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ISSUE 119 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/5/2006

Stav's immigration connection

By Andrea Horbinski
Opinion Editor

Friday, May 5, 2006

May came in like a drowned rat on the St. Olaf campus this year, but the rat wasn’t yet dead on arrival. Anyone who went to Stav Hall this past Monday (and it was a grilled cheese day, so presumably a lot of people did) could not have failed to notice the monumental delays in its services, especially in the dish room.

Here at St. Olaf, we talk a lot about our global perspective, but it’s worth being reminded every once in awhile that the bubble is a myth, and we are just as much a part of the world here in Northfield, as anywhere else.

There were few workers in the dishroom on Monday because it was May Day, the traditional workers’ holiday, and our dishroom workers walked out on their thankless jobs to express their solidarity with their fellow immigrants and workers across the country. From New York to Los Angeles, immigrants everywhere boycotted their jobs in a show of solidarity.

It was also a show of economic clout. By most estimates there are at least 11 million illegal immigrants in this country, and countless more legal sojourners. By and large they do the jobs that “native-born” Americans think are beneath them, but are necessary just the same. I don’t have to look beyond the immaculate landscaping on St. Olaf Avenue and around campus to see examples of such unwanted jobs.

The Stav Hall dishroom is another excellent example. The only time most students think about dishes in the cafeteria is when we curse the perennial cup shortages during meal times.

But Monday provided an almost chilling illustration of what it would be like if current Congressional proposals became law and “illegals” were rounded up and deported like human cattle.

Anyone should be leery of pundits’ blithe discussions of deportation from a human rights perspective – remember the 20th century and its horrors – and I for one felt more than a little uncomfortable when I walked past the demonstrators holding signs reading “No human is illegal” on my way to classes. Is our silence collusion with the status quo?

Regardless, the lack of dishwashers on Monday demonstrated neatly how deportation would be economic suicide. Almost none of Stav Hall’s student workers volunteered to work an extra shift behind the sink. This is not a condemnation of them; they have studies to balance on top of work.

For better or for worse, there is a division of labor along class lines in this country, just as in most developed nations. But the United States, as the world’s foremost developed country, will only come to economic harm if it ignores this truth. And here on the Hill, we’d have to get used to an eternity of cup, plate and spoon shortages.

Opinions Editor Andrea Horbinski is a junior from Marlton, N.J. She majors in classics with concentrations in linguistics and in Japan studies.

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