Immigration-Big changes may come : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Big changes may come Wednesday's summit in D.C. could help reshape U.S. policy and our way of life

SUSAN CARROLL Citizen Staff Writer Sept. 1, 2001

How much you pay for a hamburger, a head of lettuce or even a new home could hinge on the outcome of an immigration summit next week between President Bush and Mexican President Vicente Fox.

If you are a business owner, their decisions could mean finding someone to work the jobs few Americans want, such as tarring a roof in 110-degree heat or digging an irrigation ditch in Arizona's hard-packed soil.

If you are an undocumented Mexican, Wednesday's summit in Washington, D.C., has the potential to shape your financial future. On the table are two proposals, each politically as thorny as the rolling barbed-wire fence that runs along much of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.

n Immigrant advocates are pushing for amnesty, or "regularization," of the estimated 3 million to 4 million Mexicans living illegally in the United States. Bush has backed off from talk of granting a blanket amnesty and has floated the idea of gradually allowing undocumented workers to become permanent U.S. residents.

n More-conservative pol-iticians and industry leaders support a guest-worker program that would import temporary laborers for less than one year at a time. This proposal, which some say carries the stigma of a former agricultural guest-worker program that ended in 1965 amid allegations of abuse, is opposed by many immigrant advocates and unions. The Tucson Citizen will take a closer look at who stands to gain and lose from proposed changes in immigration law with a four-day series of stories leading up to the meeting. On both sides of the border, money plays a decisive role in the immigration debate. "It's about immigrants seeking better opportunity here and businesses constantly seeking cheaper workers," said David Ray of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a nonprofit group that advocates reduced immigration.

"The only reason most people are coming here is for jobs," he said. An estimated 400,000 undocumented workers live in Arizona. They work in the cotton fields of Eloy, harvest chiles near Elfrida, clean Tucson hotel rooms and flip burgers in Phoenix. Undocumented immigrants stand to gain a coveted green card through the legalization proposal, but fear they could lose jobs through a guest-worker program.

"Just imagine what this could mean to us," Josefina, a 46-year-old undocumented immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico, said of legalization. She and her husband, Josť Sr., have lived in Tucson for nearly eight years without immigration papers. He works in construction. She is a housekeeper who has raised three children, including a 15-year-old daughter who requires special education.

Josefina, who asked that her last name not be used for fear of immigration authorities, hopes a legalization program will open doors for her family and allow her to get a job in a factory, a drivers license and perhaps credit to buy a home. But Ray said offering legalization is akin to telling immigrants the United States is not serious about immigration laws. "It's the same as the IRS saying. 'If we catch you cheating on taxes, we're not going to do anything about it,' " Ray said. Many employers would love to put someone such as Josefina on the payroll, if only she had a green card.

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort estimates it turns away 30 percent to 40 percent of applicants for service and labor jobs because of fake immigration documents, said Matthew Kryjack, managing director. He has had 30 housekeeping openings for at least four months - a job that pays $7 to $9 an hour, well above the federal minimum wage. "We are trying to do everything we can to fill these positions, and it's just not possible," Kryjack said. While experts debate the impact immigrants have on the labor force and prices, many business owners and managers, including Kryjack, are pushing for a guest-worker program. The program would fit Tucson's seasonal labor needs, they say. To serve tourists in winter, Arizona would import workers. Immigrant advocates and union leaders worry that such a program could lead to exploitation of workers, who often fear that to speak out about labor conditions would be like writing a return ticket to their home country.

A guest-worker program would "put these people totally at the whim of those who employ them," said Paul Rubin, southern Arizona director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Researchers, meanwhile, are crunching government numbers, trying to pin down the size of the undocumented population in this country. Even with new census data, the number is difficult to estimate, and illegal immigration's costs to taxpayers are even harder to determine. One thing is certain: Southern Arizona taxpayers pay some of the highest bills in the nation for health care and social services for undocumented immigrants.

In a controversial report released in July, the Center for Immigration Studies argued that undocumented migrants from Mexico are a fiscal drain on the U.S. economy. Citing National Academy of Sciences estimates, it argued that each immigrant results in a net negative balance of about $55,000 over a lifetime for American taxpayers.

That finding was disputed in a study published Wednesday by UCLA's North American Integration and Development Center, which contended undocumented workers contribute $300 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

There is one thing most experts won't debate. Undocumented labor makes staples such as hamburgers, lettuce and homes a little more affordable for most Americans.

-- Martin Thompson (, September 01, 2001


What ever happened to Simpson Mazzoli law to stop employment of Illegals??

Tell you what, apply the RICO / Asset Siezure laws to businesses that employ illegals...Stop 'em dead in their tracks!

-- Lael (Lael@, September 01, 2001.

Don't you just hate "the jobs that Americans won't do" mewing?

The globialist now want to replace U. S. truck drivers (vis Nafta) with Mexican truck drivers because they are cheaper!

-- K (, September 02, 2001.

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