Peeling away more layers of the great immigration debate
Regarding the May 25 article, "Rising black-Latino clash on jobs": Unskilled jobs that were once the first employment for young blacks are now often done by legal and illegal immigrants. Labor economist Andrew Sum has reported that jobs that used to go to teens currently go to illegal aliens.
Furthermore, foreigners now fill jobs that previously paid a living wage to adult African-Americans. Janitorial work in Los Angeles was unionized and provided a decent living for mostly black workers in the 1980s. But this was turned into exploitation-level employment when thousands of immigrants were brought in to reduce wages by half.
The best thing Washington could do to benefit black Americans who have stalled at the lower end of economic progress would be to institute an immigration moratorium for a decade or so. Unfortunately, the Senate just voted for a cheap-labor amnesty bill that will bring millions of surplus workers into an already flooded low-skilled labor market. That influx will harm black workers along with everyone else - except for the employers who benefit from cheap, exploitative labor.
Regarding the May 25 article on race and immigration: I work in the oil industry. In my experience with hiring individuals, race has not been a factor. The primary factor for not being able to hire someone is his or her inability to pass a drug test. It seems that most persons in their 20s and 30s are either using drugs, or have used drugs in the past. I have seen many try to get around drug screenings, but most users have failed the tests. If drug use does not disqualify potential hirees, the inability to communicate coherently does them in.
In response to the May 26 article, "Immigration: now the hard part": While the Senate appears to be willing to address the issue of 11 million illegals who are in the US, it appears it is rewarding those who are here illegally. I would hope that any plan to allow "guest workers" to gain US citizenship would include a requirement that they pay taxes for at least five years before gaining citizenship. Most illegals don't pay taxes on their earnings and ship a portion to family back home.
Providing a legal way for these people to gain citizenship - along with securing our borders - is the only practical way to resolve this issue. (Mass deportations would neither work nor be practical.) But make illegals work to become citizens at least as much as those who enter legally. Otherwise the illegals get a better deal, and those who are trying to abide by the law are penalized.
Regarding the May 26 article on immigration: How fair is it that legal workers - who have the documents to be here, who are paying taxes, and who are helping to make the US economy flourish - have to wait for four or more years just to get their green cards, while illegal immigrants will get the chance to become legal immigrants at just the snap of a finger? Legal immigrants who have been playing by the rules feel forgotten in the debate over possible amnesty for most of the estimated 11 million immigrants here illegally. Congress is putting as a priority illegal immigration, and legal immigrants are left out of the loop. Legal immigrants feel a twinge of resentment toward others who have broken the law, and we fear illegal migrants could complicate our own quest for citizenship. Where is the justice in that?
Maria Elena Manalang
Mays Landing, N.J.
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