TIJUANA, MEXICO — The signs at the union rally were lettered in red and green on a white background, reminiscent of the Mexican flag.
“!Con DeMaio al Norte!”
(“With Demaio to the North!”)
“!Si, se puede, jefe!”
(“Yes, we can, boss!”)
“!Te amos Carl!”
(“We love you, Carl!”)
The setting was a south-of-the-border parade on Tijuana’s famous Avenida Revolucion, where a union representing undocumented workers hoping to migrate to the United States endorsed Republican candidate Carl DeMaio for San Diego mayor.
Manolo de Obra, president of UMWOT, the Union of Mexicans Waiting for an Opportune Time, said DeMaio’s plans to privatize many city services would result in more demand for laborers from Mexico.
“From landscapers to maintenance men to day-care workers to health inspectors, undocumented migrant workers want to be there for San Diego,” de Obra said to a crowd of reporters and about a hundred Mexican laborers from the Tijuana area.
“All we need is a leader with the courage to fight the public-employee unions by transitioning city services to private contractors — and mis amigos, that leader is mi amigo Carl DeMaio, who is also every undocumented worker’s amigo.”
The laborers in the crowd cheered and applauded at each mention of DeMaio’s name. Among the loudest was a 35-year-old DeMaio supporter named Jose, who said he worked in the San Diego construction industry until the 2008 downturn.
“I think Carl DeMaio is like a giant piñata filled with jobs for undocumented workers,” Jose said, “so everyone in San Diego ought to take a swing with a blunt instrumentado.”
de Obra, the union president, said his organization’s decision to “toss our sombrero into the ring of the DeMaio campaign” came down to dollars and sense.
“But DeMaio wants fewer public employees, less oversight and more outsourcing — and all that means more jobs for undocumented workers,” de Obra said. Then he let loose with a rousing grito del Mariachi.
After de Obra announced the DeMaio endorsement, a Mariachi band emerged and broke out in the popular Mexican folk song “Trabajando en la recientemente privatizada compania autobus ” (“I’ve been working at the recently privatized bus company”).
Carl DeMaio unfriended me on Facebook several months ago, so I was unable to contact him for a response about this particular union endorsement of his campaign. But I’m sure he is delighted.
Jose, the former construction worker who had to return to Mexico, said he hoped to move back to San Diego for a job in parks and recreation.
“As Carl helps the city decimate departments like parks and rec, there will soon be private jobs for undocumented workers like me — so North I’ll go,” Jose said. “Of course, I’ll miss my familia — and I’ll lose my health coverage.” (All citizens in Mexico receive complementary care under the country’s national health plan.)
de Obra, the union’s president, noted that America could use the tax revenue provided by undocumented workers.
“If you count sales tax, property tax via rent, and the amount withheld from paychecks by the IRS,” de Obra said, “many undocumented migrant workers pay a higher rate than Mitt Romney — just like most American citizens.”
Jose said life in the United States was becoming more like life in his native Mexico.
Of course, as some things change, others stay the same.
“If I get a job at a U.S. restaurant or a factory and I use a fake social security number, you’d think in America, the IRS would say something,” Jose said. “But I keep working illegally, and the company keeps doing business illegally, and the government looks the other way — just like in Mexico!”