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Immigration is purely an economic issue

Letter from Paul Martz

Immigration – May 2006 – Colorado Central Magazine


My first reaction to reading Hal Walter’s column in the April edition, even after reading the postscript apology, was one of disbelief. I quite frankly found his apparent conclusions about the current illegal alien situation to be abhorrent. He seems to be saying that all other legitimate considerations aside, it’s OK to exploit these people if it’s for the good of the economy.

Some restaurant gets cheap dishwashers, Hollywood and the Hamptons get cheap gardeners, retiring yuppies get construction bargains on their starter mansions, and Hal gets a new roof cheaper, so using illegal alien laborers who work for significantly less than the local gringos should be acceptable. I find this exploitation to be otherwise. And, I want to make it clear that Hal’s argument that “any opposition to immigration seems rooted more in racism than in economics” doesn’t wash either. This whole matter is purely an economic one and that just adds to the stench of it.

It’s been said that the smartest thing Henry Ford ever did was to pay his workers enough that they could afford to buy his product. That concept has more or less been the foundation of the American middle class ever since the labor wars of the late twenties and thirties abated, leading to the relatively more civilized era of the fifties and sixties (when I belonged to two different unions).

Fairly recently the Denver Post ran a series of articles about the contributions illegals make to the local economy. Remarks by one person featured in those articles really stuck in my craw. He was a dry wall contractor who said that he “…couldn’t get anyone to hang sheet rock for ten bucks an hour.” I am not surprised by that because more than 20 years ago during an extended period of professional unemployment, I hung sheet rock as a day laborer for that same ten bucks. I was glad to get it then, if for no other reason than it was physically easier than laying concrete for eight dollars under the same circumstances.

Hal dislikes the idea of building a fence to stop, or at least significantly slow the rate of infiltration across our border. I think it is in fact a humane, and necessary response to the problem. People are not going to die in the desert, or be arrested and deported, if they can’t physically cross into U.S. territory illegally. The Israeli concrete wall might not be an equitable solution to their problem (given its unilaterally decided location), but innocent people, Jews and Israeli Arabs both, aren’t dying by suicide bomber like they were prior to the fence going up.

I fail to see the rationale of employing people to enforce our laws in an increasingly dangerous environment when a physical barrier that can be significantly more accurately and easily monitored can do the job. We won’t have gangs stopping trains and looting freight cars if they can’t get to the tracks in the first place. And, we won’t have people dressed like Mexican national police, driving what appear to be official vehicles while hauling drugs across the line and shooting at our Border Patrol. Finally, to compare a barrier erected on our border to keep an invasion out, to the Soviet- built Berlin Wall which was built to keep eastern Europeans in, is pure sophistry.

BEFORE YOU START thinking up names to call me, like nativist, isolationist, racist, Latino-phobic, etc., I’d like to point out that I spoke Spanish when I started kindergarten because I was practically raised by the Hispanic family that lived next door. I’ve traveled in Mexico a number of times, and even worked there professionally in the recent past. I’ve had Hispanic friends, even “real” Mexican friends during most of my life. If you call me a racist because I oppose illegal aliens, you are flat out wrong. Additionally, before calling people here illegally “immigrants,” as the Post and like-thinking institutions have been doing, I’d like to contrast them to a real Mexican immigrant to the U.S.

He’s a family friend who came here illegally to find work, and like most of those in the country today, had had previous employment in Mexico. After living here for more than two years, he realized he wanted to become an American. He returned to Mexico and waited five years for a visa. He’s now an American citizen. I don’t think you can compare Marcellino’s goals, those of a true immigrant, to someone who is looking home the whole while he or she is here illegally exploiting an economic opportunity. Nor can you ignore the fact that he spent a significant portion (for a young man) of his life waiting for his turn.

I am also against another amnesty program. We’ve done that already and it was not a solution to the problem. In fact it seems to have had exactly the opposite effect as opponents had predicted. If we are going to just open the southern border, why not let in all the Russians, Chinese, Indians, Latvians, etc. who desire to come here for economic reasons. Hell, that would supply some really terrific, cheap, well-educated labor. Why, if we’d just do that, native-born Americans, as well as those who are naturalized citizens, could just hire an illegal to go to work for them and not have to work at all.

If worse comes to worse, we could even allow in some more of my people, the Irish. They already speak English, and they seem to have done OK since that not so distant era, when as my grandfather used to say: “You could shoot down an Irishman on the main street of Grand Junction at high noon and a jury would let you get away with it.” Since he was an orphan raised by an Irish grass widow who already had 11 kids of her own to support, he was a bit sensitive about that subject. Of course that was after the railroads were built, but we “needed” cheap labor then, too, because “Americans” supposedly wouldn’t do it. Maybe Americans just wouldn’t work cheap enough to suit the robber barons building those railroads.

Lastly, if you don’t think border security is important, keep in mind the half dozen Asian women who were apprehended while being “escorted” over the Canadian border to work in the U.S. as virtual sex slaves under the terms of their “employment contracts.” Or the fact that between five and fifteen percent of those crossing the southern border are not from Mexico or other Latin American countries.

But the bottom line of this whole discussion is the sheer immorality of exploiting people who have limited, or in the case of the Asian women (as well as others who were found in a sweat shop being held in actual slavery under their “contracts.”), non-existent rights because they simply don’t legally exist. In the case of those who are Mexican nationals, they are also exploited by their own government, as the Braceros of the forties, fifties and sixties, found out when their retirement funds disappeared. The “skim” off the top of the money sent home is just the most obvious current example.

Having worked overseas in several countries, I don’t blame anyone for wanting to come here. In fact I admire anyone who takes the risks that they have, and in general works as hard as they do, but that sentiment does not excuse nor condone their breaking the law to do so. Allowing the present circumstances to continue is not only bad policy, it is immoral and another amnesty program that will in effect just perpetuate these conditions is hypocritical to say the least.

Paul Martz

Poncha Springs