Enforce Laws to Help Migrant Workers

I read with interest the opinion-page article ''The 'Grapes of Wrath' Are Still Plenteous Today,'' March 28. But the article did little to clarify the public's understanding of migration.

The author describes the deplorable conditions under which she and the migrant workers labored. But the fact is, such conditions are illegal. We should demand better enforcement of our labor laws. Unfortunately, one of the ways employers can maintain such illegal conditions is by hiring illegal workers who are not protected under US law.

The author goes on to write that ''nationally only about 22 percent of a sample of migrant and formerly migrant households had received food stamps over a two-year period.'' With no point of reference, the reader might presume that such a rate is relatively low. If the author were to include the national average for food stamp participation among households in the United States in 1993 (11.3 percent), readers would have discovered that this particular sample of migrant workers actually receive food stamps at twice the national average.

Finally, the author makes no attempt to determine whether our immigration policy contributes to the poverty of agricultural workers. Legal immigration into the US was increased 40 percent in 1990, increasing competition for low-wage and low-skill jobs.

The despair of US immigrants is a direct result, in part, of our failure to control illegal immigration. To help improve the welfare of US immigrants, we must recognize that the level of immigration is simply too high to be sustained.

Mark W. Nowak, Washington

Executive director Population-Environment Balance

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