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Original post made by Sue Kemp, Old Palo Alto, on Mar 23, 2007

I read Mr. Levy's article on immigration with great interest. It's such a knotty problem! I had a discussion with a good friend very recently and his only focus was on the word illegal. Nothing else matters to him. Not even when I told him I had read in the paper that west-coast agriculture was short 300,000 workers this past year, and that some crops rotted in the fields or on the trees and vines because there weren't enough workers to pick them at the time they were ready to harvest.

What can I say, I'm a Bush despiser, but I think the president's plan for the "undocumenteds" was as good a one as we're likely to get. A guest worker program, and a path to citizenship, even though an extremely lengthy and expensive path, are good ideas. Making criminals out of illegal immigrants is not economically intelligent, not to mention that it shows a total lack of compassion.

One last thing, because I resonated with the family problem Mr. Levy mentioned. I have been paying for tennis lessons for a 13-year-old who was born in the US. He lives with his stepfather, who is legal, and his mother, who I am not sure is legal. And there are four little siblings who were born here. The parents are great, hard-working people, giving their kids wonderful values, as well as tremendous opportunities because they are here. I don't want to break up that family!

I hope that the Congress can find a way to deal with this issue in a realistic and non-punitive way.

Comments (11)

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Posted by ten18
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2007 at 1:29 am

Sorry, but my compassion ended long ago as I watched thousands upon thousands of illegal aliens flood across the border, bringing with them drugs, gangs, and crime. Poor people who have no intention of learning english, no intention of assimilating, and who will be a permanent underclass continually placing downward pressure on wages. These people and their families belong in Mexico, and their government should be taking care of them. Many think they're still in Mexico, even though they're here. Any guest worker program put forward by this government is a sham, and an amnesty for lawbreakers. Our gutless government will not control the border. And, this is just the tip of the iceberg - if Bush has his way, we'll be looking at tens of millions more, added to our already overburdened healthcare and education systems. I'm not interested in living in a third world country (which is not outside the realm of possibility for the good old USA at the rate we're going) - if that makes me incompassionate - so be it. Unfortunately, Palo Alto sees little of the effects of illegal immigration - try living in a border city, or take a trip down to LA.

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Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 24, 2007 at 8:23 am

I agree with both. I am willing to work out a plan for those who have been here for more than some number of years, ( 2? 4?) with no legal entanglements or use of public resources, to become citizens.

But only after we make our border completely non-porous. No more illegal crossing of the border. Period. Shut it down completely, first, so that we don't let more people through.

And, while we are at it, make our immigration laws a little looser, so that people who want to work here who are not engineers can immigrate. It would be simple. Give visas to come work,only to those with no criminal background or those NOT pregnant, require "probation" of x-years, with checking in every month to track you, and if you get in trouble, abuse our system, or skip a check-in anytime before you are a citizen,..out you go, and you can't come back. And any family you have created while here. Period.

In exchange, you get the protection of our worker laws so you aren't exploited, and the chance to prove that you should be allowed to get on the path to citizenship.

Incentive is everything. Bring back some of the price of failure and the reward of success.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 24, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Amen, Draw - There is a scene in 1984 where the police explain to Winston why they have laws that are impossible to not break, because that gives them a tool to control the people. Since people pay coyotes several thousand bucks, they should be able to post a bond to cover their trip home in case things don't work out. No job guaranteed, just a hunting license.

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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Mar 25, 2007 at 9:03 am

Thanks, Draw the Line, for offering your ideas re a solution.

I am interested in readers' views on the following challenges:

1) Where are we going to get the low-wage workforce for California--particularly as we move into a period of large numbers of retiring workers? If we don't use people like the current unauthorized workers, then what do you propose?

2) How do you make the borders "non-porous"? Is this realistic in a free society? How do you identify unauthorized immigrants to deport? How is this possible without turning people against their neighbors?

3) Most unauthorized immigrants live in "mixed" families meaning they have legal resident children or spouses or both. What would be the likely consequences of deporting unauthorized immigrants in these cases?

