An American fable first collected in the 1800’s. You remember: the Little Red Hen gets some wheat, decides to plant it, asks for help—no one steps up. Likewise with growing, harvesting and threshing. No one wants to help. They’re all probably on their phones. But when she’s eating the bread she baked after all that labor, everyone wants some. Too bad. You reap what you sow.
I’m proud of Denver for being a sanctuary city, for having the humane ethic of sheltering the stranger. It once was a Christian ethic, but some Christians have abandoned the practice. Republican governors—looking at you, Abbott, DeSantis—send unannounced busloads of immigrants to sanctuary cities. Like others, Denver is finding its resources overwhelmed. MAGA governors love that: disrupting or injuring a Democratic-led city is their idea of a good time. What happened to one nation under God? Abbott, in fact, seems prepared to start a war against the U.S. of which he’s a member. Like cutting off your nose to spite your face, isn’t it?
Denver asked others to help—other Colorado cities, other states, the U.S. Congress. Nothing doing. Colorado Springs is proud of turning immigrants away. Someone started a City of Lakewood panic with the rumor that immigrants were camping in their empty schools. Untrue. Fox News was happy to fan those false flames. Hundreds showed up to protest nothing.
We have immigrants with us always. Unless you’re of indigenous origin, you’re descended from immigrants. (Mexicans deserve a pass: we moved onto their land, not vice versa. Mexicans deserve carte blanche at the border.) Each new wave of immigrants has generated fear and hate—from Germans, to Irish, to Chinese to whoever came next. We’ve used and abused every immigrant influx we’ve had, despite or because of that fear and hate reaction.
Immigrants fill our entry-level jobs, harvest our crops, staff our meat processing plants, clean houses and offices, tile our roofs, wash our cars—in short, do all the jobs Americans won’t do. Immigrants keep the country running. According to an Economic Policy Institute analysis, our robust recovery from the pandemic—better than any other country’s—has been due in part to foreign-born workers, who made up about 50% of job market growth. (Washington Post, February 27, 2024)
Due to our high housing costs and in some cases low salaries, Denver has been losing population despite acquiring 30,000-plus immigrants last year. We have labor shortages. We are short nurses, police, firefighters, teachers, landscapers, housekeepers. We’re not alone. Such shortages exist throughout the country. We need immigrants.
In Denver, grassroots efforts are helping immigrants eager to start their lives over. Neighborhood volunteers advertise for Jaime who can do yard work, Maria who cleans houses, or Alejandra who makes arepas and someone hires them, or orders those tasty arepas, off the record, cash basis. Some help navigate the labyrinth of getting work permits, and others help find affordable housing.
The Little Red Hen asked and good citizens answered. Perhaps those good citizens will have a share of freshly baked bread. Or good karma for their next life or a code to unlock heaven’s gate. As for those who build walls, slam their doors shut and send random buses, one imagines that they too, in some manner or time, will reap what they sow.