With the Congressional midterm elections seven months away, immigration is already shaping up to be one of the most hotly contested issues. Particularly controversial is the concept of the "guest worker," which some folks say rewards illegal behavior but others call a necessary adjustment to a real-world problem. You know, like the morning-after pill.

It's always a red-letter day when Orlando Weekly can help resolve a social crisis while claiming to be ahead of the curve. And this is one of those days. See, we've been retaining the services of guest workers for years. We just had other names for them, like "interns" or "inside-sales representatives." And now that guest-workerhood is the topic on everybody's lips, we're setting an example by ramping up our roster of in-house GWs while assigning them a whole host of new responsibilities — including writing this column.

This week, we introduce you to Richie "Brandon" Hernandez, the GW who'll be composing Dog Playing Poker from now on. Richie is 22, hails from the Dominican Republic, and couldn't be a better poster boy for this country's newfound responsibility toward its immigrant population. Via Richie's example, we hope to show how U.S. businesses can rectify the rampant exploitation that illegals customarily suffer in this country — by raising them up to the saner, more manageable level of exploitation on which the publishing industry thrives.

OK, Richie, I guess the first thing we want to know is, what was it like growing up in the Dominican Republic?

Well, see, I don't know how that got in there, but I wasn't born in the Dominican Republic. I'm from Omaha.


Yeah. I mean, I'm part Dominican on my Dad's side. Like one-eighth, maybe. But I'm also part Scottish, Armenian, a little Hungarian … I think there's some Chippewa in there, too.

But you had to cross a border to get into Florida, right? I bet that was terrifying.

Actually, I don't remember too much about it. I was 5, and I used to have trouble staying awake on long car rides. I remember Mom calling out, "Look, kids! Jacksonville!" from the front seat, but it honestly wasn't anything I felt the need to sit up for.

Wow, is that an inspiring story. It must have been a constant battle to hold onto your sense of identity in such an alien environment. What were some of the specific instances of institutionalized persecution that made the greatest impression on your young psyche?

Um, it was mostly OK. Every once in a while, another kid would say something stupid. This one time, at my cousin's coming-out party, some guy standing near the punch bowl pointed at me and snickered how "us people" could never learn how to tie a tie. But my grandpop says the Armenians have had to put up with that kind of stuff since day one.

On behalf of this entire country, Richie, I just want to say: We're sorry. Now, tell us how you came to be picked for Orlando Weekly's "Hire the guest worker" program.

Yeah, that was really strange. It was about 10 o'clock at night, and I was hanging out with some of my friends in front of a pottery-glazing studio near UCF that we like to go to. So all of a sudden, this Prius pulls up, and out climb four guys — all white and between the ages of I'd say 32 and 40. They kept looking around like they were lost but still really scared. And I heard one of them say, "Just grab the first one you can find, Ryan. I don't want to think about what goes on in these neighborhoods after midnight."

And after that, it's the Cinderella story we all know and love, right?

Pretty much. They brought me to your building, showed me my cot, and told me I was going to be writing the most important feature in the paper. And I got really excited, because my girlfriend loves the horoscopes.

Yeeeeeeah. Listen, Richie, from what I've heard around the office microbrewery, I know you're working on some really exciting ideas. Care to let us in on your plans for spicing up the pages of OW?

Oh, definitely. I was thinking that we could boost our pickup rate by making our content more relevant to our target demographic. Like, "You're in luck this week, Aries! That bitch down the hall isn't going to press charges." Or, "It's a great time to think about scoring some Gainesville green, Taurus! The drought is almost over." Stuff like that.

Um, Richie … you do know that you're supposed to be improving our reputation for diversity, right? What are you going to do to make Orlando Weekly sizzle with that good old ethnic flavor?

You know, everybody keeps mentioning that. And I'm not really sure. I guess I could learn to say, "If your birthday is today …" in Chippewa. Hey, can I get paid now?

You bet. Help yourself to some soy nuts.

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