Saturday, October 06, 2007


The song that best expresses how I feel about illegal immigrants today was written over 50 years ago by Woodie Guthrie. In 1948 an airplane carrying illegal immigrants being deported to Mexico caught fire and crashed over California's Los Gatos canyon. Apparently in the radio news accounts that Woody Guthrie heard, instead of listing the names of the victims as he expected 'the radio said they were just deportees.' So, Woody wrote a song, entitled 'Deportee.'

The lyrics express the viewpoint of someone who has worked alongside of Mexican immigrants picking crops in fields and orchards and also picking up a knowledge of Spanish names and a few Spanish phrases. The lyrics also reflect the bond that has developed between Woody and his Mexican fellow workers that results in him resenting the treatment of Mexican immigrant workers when they are abused and demeaned because of their illegal status.

My brother just sent me a link of a video of Arlo Guthrie and Emmylou Harris singing Deportee. It is the best performance of this song that I have heard, powerfully conveying the emotional impact of the song. As you listen notice the poetry of the lyrics -- how Woody captured a viewpoint of this social and political issue that he had developed over a lifetime of experience in just a few words.

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