I’ve always loved Robin Hood. In all his many manifestations, including the most recent BBC Robin. I’m quite fond of Maid Marion, but that’s for another day, another column.

Robin has a healthy disrespect for laws that penalize the many, and serve the interests of the few. And I have always known that if push came to shove, I’d jack a deer or two in Sherwood Forest to feed myself and feed the poor.

Which brings me to Albaro Francisco. Many people in Great Barrington were shocked when Albaro Francisco was handcuffed and led away. Albaro is a successful small businessman, a talented music promoter, and a respected community leader. In a meeting held two Saturdays ago at The Triplex, I heard several people speak of his many kindnesses.

To those of us who eat the burritos and tostadas at Taqueria Azteca; who look forward to his new venture with his cousin Pascual at the former Helsinki’s; who dance to his music; and who benefit from his advice, the fact that Albaro Franciso has been taken from our community and transported back to Mexico is an occasion for great sadness.

Which brings me to our immigration laws. Laws are laws. And some laws are better than others. I’ve always believed that if you break a law you believe to be unreasonable, you’re probably going to have to pay in some way. But over time you might just help change the law.

And, while I don’t know all the facts, it seems Albaro Francisco might have broken one or some. Hopefully, we’ll all take some time to think about our immigration laws in light of what Albaro Francisco brought to us, and what we’ll miss because of these laws.

In the interests of full disclosure, I’ve broken a few laws in my time: I’ve sat in and stood in. I occupied the Administration Building at the City College in New York because I believed the administration was about to act undemocratically to release students’ class ranking to local draft boards. During the civil rights and anti-war movements, I’ve been tear-gassed and clubbed at more than a few demonstrations.

The thing about laws is that you don’t really understand them until you see how, and against whom, they are enforced. Sadly, for those of us with birth certificates and driver’s licenses and social security cards, this is a lesson that’s taken too long to learn. There are thousands amongst us in Berkshire County who live with a constant fear. They know that no matter how hard they work, no matter how kind or respectful they are, the fact is they can be sent away in a heartbeat.

I am the grandson of Hungarian and Italian immigrants. European ancestors who were lucky enough to arrive with nothing, but were at least granted papers. If they had lived on the American continent, I have no doubt they would have tried any way to get here. Some of my brother’s sisters didn’t make it here until years later than he did, and that painful reality rippled through our family history.

There are so many ironies to the immigration debate that rages across the U.S. these days. One of the most poignant ironies to me is the fact that white immigrants stole the country from the original Americans. And then stole our Southwest from the Mexican people. Imagine how insane it is all these years later to throw Mexicans in jail for crossing the Texas border illegally – when they are only coming home.

Borders and boundaries are drawn and redrawn not with ink but with blood. It would be a lot easier for me to stomach the protectionist argument – the enforced border approach – if we hadn’t intervened time after time on the American continent with disastrous effect on behalf of greedy corporations like United Fruit and Anaconda Copper and Texaco and against small peasant farmers and union leaders and rubber workers and Maryknoll nuns. Time and again we have made life appreciably more miserable for the poor in Latin and South America, in the lands in which they live. Is it so difficult to understand that all people yearn for a better life?

But back to Albaro. My friend Peter Putnam told me a story. Many years ago, Peter owned Dos Amigos in Great Barrington. One day he heard a knock on the back door. There was a fourteen year old boy asking for a job. In a short while the boy became the best cook Peter had ever had. That boy was Albaro Francisco. All these year later, Peter marveled at Albaro’s bravery – the courage it took to survive in another land, to seek and find work, and to work so very hard.

Without minimizing the complexities of immigration, I would like to think there would always be a place for that kind of courage and initiative and perseverance in our community. And however he got here, Albaro Francisco is teaching us about the American dream. All the way from Oaxoca. Let’s bring Albaro Francisco back home. America for Americans.


Mickey Friedman, while seemingly wasting his time sitting on a bench in front of the Fuel Coffee Shop, is actually looking for a literary agent.

Thursday October 22, 2009 © Mickey Friedman – All Rights Reserved