Letters to the Editor

Readers write about immigration reform and life in poverty.

Immigration reform is needed on several fronts

Regarding the Feb. 11 commentary, "Why immigration reform will have to wait": The author describes a very contentious debate about immigration in the United States but fails to mention the role of highly skilled foreigners.

Only 65,000 highly skilled foreign workers are allowed into the US each year, which is a paltry sum compared with labor demands from American high-tech firms. Highly skilled workers are allowed in under company-sponsored H-1B visas and have to work for the same company for the six-year duration of their visa. The restriction and low cap on the number of highly skilled workers is taking its toll on American industry.

One-fifth of Silicon Valley firms were started by foreign skilled workers. If American firms are to continue to best foreign competition, they need the high-skilled labor to do it. Whether that labor comes from Indiana or India is irrelevant; what matters is that American businesses are given access to all the resources and skilled labor at their disposal.

Alex Nowrasteh
Research associate
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Regarding the Feb. 11 commentary on immigration reform: Polls show that about two-thirds of Americans consistently support giving undocumented immigrants a chance to become full members of our society. Deporting 12 million people is not only unfeasible, it is immoral.

The author makes it sound as if the only people who care about this are self-interested, either for more votes or cheap labor. What about those of us who have come to know these immigrants in our workplaces and our churches? We know that they are hardworking, faithful members of our society who deserve a chance at the American dream just like our ancestors had.

There's no denying that we need a secure border, but this article has a pretty low opinion of our ability as Americans to reject policies of exclusion and to reclaim our identity as a welcoming nation.

Patty Kupfer

Larger issues surround real poverty

Regarding the Feb. 11 article, "Starting from scratch": Adam Shepard's success in going from homeless to self-supporting is commendable. It proves that a healthy, well-educated, young Caucasian male with self-discipline and good communication skills can still earn enough money to reach modest goals. To judge relatively unhealthy, poorly educated individuals who lack a backup credit card – and emergency exit strategy – according to the same standards, and expect them to go and do likewise is probably unfair.

Philip Cheney
Anderson, S.C.

In response to the recent article on Adam Shepard's homelessness project: As an African-American living in an urban community, I take personal offense at the following remark, "Am I going to continue to go out to eat and put rims on my Cadillac? Or am I going to make some things happen in my life...?"

This assumption that poor people are that way because they are lazy, bad money managers, or are spending their money on frivolous "luxuries" echoes the voice of many of the ignorant privileged.

I know single mothers who struggle just to provide the basic needs for themselves and their families, let alone eat out at McDonald's or purchase a car when public transportation is available. Is there really a way to test being poor when you have a safety net?

Myia House

Regarding the recent article on Adam Shepard's book: I found myself not commending this young man who set out to test the American dream, but worrying about the implications of the experiment. What is not addressed in the article, thus presumably not addressed in the experiment, is Mr. Shepard's gender, ethnicity, and mental health.

I am left wondering if Shepard knew the statistics, that almost half of homeless people in America are estimated to be African-American, while only about 40 percent of the homeless population is estimated to be white. That's hardly proportionate to the country's population. Almost one-quarter of the homeless population is mentally ill.

I don't mean to be overly critical, and I do think it was an interesting project to take on. I just hope that the results do not lead people to believe that all homeless people just need to suck it up, get a job, and bring themselves out of poverty, because that's just not how it works. Homelessness and poverty are two things that are tied to other very large and overpowering problems in this country. I would hate for that to be overlooked in this well-meaning but flawed experiment.

Sara Kelley
New York

Regarding the article on Adam Shepard's experiment in poverty: If I remember Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickel and Dimed," she also said most people could do okay with a minimum-wage job if no one in their family gets sick. But if you get sick, you fall down a hole. And even Mr. Shepard abandons his experiment when a member of his family gets sick. It's just that most people can't abandon their "experiment."

Richard Suyeda
San Francisco

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