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Archive for May 3rd, 2005

Two local events involving illegal immigrants are shedding light on the magnitude of the problem. The first involves a lawsuit where a judge has awarded an injured illegal alien $35,000. Hiring undocumented workers is like driving an uninsured car; it saves money in the short run, but if there is an accident the shortfall is enormous, and certainly outweighs the savings. Dealing with small business owners daily, I know they play a role. It is naive to believe otherwise.
The risk is not only on the part of the employer. Many of these workers are exploited terribly, often by each other. Here’s how. When a guy can command the language well enough and gets a few jobs under his belt, he can get repeat business from past customers. If they hire him for a bigger job, he’ll show up with 2 or 3 helpers who will be paid peanuts based on the agreed upon price, then drive off to another job. He makes out, but his workers are trading a better wage for surety of work. Other exploitation is more insidious. Many workers have been cheated out of a day’s or week’s pay by jerks. That is invariably money that goes home to family. Bad karma.
Our village is very progressive about day laborers. A shelter was built for them downtown where they could wait to be picked up mornings, and there have been no problems that I know of. We have hired day laborers to help with the rehab of our home, and they have helped in masonry, landscaping, and painting. Don’t tell me how I’m taking food out of anyone’s mouth. I waited 6 months for the "legit" mason to give me an estimate for our front walk, and then he stopped returning my calls. I shouldn’t have to wait 8 months to get 25 feet of front walk done. What’s more, we paid a General Contractor to do an addition that cost over 130k. I am W’s economic wet dream. At any rate, sometimes we haven’t had such good luck. Suffice to say, never pay by the hour, only by the completed job. And never agree to have "helpers" left alone by one of these wanna be foremen.
Fortunately for Ann and myself, our negative experiences with undocumented workers have only cost us time and money. Last week, wife and mother Mary Nagle paid with her life. She lived a town away. The suspect is not only an undocumented worker, he had a rap sheet. Obviously, this is an anecdotal example and should in no way reflect on all undocumented workers. However, the $35,000 settlement was also anecdotal. The overall problem is systemic. In a large sample of human beings, there will be a certain cost absorbed by society that you and I pay. There is no easy answer, but we could start by deporting the known criminals.
Homebolster
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TiVo, late night feedings, and a love of science fiction are a wicked mix for a guy like me. Every so often I catch a Twilight Zone I have never seen. Tonight’s (this morning’s?) episode was entitled "Changing of the Guard." I won’t spoil it for you-catch it yourself sometime. The best line:
Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.
Native Upstate New Yorker Rod Serling was unafraid to inject his politics into his stories. He was quite progressive, putting anti-war, anti-racism, technology induced Apocalypse and other controversial messages into his yarns. He possessed a message, but the message didn’t possess him. And the stories, oh those stories, they still resonate 40 years later.

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