Views on politics and current events

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Different Spin On The NY Times Article

For The Undocumented, Irony At Work As Jobs Go Unfilled
By George Diaz
Published August 13, 2006 in the Orlando Sentinel

Juan was an excellent "prep chef" -- a guy who did grunt work like marinating -- for the primary chef at a Central Florida Cuban restaurant. Juan, from Mexico, was employedfor a couple of years before a payroll company running the books for the restaurant noticed a discrepancy in his Social Security number.

It was bogus.

He was fired immediately.

Juan, his wife and two kids have since vanished.

"I don't even know where he is now," said his former employer, Ruben Perez.

Alan Beggerow, from Rock Falls, Ill., is happily unemployed. Now 53, he hasn't worked regularly since the steel mill that employed him for three decades closed five years ago. He spends his days playing the piano, reading histories and biographies, although he makes sure to get in enough nappy time every day. He wakes up around 11 a.m.

"I have come to realize that my free time is worth a lot to me," he told the New York Times recently. "If things really get tight, I might have to take a low-wage job, but I don't want to do that."

Beggerow was profiled in a story about millions of men in the United States in the prime working-age demographics between 30 and 55 who are turning down jobs they think are beneath them.

Juan is collateral damage in the immigrant crossfire as national and statewide agencies look to flush out undocumented laborers and come down hard on businesses hiring them.

Do any amigos appreciate the irony here?

I would think this puts a hole the size of a Big Enchilada in the patriotic rhetoric of "they're taking jobs away from honest, hard-working Americans."

Nobody is saying here that we need to give carte blanche immunity to an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. The immigration reform bill sponsored by the Senate, offering balanced comprehensive reform, is a reasonable compromise in a contentious debate.

But it's obvious that many illegal immigrants are simply looking for economic opportunity and embracing low-wage jobs. The kind that Alan and his friends deem degrading.

The Times notes that the majority of these men fall back on a "patchwork system of government support," which includes federal disability insurance financed by Social Security taxes. More than 6.5 million men and women are receiving monthly disability payments, up from 3 million in 1990. In some cases, the only disability may be an aversion to low-paying jobs.

As money is drained from the U.S. government, federal and state officials have stepped up efforts to deter employers of immigrant laborers.

The Palm Bay City Council recently passed an ordinance authorizing $500 fines per violation on employers of illegal immigrants and imposing two-year bans from work in the city on violators.

Besides meddling in business belonging to the federal government, Palm Bay is simply feeding the prejudiced frenzy, much of it channeling the voice of former President Teddy Roosevelt.

"There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism," Roosevelt once said. ". . . A hyphenated American is not an American at all. This is just as true of the man who puts 'native' before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen. Americanism is a matter of the spirit and of the soul. Our allegiance must be purely to the United States."

But Roosevelt also said this:

"If an immigrant is not fit to become a citizen, he should not be allowed to come here. If he is fit, he should be given all the rights to earn his own livelihood, and to better himself, that any man can have."

From all indications, Juan was simply trying to better himself here, despite the legal entanglements.

As for Alan, TV Land has daylong marathons of those wonderful sitcoms from another generation. Green Acres starts at 11 a.m. today, assuming you're awake.

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