By Monique Jones
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A man wearing a shirt and tie stops for a shot of cafecito at El Pub on his way home from work. Then he walks over to the Border Cruiser and lights a cigar.
Darryl Clodfelter, a Miami native who works for Miami-Dade Transit, says he's seen Gagnon's work during Art Basel but that for a moment he was juked out of his brogans.
"I thought it was a cop car at first. This is a great project. I believe we should control immigration more stringently. A census of our prisons, which are full of Mexicans and South and Central Americans, bears that out," Clodfelter continues before pausing. "My wife is Cuban and didn't become a citizen until after we were married. But I can also tell you that many of my Latin employees joke that this isn't America, it's Miami, and that if you drive an hour north, you need a passport."
Gagnon, who has been invited to show his provocative opus at the ArtCar Museum in Houston next month, says he's not a "complete gringo" and grew up in a home where English was a second language.
"My mother is French Canadian from Quebec. I went to school with the children of immigrant laborers in Fort Pierce, and although I knew some lived in poverty, there was never a realization of what many of them went through."
Gagnon expresses sympathy for the plight of undocumented workers, but also recognizes America's hypocrisy when dealing with the issue.
"The current situation is convenient until the economy goes sour and our government decides to deport illegal immigrants back home," he says. "But as soon as the economy improves, they have no problems letting them back in, because they have a flexible illegal work force right at our door. The big problem of course is most of that work force doesn't pay taxes, has no health insurance, and when they go to the hospital, someone else ends up footing the bills. It's definitely a burden on our society."
As Gagnon gets ready to leave, a half-crocked homeless Cuban man walks over, asks for a dollar, and then points to the car and cackles, "Hey, can you play Celia Cruz videos on that thing?" Gagnon turns away quietly and drives off into the night.