"Well, mostly I don't blame the people who are here for coming here," he said, "even if they don't have a legal right to be here. I doubt if circumstances were better where they had came from that they would have come here in the first place. Or, if circumstances where they were from had improved, even if only in relation to their being here, it seems like they would have gone back. Would go back. Going back would be only half the problem coming was, I would think. On the other hand, American immigration is a basic problem. Because the countries to the south of us here in the United States generally have fewer resources and less favorable circumstances for meaningful life than we do, or than we think we do, there's a great incentive for them to come here to try to better themselves. Why do you ask?"
"I've been thinking about the situation a lot lately. I hadn't thought about it that much until just recently. I think it's almost too complex to fully understand."
"You've got that right. It's about as complex as analyzing nuclear physics, maybe more so. Our politicians have ignored the situation --- or encouraged its continuance --- for too many years. It has made the situation worse, and the economy now has made it critical."
"The thing that frightens me is that the people who will suffer the most are the ones that can least afford to suffer more. It won't be the wealthy and powerful politicians that ignore their responsibility in correcting the situation who suffer, but the innocent individuals caught in the terrible circumstances that they didn't create."
"Well, for the most part, don't you think most of the individuals created the situations themselves?" Bob took a sip of his wine.
Mary Lou also sipped her drink before she answered him. "Probably," she said after she finished. "The problem is, there are so many individuals caught in the crosshairs now that there has to be a lot of innocent people who will get hurt."
"What all got you thinking about this, anyway?"
Mary Lou thought she would take a chance by telling Bob. She was feeling for some reason good about Bob Orr, and it wasn't just that the food tasted exceptionally good. It was difficult to explain why or how she felt that way, but sometimes you just had to try something out, based upon a feeling, and then see if it worked out. You know, you had to see if the accounts balanced; if the debits and credits canceled out the way they should. "Well, I go to the mall to take a break from work. Sometimes I go just for a break, but usually I go there to eat dinner in the middle of my work day. I go alone; I enjoyed the time by myself. I started observing the young woman while I was there.
"She looked like a Latina. I don't know what she did that attracted my attention, but she seemed to be there whenever I went, and that seemed strange."
"How old would you guess she is?"
"Oh, I don't know, I her late teens --- eighteen or nineteen --- or her early twenties. That's my guess anyway."
"So what does she do? You say she's there all of the time?"
"Yeah, whenever I'm there, and I think to look for her, I have been able to find her someplace there. At first, I thought she was doing nothing. Just sitting there looking around. You know, they have a big screen television there. Sometimes she would just be watching it, but not all the time or even most of the time. Sometimes it seemed as if she was just reading or looking at something in a magazine. I almost thought she might be doing homework or something. But then, she was always there. It didn't look like she was ever anywhere else, like at school. I thought, maybe she does it online. But I never saw her with a computer or anything like it."
"Hmmm, that is curious. So what did you do?"
"Well, I got more observant. Finally, I just walked by her and saw that what she was working on was a word-search puzzle --- you know how you can buy those magazines with hundreds of word-search puzzles in them. And then one day I saw an older woman who also looked like a Latina with the young woman. They were sitting there together, talking with each other. After that, I started looking around for the older woman, too.
"I found out that she was always there in the food court or someplace else in the mall, too. The older woman, however, was always working. Well, almost always working. I'd see her mopping floors, carrying out the garbage, working inside any one of the various businesses there: Wendy's, Burger King, Orange Julius, Taco Maker, etc. Whatever. She was working.
"At first, it wasn't clear who she was working for. I thought maybe she was just working for the mall, that they were paying her to clean up around the food court and whatnot. The more I watched, though, the more apparent it was that she wasn't working for the mall or anyone entity. She was freelancing, working for herself. She wasn't working for any one business or person, but for many different ones. She was picking up whatever work she could get, without being employed. In effect, it seemed as if she was conscientiously trying to reduce the risk of being caught by the government or law enforcement individuals."
"That's a curious situation. What do you think their connection is --- the two women?"
"The older woman is the younger woman's mother. I know that now. I sat down one day recently with the younger woman and introduced myself. Later, I had occasion to meet the older woman, too. The other day, you know, when we went out for a drink, and I had you walk with me through the food court --- in fact insisted upon it --- it was because, earlier that day, I had seen the two women together. Both of them had been in tears, as if something catastrophic had happened to them. Of course, that was before I had introduced myself, And now that I have, I am trying to make friends. Maybe I can find out what happened that caused them such grief that day."
"Are you sure that you want to get involved in all of this yourself? Isn't that just opening yourself up to potential heartache, too?"
"Well, doesn't that just go back to the original problem? Nobody wants to do anything about the problem, do they? Nobody wants to feel bad or have enough empathy to do anything for these individuals. Our politicians have let things slide and now the bottom has fallen out of the economy. And now that the you-know-what is hitting the fan, everything is a crisis. Anybody with any power and authority at all wants to wash their hands of the immigrant situation; they don't want anything to do with it. It's a political hot potato.
"The zealots out there are like Hitler over against the Jews, the handicapped, and the Jehovah's Witnesses. They just want the people who were here without proper documentation and legal authority to go back to wherever they came from, even if that is now, for all practical purposes, virtually impossible."
Bob Orr chewed on his steak.
It seemed to Mary Lou to be a steak more tough than this upscale of a restaurant ought to have. "What would you do if you had seen a girl like that, Bob? Before you tell me though, let me tell you one more piece of this puzzle. The girl is handicapped. It looks to me like she has some sort of paralysis on her right side. Additionally, sometimes it looks like she blanks out. I don't know what that is. Maybe she's having some kind of seizure or something. It scares me. So what would you do?"
"Well. I don't know. Probably, I am too insensitive to even have recognized it like you did. But now that you've told me about it, it makes my heart ache just thinking about it. What are you going to do?"
"I don't know. For one thing, I guess, I'd like to get a little more information. You know, find out where they come from. How long they've been here. Where they're staying. I have 1 million questions. Maybe I can help them some way.
"I gave the girl a book."
"You gave her a book?" Bob said.
"I did. It's a Newbery award-winning book. It's one I love. I don't know if it will have any meaning to the young woman or not. I don't know if it'll have any impact whatsoever, however. Or, for that matter, I don't know if she'll even read clear through it.