In the Land of Opportunity, Immigrants Built That

A natural fit with the Republican Party, except for that one sticky point.

San Antonio Express News

Seferino A. Balmez came across the U.S.-Mexico border as a child, by himself.
He became a small businessman, running a Bakery and a body shop.

I came across this obituary in today’s San Antonio Express News:

Seferino A. Balmez was just a boy when he crossed the U.S-Mexico border all alone, already determined to build a better life than the one he left behind.

His family has few details about those days.

But they know Balmez “trabajó todo su vida,” worked all his life.

The longtime owner of La Poblana Bakery at El Paso and Brazos streets died Monday at 78. There, he rose at 3 a.m. to bake the neighborhood’s favorite Mexican pastries and breads.

He operated the bakery for 35 years, making pan de huevo, campechanas and cuernitos. He supplied the bolillos that were transformed into tortas by area restaurants, and created crocodile- and alligator-shaped pan de muerto for Day of the Dead celebrations.

Baking was in his blood (his parents were bakers), but his son Rafael Balmez credited years of working alongside experienced West Side bakers at Fiesta, Superior and Cinderella bakeries, among others.

“If his bread didn’t come out the way he wanted, he wouldn’t sell it,” he said.

Hard work punctuated Balmez’s life. He once took a job at a store across town, riding there on a bicycle. When his son asked him why, he said, “‘So you can buy whatever you want,’” his son said, choking up. “He wanted to spoil us, because nobody spoiled him.”

After leaving Mexico, he rarely looked back.

“I was 5 when my dad took me, my younger brother and my mother to Mexico to meet my grandmother,” Rafael Balmez said.

“No one knew he was alive,” his son said. “When everybody saw him, everyone broke down.”

Balmez, who was married for 43 years, didn’t say much about leaving Mexico, only that “He didn’t want to go back until he was somebody.”

An avid hunter and fisherman, Balmez brought a ranch in Brackettville and hunted white-tail deer and turkey.

His son Gonsalo Balmez recalled a fishing trip in which his father caught a bass “the size of an ice chest,” crediting his usual combination of using two hooks, worms and minnows that he called “a buffet.”

“He came to the United States, had a ranch and two businesses,” Rafael Balmez said. “He had a good life.”

I could not find any mention anywhere that Mr. Balmez ever became an American citizen. Getting past the obvious point that Mr. Balmez might be considered an illegal immigrant, we’ll focus here on what he became, a successful businessman, like many immigrants who came to America in hopes of becoming “somebody”.

In most cases, these immigrants did not stop by the SBA, or the welfare office looking for government handouts before they opened the doors of their establishments.  It was simple hard work and effort that led to their achievement, and it was their success that allowed them to help family members achieve their own dreams.

Over time, the Democratic Party has changed the immigrant story into one of dependency.  It runs commercials encouraging Hispanics to apply for food stamps, not how to fill out forms to start a business.  Instead of highlighting successful immigrant entrepreneurs, who have made the most of opportunity and prospered –  Obama’s bureaucrats focus on how Uncle Sam can help immigrants become a ward of the state.

I don’t ever get the feeling that the DNC looks to the immigrant community as anything but a voting bloc created for one purpose only.  The less likely they are to work for themselves, the better the Democrats are….. the goal is to shove them into a Union – where they can be dependent on a Union boss and fork over their money to elect sorry Democrats.

Of course I can’t say what Mr. Balmez would have thought about President Obama’s comments, that he “didn’t build that”, his bakery, his body shop –  the idea that his efforts were just another turn of the wheel of the collective.  I imagine Mr. Balmez might have muttered an expletive, for I doubt that he considered Uncle Sam his silent partner.

The message that Obama/Biden tells the immigrant community, and it is obvious that their message is geared to those here legally and illegally,  is antithetical to the story of Seferino Balmez.  Obama doesn’t appeal to the spirit of hard work and effort, and of reaping the rewards of success. Obama’s campaign doesn’t run commercials showing small business owners who have built businesses into large companies.  Instead of commercials praising those who employ thousands, it demonizes them for not doing enough.   It hypes the downtrodden, the ones who, for various reasons, haven’t made it.