In a way the debate on immigration is like the debate on Iraq. It is fine to have feelings one way or the other but ultimately we have to have a plan--saying something isn't working isn't the same as proposing a solution, even if all solutions are difficult.

I would like to be able to mention some Weekly readers' comments at the conference at HP next Saturday.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2007 at 4:20 pm

We will not get low wage workers any more than we will see the nickle Pepsi come back. My concern is where will we get our electricians, plumbers and - well we already know the carpenters are likely border jumpers. The emphasis on college for everyone has blinded our young to the satisfying and well paid jobs in the crafts.
Replace the peons with machines. Men and women, strap on the tool belt and the good life. Yes, women. Ain't no glass ceilings in the trades.

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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Mar 25, 2007 at 8:38 pm


I agree about the opportunities for plumbers, electricians and other skilled jobs. And that college isn't fore everyone/

But I am puzzled by your answer re low-wage workers like the folks who clean buildings, work in hotels and fast food restaurants, pick crops and work in nursing homes. Replace them by machines??

How would that work exactly?

And what's with the peon and border jumper language? Lot's of us have grandparents who came poor and with few skills and also no documents since quotas and documentation really started only in 1921.

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Posted by Euro Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2007 at 9:16 pm

This may not be feasible here, but here goes.

In Europe, many students take a year off between school and college and spend their time working on the various harvests round Europe. They travel in groups going from the grape harvest to the whatever harvest. They live rough, eat simple, and spend their time learning language, broadening their horizons, etc. It used to be just the hippy types, but is now becoming more acceptable for nearly everyone.

So, we could get the European hippy type students here learning about California, or we could get our own students, some of which are probably inept at doing a full day's hard work for enough money to provide them with a meal for the night, to do the same work as our immigrant laborers. It may actually be more educational than many of their classes and may prove to kill two birds with one stone. (All said very tongue in cheek)

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2007 at 6:40 am

Peons are unskilled labor. Border jumpers are paople who entered the country illegally. Both terms are honestly descriptive. Honesty has a value in relationships.

Farm mechanization enables year around employment instead of just harvest work. Many of my kin followed the harvest, "Picking prunes" before they found steady jobs.

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Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Mar 26, 2007 at 7:06 am

Roughly 1 in every 20 unauthorized immigrants work in agriculture. The rest work in cleaning, food prep, construction, gardening, manufacuring and a variety of service occupations.

Walter and Euro parent (tongue in cheek) have offered solutions to the agriciltural labor shortages. Does anyone have ideas about the other 95% of the jobs that unauthorized immigrants currently do? Or comments on the proposed solutions for agriculture.

Walter, unauthorized and low-skilled are also honest descriptions. I was wondering why you chose the labels that have emotion behind them.

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Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2007 at 9:04 am

I do not believe that an honest description is ever out of fashion. I try to avoid weasel words and PC because they generally are used to limit debate. Perhaps the other low wage jobs are low waged only because we have the modern version of bond servant to do them? I did my share of pearl diving and swabbing, and I suspect there would be a way to get grunt work done even if the illegals left.

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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2007 at 4:35 pm

I have relatives who live near San Diego. They moved there some years ago from Back East. Initially, they were concerned and supportive of the plight of illegals coming across the border in that region. Then it got to be TOO much -- the illegals camp out, set fires that get out of control (to my relatives' surprise, this has occurred quite near their residential area in North San Diego!), commit some crime, and apparently run across freeways (I haven't been down there lately, but at least there used to be big signs warning motorists to watch for fleeing Mexicans running pell-mell across local highways!)

What this snapshot tells me is that this is a BIG problem. It goes way beyond being compassionate and helping people in unfortunate circumstances. That I can understand. But we cannot have a total open-door policy - it is not practical, it is not reasonable. I will not support our agreeing to support the entire country of Mexico and completely burden the U.S. with that country's problems. I am not an expert on Mexico, but I understand it is operated in a corrupt fashion. Maybe they need to start taking responsibility for educating their poor, providing decent infrastructure and education, etc. In the meantime, *some* people in Mexico are surely laughing at us.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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