Here's something from August 2008, dredged up because I was thinking about the politics of immigration again...
"In the hills of San Diego, spiderholes and cardboard houses like the set of an apocalypse movie let men who didn’t belong there—never women, only men—hide and sleep. Fifty yards away, citizens lived in giant homes and shopped in giant stores and drove giant cars along giant roads. The citizens might as well be giants because they never saw the men hidden between the gaps in the hills with shrines to the Virgin and stories about older gods told in thick Mixtecan by men whose ancestors devoured conquistadors in rituals no Jesuit Inquisitor could completely burn away.
An anthropologist talked about the illegal immigrant problem with the people of the city. The citizens did not know how close they were to the camps. Moms in minivans shared stories about stolen things, mystified about their true value: “Somebody stole my pool cover, three bags of charcoal and the big gallon jugs of pool chemicals . . . Do you think they’re having a pool party in some meth lab?” They assumed the men had snuck up from Tiajuana and ran back south with their stolen goods.
The men lived behind the shopping center, invisible to the consumers there.
“People will steal anything,” said the anthropologist. In his mind, he wanted to ask, “Are you sure they’re the ones who stole it just because of their ethnicity?” but he didn’t want to tell people how they should think, until he finished his study.
The anthropologist could’ve told the women of the shopping center about the real value of things. Pool covers hid spiderholes. Charcoal cooked dinner, and then the ash mixed with piles of garden trimmings to mask the pool covers over the spiderholes from INS helicopters. Chemicals got dumped out, and the plastic jugs were used for both water and toilets."