More 'guest workers' needed in US? Your article "Guest workers: A way to solve labor shortage?" (Sept. 20) gives an accurate accounting of the Bracero program, which was discontinued in the 1960s. The major reason that it was dropped was the exploitation of the Mexicans by greedy farmers, who provided poor housing with unsanitary facilities at exorbitant cost.
Today, according to US Department of Labor statistics, foreign labor is not needed in most areas. In California's leading agricultural counties, there is a surplus of farm laborers, who glut the unemployment rolls.
Many growers are hiring illegal immigrants at low wages and without usual benefits. They seek even more workers, in order to keep wages low.
There are adequate numbers of workers who will harvest the crops if they are paid a reasonable wage. While some say that higher wages will inflate the price of produce, they fail to consider the fact that food prices are controlled by supply and demand. Rotten lettuce is worthless.
The original Bracero program led to the amnesty of 1986, in which 3.1 million illegal immigrants were granted legal status. Today, the Immigration and Naturalization Service admits to 5 million illegal aliens currently residing in the US. Another amnesty program will kill any effort to stem the flow of both legal and illegal immigrants. Byron Slater, San Diego
Border Solution Task Force It is amazing that business leaders and politicians get away with proclaiming "labor shortages." This so-called "labor shortage" is entirely artificial. It would disappear instantly if businesses would simply raise wages and benefits. So-called "business leaders" justify importing immigrant workers or exporting jobs by claiming that "Americans won't do this work." But they never finish their own sentence: "... at these low wage and benefit levels."
In the long run, we'll all be better off when the headline reads: "Higher wages and improved benefits: A way to solve labor shortage?" Jeff Johnson, San Francisco
Public lands in federal hands It is heartening to see that the federal government is acquiring some important ecological areas ("To protect land, Uncle Sam buys more," Sept. 14). However, the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management do a poor job in taking care of habitat and watersheds on public lands. Furthermore, there are disturbing trends impacting habitat on private lands.
Long-term Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) for corporate landowners do give temporary protection to a small portion of their acreage, which allows them to claim that they are helping endangered species. But HCPs have guaranteed widespread logging and development on the rest of the land. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is under extreme political pressure to approve HCPs for the Pacific Lumber Company in the California redwood country and for many other logging and development firms. But the corporate tracts of land alone do not allow for sufficient habitat to help assure the survival of threatened species. Bruce Campbell, Los Angeles
Name-calling needs parental mediation This very well done and helpful article ("Boys vs. girls: name-calling's nasty turn," Sept. 22) did not say enough about adults' need for help. If adults are in denial, unable to raise important topics with their children, they themselves may need support meetings to help them get past the barriers involved. I hope you will explore this area further. Listing some book titles would be a start. Janet Bailey, Aurora, Colo.
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