The irony of immigration reform

I dropped by a friend’s house the other day to do some sidewalk overseeing of the removal of two 70-foot oak trees, no small task. The company he had hired wasn’t one of those operations where they knock on one’s door and offer to get rid of deadwood for a few hundred dollars. It was a major, cherry picker, shredder-equipped outfit with a four-man crew neatly dressed in white logo shirts and green pants. They were all licensed and bonded.

They were quite efficient at what they did, managing to take down both trees and haul away the wood in a few hours despite the fact the trees were positioned in heavy woods that precluded the use of the cherry picker and required some harrowing very high chainsaw work. All of them, of course, had something besides their uniforms in common. They were all Hispanics, who, with the exception of the foreman, had only enough English language to get by.

“What would we do without them,” my friend said. “When they’re finished, Jose and his men will be here to do mowing and leaf blowing and tomorrow, Virginia, his wife, is coming to clean house. They are the most industrious people I have ever seen.”

Obviously, what went unspoken here was how many of this efficient crew were in this country illegally.

There in lies the dilemma the nation faces in trying to solve its most pressing domestic problem, immigration. It is a quandary of such physical, economic and social magnitude as to defy any easy solution — 12 million illegal aliens straining institutions at the same time they are providing us with a critical labor force willing to perform the often mundane and difficult tasks that most legitimate Americans scorn.

I can just hear it now. Here we go again, one of those bleeding heart “give me your poor and your hungry” columns in defense of unfettered immigration. Not so. Uncontrolled borders in this time of terrorism and the wholesale trafficking of drugs and other contraband would be suicidal. What is desperately needed, however, is a Congress willing to deal with the situation — to find some sort of policy that produces an orderly flow of temporary and permanent workers that also safeguards our borders from those who are clearly undesirable while at the same time recognizing the contributions of those who have proven their worthiness to stay here over years of good and productive behavior despite their illegality.

The reluctance of lawmakers to even address the matter in a dispassionate, bipartisan way has made the problem progressively worse and one that truly threatens national security. What good is a national legislature that for personal political reasons can’t deal with the most crucial domestic issues? Is it any wonder the approval rating for Congress is lower than for any other government institution?

While President Bush’s critics multiply daily because of his post 9/11 foreign policy, his efforts, unsuccessful though they have been, to get some sort of meaningful immigration reform have been a major bright spot on his record despite the fact they continue to be met by the most frustrating obstinacy from both Republicans and Democrats. It is a struggle between those who would say come one, come all and those who would build walls and dig moats, using, one supposes, the labor of those they want to keep out. The consequence of this rancor is that it is highly unlikely any reform will take place before next year’s presidential election.

In the meantime the ranks of illegal aliens will swell — predictions are there will be 13 million by the end of next year — and families will continue to be ripped apart. A recent news item told of a Colombian couple being deported after 15 years of seeking political asylum in the often- impenetrable government bureaucracy. They leave behind a thriving catering business and two sons who are doing quite well in college and have been granted a special reprieve by Congress until they finish. The future of their parents is iffy because of his past political alliances in Colombia.

As I watched the skill and daring with which the crew took down the huge trees at my friend’s house dropping huge limbs without damaging power lines or structures, I couldn’t help but think just how much a steady flow of immigrants has contributed to the wealth and welfare of Americans and must continue to do so. There has to be a way.

(E-mail Dan K. Thomasson, former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service, at thomassondan(at)


  1. Sandra Price

    Yeah, and I remember the days before, during and after WW2 where the kids in my village used to learn how to earn extra money by working the trees, doing the gardening work for their neighborhoods and in the summer months were paid well by the owners of the agricultural ranches and farms to do the planting and harvesting of the food sold in our local markets. Work that was honest, body building and work-ethics making that has been turned over to the Mexicans so our lazy teens can walk around in the malls looking like lazy criminals.

    I would swear by my gardeners who are extremely neat after they tend to my trees and gardens. They are legally licensed and speak English well and Mexican. Several live just a few blocks away from my house and will drive by, take a look and offer what they think needs doing. I’ve had them for over 5 years and they are worth a good tip when they are finished.

    My workmen are not only the best workers I have ever hired but I consider them my friends and neighbors. My next door neighbors who had lived in the house next door for 30 years and had been born in Phoenix were full-blooded Mexicans who were an asset to this neighborhood and I was sad when they moved to a better location a couple of years ago.

  2. Stratocaster

    Many that appear to be legal have forged papers. I often wonder how many iilegals have managed to register to vote. They are determined to turn this country into the United States of Mexico. Many have educations and are filling jobs at all levels. They have flooded the market with cheap labor destroying what used to be middle class America. I can mow my own damn grass. Go Home!

  3. gradioc

    Stratocaster, I think you have cause and effect mixed up; American kids don’t want these jobs any more. I’m on the front lines and see it.

