecting the hay bales the next day.

"I went out and got four wet-- uh -- undocumented workers, and they'll be there at 6 o'clock in the morning," he said.

He agreed to pay them each $100 a day and provide lunch.

His prayer about the rain was answered. The workers got half the bales put up Monday and finished the job Tuesday. Before they were done, another area ranch foreman hired them to do the same thing on his property.

One of my prayers was answered as well because one more person now understands the impracticality, and sheer economic impact to the country, of trying to deport every illegal immigrant.

Mark's story speaks again to the need for comprehensive immigration reform, but until members of Congress are faced with trying to store 2,000 bales of hay before a rainstorm, I doubt we'll see such legislation anytime soon.

Related stories from McClatchy DC