« News Article: (TC Daily Planet) Espejos, Reflecting the Latino Community | Main | Steven Renderos: Are we really surprised? »

Steven Renderos: Oh Lord, I'm Stuck in Lodi Again!


One of the first albums I ever listened to from beginning to end was "Green River" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. This was my uncle's favorite band even though he didn't speak any English and most of the music that he listened to didn't sound anything like CCR. They became and to this day, still are, one of my favorite bands. Their raw sound mixed with lyrics of pain and sadness made it the perfect band for people with less than perfect lives.

One song I particularly listened to all the time was "Lodi". The song begins with:
Just about a year ago, I set out on the road,
Seekin' my fame and fortune, lookin' for a pot of gold.
Things got bad, and things got worse, I guess you will know the tune.
Oh ! Lord, Stuck in Lodi again.

Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez was also stuck in Lodi. She was a 17 year old farmworker making $8/hour while picking grapes in the California heat. During her third day on the job she collapsed of heat exhaustion and eventually died two days later. She was a Mexican undocumented immigrant, but she didn't have to die. There are laws in California which address the working conditions of farmworkers who are subjected to strenuous environments which put their lives at risk. Theoretically, employers are supposed to supply their workers with a quart of water during every shift as well as a shaded area for them to cool off and take 5 minute rests as needed.

I say theoretically because for Maria Isabel, things got back and then things got worse. She died, and it was discovered later that she was two-months pregnant at the time.

An article in the Sacramento Bee generated a public outcry over this incident. Unfortunately, the public outcry had nothing to do with the unfortunate death of a young woman, or even the negligence of her employers. No, the public outcry was because she was an "illegal immigrant". (Click to read article here)

Since when did imaginary boundaries develop the power to strip someone of their human identity. As if crossing a border and risking death for a better life was so egregious a crime? So egregious that when an undocumented immigrant dies, xenophobic self proclaimed "Americans" lose all sense of compassion. Here are a couple of comments from posted by readers:

Gawond wrote:
She was here illegally, working illegally, not paying taxes - again - illegal. If she wanted to work in better working conditions and be protected by a union, then she should have come into this country legally. Why is everyone blaming the farmers, etc? Where were her parents? Why aren't they being charged with child abuse? I am sure they accepted her earned money without worrying about her working conditions. Now all of the sudden a public outcry?

Trooper47 wrote:
1) I do not feel sorry for this situation because she - and others- are committing crimes in this country. 2) Had she come into this country legally she would have had the legal protection of possibly a union, OSHA, decent wages, and I could go on and on. 3) She was NOT an undocumented farmworker. That was her occupation. She WAS an illegal alien or illegal immigrant - so long as the word I-L-L-E-G-A-L is used - and it puzzles me how politicians (lawmakers) use the term I-L-L-E-G-A-L on occasion but the continue to allow it. 4) I agree with those who posted that it was a "national shame" which is B.S. The national shame is that our politicians have failed miserably in upholding their oath of office. 5) This country was, in fact, made the great country it is/was by immigrants but they were legal immigrants. And finally, 6) they can get at the end of the line and enter legally. The line is in their home country - not this country.

What's puzzling to me beyond the bigotry was the amount of comments that were simply upset over how she was labeled. As if being an "undocumented immigrant" is too soft of a label because we're not patronizing them in the process. It begs the question, "What United States of America are we living in?" and "What United States of America do we want to live in?" I don't understand the hatred that emanates from this issue of immigration, and worse is how misinformed the general public is about the issue.

Myth: Immigrants bring diseases to the U.S.

Myth: Immigrants have no legal rights

Myth: Immigrants are taking jobs away from "Americans"

It is unfortunate that the death of a young woman is overshadowed by an issue that has largely been misrepresented by media. The failure to report the issue in a balanced manner leads to the shaping of public opinion. Currently, the political climate favors an enforcement only approach to immigration. Meaning, we must deport all 12 million undocumented immigrants. The truth is, this approach is not feasible and will not lead to resolution. Instead its stirring bigotry, hatred and anti-Latino sentiments reminiscent of the racial tensions our country experienced in the first half of the 20th century. Things got bad, and now they seem to be getting worse, I guess you know the tune...it seems we'll be stuck in Lodi for a long time.