A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves ~ by Jason DeParle

Confession time –  one of the reasons I read/listen to books so much is that I have tinnitus (ringing in ears) and I often can’t do silence. I can fall asleep (usually) but just sitting around in an empty house can make me nuts.  I used to keep the TV on but that gets really old.   

A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves
By Jason DeParle
2019 / (400 pages) 
Read by Fred Sanders 11h 44m
Rating:  8 / nonfiction

So I listen to books and I get them as needed from Audible or the library and on sale or not – wherever.  I don’t usually buy or borrow more than one at a time and read as I go.  With a good sale I might buy three or four.  I don’t like listening to two really good books back-to-back so sometimes I spread them out with memoirs or crime novels in between. 

This is a sale book I got about a week ago which looked interesting and had excellent reviews although for awhile I didn’t think it was going to pan out so well.  I’m delighted to report that it turned out to be excellent.  When it started looking like a winner, I checked the Kindle version and it seems kind of pricey and it has no graphics (that I saw). But it does have a fine looking chart of family members as well as a Note on Sources and Methods, a formal section on Notes, and an Index.  It was a toss-up and I passed.   

It was published in 2019 which means it was probably written in 2018 and that leaves Donald Trump as the guy in White House, building his wall etc.  This shows in the book.  Fears of deportation abounded.  Covid-19 had not yet hit and so unemployment of unskilled US citizens was a huge concern to his supporters.  It’s the upper classes who benefit the most from the immigrants, legal or not, due to the lower labor costs they bring.    

The narrative is divided into two parts – Part 1 really focuses on the story of one Filipino family doing its level best to get migrant status jobs in foreign countries (any foreign country with wages) to make money to send home where it’s desperately needed.  Getting a Visa alone is a multi-part task including education, English proficiency, testing, and paperwork.  By the end of that I was kind of tired of hearing about the troubles of this one three-generation family. In Part 2 my interest perked up as DeParle’s focus turned to the history of migrant workers in the US and the situation now.  

The US is home to about 10 million migrant workers in any given year, but beyond that the numbers are difficult to come by because different agencies take care of different categories and definitions.  These aren’t “illegal” or “undocumented” immigrants. These are skilled citizens of other countries who carry valid Visas permitting them to be employed by companies in the US. They usually have jobs before they get here. The biggest reason for the US using migrant workers is that we don’t have enough trained people to do certain jobs. These migrant programs started here back in 1848 (yes, following the Mexican War), but boomed in the 1960s when Reagan and his successful, although somewhat abused, Bracero program for farm workers initiated while he was governor of California.  

DeParle deals with one family from the Philippines for a period of about 30 years but he also includes some fascinating US material on the use of eugenics, backlash, fear of Bolshevism, desire for cheap labor on the part of business and “racism” and xenophobia on the part of the Anglo-Americans. Then to balance all that came the quotas.  

When I got back to the family (Rosita) in the US it was a pleasure.  But then in chapter 13 the focus was back on the larger picture,  American society and immigrant problems.  There are both benefits and drawbacks and some of it depends on who, what and how you count.   


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