    Without the “Spanish guys”, as we call them (if you want a good cussing in Spanish, refer to a proud El Salvadoran as Mexican), we’d be out of business. Americans, by and large, don’t want to get their hands dirty any more.

    Our starting pay at entry level (adjusted for inflation) is about what it was when I started in the business (irrigation) 20 years ago, but we do not get the quality of applicant we did then. When I started there were a lot of guys with some college in this business. We don’t get those guys now. And to find quality workers at all, we find ourselves turning to immigrants.

    I feel that the applicants we used to get are doing service industry jobs now, but I’m no expert on that. I can just tell you that we need this new source of labor badly, and I firmly believe the entire economy does as well.

    I just love that the same people who declare they don’t dislike Hispanics, its just that they’re illegal, are, at the same time, doing their best to make sure there is not more legal immigration from Latin America.

    Now, to the best of my knowledge, all the Hispanics my company employs are legal. One even went the whole way and got his citizenship. But I’ll say this; if worse comes to worst and we expel 12,000,000 hard working human beings from our shore because they did not do the proper paperwork, get me 12,000,000 just like them.

  4. hank-the-nite-watchman

    Occasionally a non-Hispanic, US born worker seeks and obtains a job in an industry that typically mostly uses Hispanic labor. However, the n/h as a rule does not stay on for the long haul, as he is usually in a transitional period and moves on to work in areas that require more education and training, as those paths seem to be more open to him as a n/h with better language skill, etc. Another aspect of this situation is that the n/h is more likely to assert his rights to better job conditions as provided for by local labor laws, etc. Thus the n/h cannot be pushed as hard as the typical Hispanic, who, given his life situation, is more appreciative of even very demanding work. What sensible businessman does not want a labor force that will stay around for the long haul and that he can push harder with fewer push-backs?

    Mexico occupies some 1600 miles on the southern border of the US. Mexico, alone, has a population of 96+ million citizens. Mexico is not soon going to migrate to the Mediterranean. Does this not indicate the US should be more open to a solution more favorable to the so-called illegals in our midst?

    hank the nite-watchman

  5. pondering_it_all

    >how many illegals have managed to register to vote?

    Almost zero: Why would they want to draw the attention of government authorities? Most of them just came here to work, and maybe send some money back home to their extended families. Most of them work with fake ID and have taxes, Social Security, and Medicare withheld but never try to get a tax refund or get the SS credited to themselves. They pay into those government agencies and never collect because they are avoiding the government. They avoid contact with the government as much as they can because they don’t want to get deported.

    If the Bush administration could have found a single case of a “voting illegal” don’t you think they would have been blasting out press releases to that effect?

  6. SEAL

    This asshole (Thomasson) never ceases to amaze me with his bias and stupidity. The picture he paints is far from reality – the exception to the rule. He needs to take a trip to the Southwest US – Socal, Ariz, New Mex, and Tex ass to see the typical Mexican immigants and the problem with illegals. That is where the heart of the problem is.

    Arizona and New Mexico have been stolen from the union and annexed back to Mexico along with the Southern halves of California and Texas. This has been accomplished by the descendants of ILLEGAL immigrants. They’ve been in this country so long no one considers if their parents were originally illegal. They were born here.

    That raises the issue of whether those born of illegals in this country should automatically be granted citizenship. Why should they? Especially in view of where their national identity lies. They consider themselves Mexican – not American. Drive through any bario and see the achitecture, the colors, the spanish language signs, and the Mexican flags flying. They do everything they can to support, aid, and abet the Mexican migration Northward by whatever means, the law be damned. Their goal is to take over as many states as possible by out populating the anglos. Every family has 6-12 kids.

    Granted, the Mexicans are a hard working race. They want the opportunity to prosper and they find that here. But they only spend the money they earn from anglos amongst themselves or send a large amount of it back across the border to relatives to pay for forged documents or start a business in Mexico. Thereby they facillitate illegal immigration, drain our ecomomy and enhance theirs on both sides of a border so blurred you can’t tell which is which.

    The Mexican immigrant is not contributing to the US, they are stealing it. All those born of non-citizen parents should not be granted US citizenship. Thomasson says there are 12 million Illegals. Those close to and actually knowledgeable about the problem say there are a minimum 20 million Illegals in this country and, if you consider all those descendants of illegals to be illegal, the number is mind boggling.

    In Florida, the same conditions exist but with the Cuban criminals Castro sent us back in the 80’s. He solved his crime problem by emptying his prisons and sending us the problem. They weren’t political prisoners, just common thieves, murders, etc. Today they are South Florida polititions, cops, bankers, store owners, and no anglos allowed.

    The reality is that, ever since WWII we have been losing the country to immigration, legal and illegal. It has to stop and all those not here legally should be expelled. You would be amazed what that would do for our standard of living and our economy. Of course, it would mean returning to Saturdays spent mowing the lawn and triming the bushes. However, that would help with the obesity problem.