I know the background is abuzz with stinging criticism:  OK, yeah right, so you are using Mr. Balmez as a topic point to criticize Democrats, while the Republican Party would deport him back to Mexico?

Truthfully, that fact is a huge hurdle to overcome.   For every discussion we want to have with the immigrant community, the amnesty issue is the elephant in the room.  And it’s an important issue because we can’t cede this debate to the Democrats.

According to studies, immigrants  now make up 18 percent of small-business owners in the United States, a six percent increase from 20 years ago.  They are more than twice as likely as the native-born to start a business, and in 2011 were responsible for more than one in every four new U.S. businesses.

-While immigrant-started businesses tend to be smaller than those started by native-born Americans, they have a large collective impact on the economy. Immigrant-owned businesses now employ one out of every 10 workers in privately-owned companies and contribute more than $775 billion in revenue, $125 billion in payroll and $100 million in income to the U.S. economy.

-While the entrepreneurship rate of native-born Americans has slowly declined over the last 15 years, the entrepreneurship rate of immigrants has climbed by over 50 percent.

Last week I visited the area around El Paso, and in the local Wal-Mart at the New Mexico border, it seemed the only other person speaking English in the place was the cashier at checkout.  In Texas, Hispanics are the immigrant population that comes to mind when we talk about the subject, but there are  many other immigrant communities, and most of them haven’t crossed the dry banks of the Rio Grande to get here.

Remember when Old Joe Biden made fun of immigrants from India who seem to own a lot of 7-11s?  How many immigrants from Vietnam or Korea do you know who own their own businesses?  Honestly, it seems they own most of the dry cleaners, nail salons and Sushi restaurants I’ve frequented.  Many Indian and Asian families are known to pool generational family resources in order to start their own businesses.   They aren’t looking for others outside of their own networks, for help.

I would expect that Obama’s message would be fiercely resented in the immigrant community — just as much as the American Gothic couple struggling to keep the doors of their diner open down the street resents the message.

So.  If the story of “you didn’t build that”  would be an insult to so many immigrants, I would think they would be more inclined to agree with the Republican side of things, the story of building a business on your own, without government help, that most immigrants can, and do relate to.

Update 8/22:  See the comment below.  Mr. Balmez became a US citizen years ago.   

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13 Comments on “In the Land of Opportunity, Immigrants Built That”

  1. John Boddie Says:

    Re: ” For every discussion we want to have with the immigrant community, the amnesty issue is the elephant in the room. And it’s an important issue because we can’t cede this debate to the Democrats.”

    Say what? You present a significant moral and legal issue and you want to reduce it to petty politics?

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  2. balmez Says:

    My Dad became a U.S Citizen 20 years ago.you are correct to say my father never ask for assistance.not even a loan to open his ..business .he paid his taxes every quarter like a business does

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    • Sara Says:

      Thank you for the clarification! I have updated the post! What an amazing and inspirational story, your father’s. You must be very proud.

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      • balmez Says:

        When I was little my father would look at a Mexican show called Chespirito…there you would see a actor playing the role of a small child..he would pull a shoe box with a string.Like it was a toy car.I could see tears come out of my fathers eyes.I asked him why he would cry.He told me cause that little boy was poor..growing up he told me that his toy as a little boy was a car.The car he was talking about was a shoe box.The show would remind him of his childhood.That’s why he would cry

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  3. balmez Says:

    We are proud of my father.I just wish people knew of his life when he was alive.My father taught us to be hard workers.He was creative in making bread.He made bread that looked like big alligators and big turtles.the local news paper did a article of my fathers Bakery and the bread he would make.I wish they would of asked him how he became a Baker

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    • Sara Says:

      How did he become a Baker?

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      • balmez Says:

        My fathers parents were bakers in Mexico,a place called puebla,puebla.He learned the trade since he was a little boy.In those days if you didn’t work,you wouldn’t eat.My father was like 10 years old when he came to the United States all by himself.He told me he worked at ranches,mechanic shops,plumber,any job he could find to make a honest dollar

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        • balmez Says:

          His trade was a baker.He was in his twentys when he started working at bakerys in town.he saved enough money to open his own Bakery.He started with a small table,little mixer,one show case,a oven and a regular refrigerator

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