Have you heard of this one? It’s all over the ‘sphere. The long and short of it is a dishwasher Guatemalan immigrant named Pedro Zapeta who worked for 11 years and managed to scrape together $59k in savings. He tried to walk into an airport to cart his cash haul home. The Feds seized the money because it was undeclared and now this guy is back to washing dishes… that is, until the Feds come back to toss him out of the country.
It’s too easy to be cynical and look to law and order as a reason for putting this bloke in so much pain. He isn’t a criminal – he doesn’t even have a parking ticket. He didn’t shirk the law any more than the next working stiff and he’s certainly no Enron corporate hack working at the behest of Kenneth Lay. No… Pedro came here with the best intentions of doing a job that few Americans will do – he cleans our dinner plates for a buck.
I did the math. If Pedro trimmed his living expenses to 50% of income, worked a steady 8 to 10 hours per day, 6 days a week (accounting for about 25 days off per year besides Sundays and perhaps some down days when he couldnâ€™t find work, he could have easily accumulated $59k in savings after 11 years.Two things come to mind. One: I earn almost ten times what this guy earned per year and can barely scrape together enough to meet the IRS minimum for my IRA exemption. Two: most people I know earn at least 10 times what this poor guy earned and are struggling to pay their mortgage and Beemer lease payments. Iâ€™m certain that there are folks out there who think that there’s a deeper more sinister story here. But I assure you, there isn’t. Perhaps we’re all fed by the same lopsided American consumerist attitude; what doesn’t make instant sense makes us so cautious that we become overly judgmental and cruel.We should be able to figure out how to give this guy a break. Yeah, okay; force him to pay income tax; at his bracket that might be around 20% of gross. Maybe fine him a little for trying to walk through the airport with all that cash. But he should at least walk away with about $30k â€“ definitely not empty handed.
This story assails our sense of fairness in so many ways. On one side are folks to believe that the letter of the law must be observed; in their mind, fairness comes from equal application of punishment. But this view ignores the ‘global effect’ of our current economic activities. It is no secret that we are the primary beneficiaries of a thick web of offshore supply and demand â€“ in terms of products and services, but also in blood, sweat and tears labor. Our actions clearly affect the emotions and attitudes that are directed toward us; as a country and as a society; individually and severally. Therefore, it is in our best interest to at least show some kindness from time to time. Are WE THE PEOPLE blind-minded bureaucrats, hard-nosed executors for the rule of law? Or are we a grateful citizenry, obedient to another, much higher order of law that requires us to acknowledge the sacrifices of those who come to this country to do the work that none of us want to do, e.g, wash our dirty dishes for a buck.
By the way, if you disagree with the ruling of US District Judge James I. Cohn (the guy who exacted justice on Mr Zapeta), let the Hon. Judge Cohn know what you think. Hold him accountable for his cruelty. Call 1-954-769-5490, then press 6 and either talk to his staffer or leave a message.Or you could write him: this is his address: 299 East Broward Boulevard, 203F, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33301