Monday, June 13, 2005

Illegals in Ohio vs. Illegals in Texas

I've lived in Texas (Austin) for two summers and frequently dined at local restaurants with friends. As you can imagine, many of them were either Tex-Mex or Mexican. I noticed something interesting in both of these cases. At nearly all of these restaurants, nearly all of the hosts and servers were white 20 somethings. Additionally, while the Tex-Mex places had a different flavor that I wasn't used to, the Mexican places all tasted like big chains in other parts of the country. It felt like I was at Don Pablos wherever I went. To add to this, the menus were often mostly in English. Rather than ordering a "38," I would order a "Chewy Special." Oh, and on top of all of this, most of the places had English names.

This was odd to me because I frequent Mexican places back in Ohio (Columbus) as well. There, the hosts and servers were Mexican. Few of them spoke more than a few words of English. The food was very good and seemed to be authentic. The menus had HUNDREDS of items on them, all in Spanish (so you usually ordered with a number). Oh, and the names of the places were actually in Spanish. In other words, I felt like I could get more authentic Mexican in Ohio.

Now, I also noticed something else in Ohio. It's common to see Mexicans who speak little to no English mowing lawns, laying tile, and doing landscaping. A friend of mine did landscaping in high school. Of the seven or eight people who worked there, five of them were Mexican, and they all got there in the same truck. If the boss fired one of them, he'd have to be careful because he might lose all of them because they have no other way of getting there without that person's truck. And yes, all of them make enough money to support themselves and send the rest home to family, all the way back in Mexico. I don't have much experience with this aspect of living in Austin, so I can't really compare.

However, I know in Austin many of my office mates were from South America, educated in South American universities, and working in Texas completely legally. Some of the cleaning staff were Mexican, but just as many were other things (I think most of the ones I knew were black, but there were a number who were white too).

Now, if I said any of this to my Texas friends, they would have stopped me by now. They would have explained that there are far more low wage Mexican workers in Texas than there are in Ohio. They would claim that Mexican food was MUCH more authentic in Texas. They would also claim that if it appears like there are a lot of white 20 something's, that's just because I was in Austin, home of the University of Texas, the second largest university in the United States.

However, I live in Columbus, home of The Ohio State University, first largest university in the United States with over 50,000 students. If white 20 somethings should be infiltrating restaurants anywhere, it should be where I live. (you could argue that there is a higher density of restaurants in Ohio too, I guess)

So anyway, I end up reading the June 20, 2005, U.S. News & World Report and there's this article, "Under the Sun: A New Wave of Immigrants is Transforming Communities Nowhere Near the Border," with this figure, "Where the Illegals Are." It's color coded. There are four categories:
Estimated Growth Rates of Illegal Immigrants (2000-2003/04):
Red: 62% and above
Orange: 37%-54%
Yellow: 24%-32%
White: Less than 24%

There are 7 states that are red, including OHIO.

There are 5 states that are orange.

There are 5 states that are yellow.

All the rest are white, including TEXAS.

So isn't that fascinating? I'm thinking I was right about Ohio.

Note that I don't have a problem with this. I think it's great. I think it works well with everything else going on here. No one is complaining that there's an employment problem. Everyone's happy about the situation, I think. Yeah, there are some of the Ohio-tucky residents who belong in West Virginia who say things like, "Ya' kno all those social programs? They not for no one but da' foreigners, does aliens." However, even they don't complain about illegals taking their jobs.

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