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Tucson Weekly Will Work For Food

The Jeffy Telethon Gets Underway...

By Jeff Smith

SEPTEMBER 8, 1998: 

The telephone rang, it would not stop, it was President Kennedy calling me up. He said, 'My friend Bob, what do we need to make the country grow?' I said, 'My friend John, Brigitte Bardot...Anita Ekberg...Sophia Loren.

--from "Talking World War III Blues," by Bob Dylan

WELL ANITA EKBERG is dead, Sophia Loren is 63 and still gorgeous, and Brigitte Bardot has gone from wearing nothing but a towel to nothing made of hide nor hair: It's time to rethink Dylan's early '60s assessment of America's staffing requirements.

If you ask me, and I'm sure you would if this were an interactive journal, what we need to make the country grow is Nena and the kids. Nena and the kids are Erasmo's wife and children, Danny and Diana.

Erasmo is my friend from Chihuahua, who got naturalized a year or so back, and is doing the paper chase to get his family into the big tent that our political leaders would have us believe is our United States of America.

So far it hasn't been easy.

Personally, I find it kind of humbling to consider how hard some people work, and how much suffering they are willing to endure, simply to have the right to struggle for a few of the things the rest of us take for granted. Not merely for granted, but virtually despised. To hear the typical crowd of malcontents talking over morning coffee in America's truckstops and cafes, we are the most over-taxed, under-served, lied-to, cheated, spied-upon and oppressed nation of wage-slaves on the planet.

But don't tell that to Erasmo Lagunas: He's too busy driving nails and sawing boards under the summer sun, trying to feed his family, pay his taxes and keep up the monthlies on his truck and his home. And loving it.

It would do you all a world of good to know a family like los Lagunas and their in-laws the Mingura clan, who began coming here a couple decades ago as wetbacks, worked their way into reputations as solid citizens, got their green cards, went to work on their naturalized citizenship, and now want their nuclear families to be able to stay here legally.

I helped Erasmo and his brothers-in-law get in on the amnesty program back in the '80s, and they've made me part of their extended family since. Our emotional and fiscal ties are many and mostly informal. When Erasmo asked me if I would sponsor Nena and Danny and Diana, I said sure.

When I perused the forms from the INS I realized we had a problem.

What it comes down to is this:

The Immigration Service and the Department of Health and Human Services wants some assurance that aliens coming to the U.S. to live with legally residing family, and eventually to acquire citizenship, do not become wards of the state. Ordinarily the government would simply turn to the family already legally residing here--i.e. Erasmo--for the bona fides and the resources. Trouble is, Erasmo, as a just-naturalized man from Chihuahua, working construction in a rural economy, didn't make the 20 grand last year that the INS requires.

Which is where I came in.

And you know what? Neither did I. My income flows through a corporation I own. I get a little rent, a stipend from the feds and that's it. My personal tax return portrays me in hues even paler than my threadbare wardrobe. I'm a paper pauper. I tried to persuade the notary and accountant handling the application for Erasmo that my real estate, firearms, motorcycle and assortment of old trucks should be sufficient collateral, but she said nope: The feds want a tax return showing better than 20 grand in earned income.

Which is where you come in.

Surely one of you out there in Barrio Volvo has enough gelt and enough faith in your fellow man--yours truly and the estimable Erasmo Lagunas--to sponsor Nena and the kids for three short years. That's all the feds require: a three-year commitment to take Nena and the kids in, should anything horrible happen to Erasmo.

In point of actual fact, if such were to befall the family, they've got kin all over Patagonia who would keep them in frijoles and under a roof.

If they didn't move in with me first, which would be fine by el Jefe. Or they'd slide on down to Ciudad Guerrero where the rest of the family still lives. I would even sign a separate agreement with you, to take the real fiscal and domestic burden, if you would just be so kind as to fill out the forms and sign the paper.

I'm serious. I would trust Erasmo and Nena with my life. There are no better human beings on Planet Earth, and I intend to find a way around this bureaucratic snag. Call me at 455-5667 if you can help us out.

And while we're at it, I need to find a car for Miguel. (Miguel is Erasmo's double cunado. Each is married to the other's sister.) But back to the car business, Miguel is simply jinxed where motor vehicles are concerned. His yard--actually my yard--is littered with the hulks of cars and trucks Miguel bought and drove for a little while and watched die beneath him. It's not that Miguel is a bad man or even a bad mechanic: He just has bad karma. Car-ma. Whatever.

So I figure that one of you nice, Swedish-car-driving liberals probably has an old beater out behind the guesthouse gathering cobwebs, and you could work out an arrangment with your tax guy, and just give the damn thing to Miguel so he could get to work, and take Emma to the clinic when her nerves act up, and pick up Luis from school and stuff.

Help us out, will you? This way your dogma and your karma will achieve harmony, instead of the latter running over the former.

Thanks, and have a nice day.

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