Ever had someone tell you a story, and even though you don’t know what the truth is you’re pretty sure you’re not hearing it?
The mobile home that Nancy Lugo and her two children live in might not seem like much to many people.
It sits off a dirt road, by a slow-moving creek, on the outskirts of the tiny Georgia town of Uvalda. It is surrounded by thick forest and fields full of the local speciality: Vidalia onions.
But for Lugo, 34, it is a symbol of a better life in America. Here in Georgia, far from her native Mexico, Lugo has a solid job, sends her kids to school and loves the rhythm of rural life. “It is peaceful. I am happy here,” she said.
The patch of land she bought for her trailer was vacant before she came. But she dug a well and sank septic tanks, carving a home from the wilderness in a grand American tradition. She got a job. She paid her taxes.
Now it is all under threat.
For Lugo is an illegal immigrant in the deep south. In the midst of general anti-immigrant sentiment, several southern states have passed strict anti-illegal immigrant laws that critics say raises the prospect of a new Jim Crow era – the time when segregation was law –across a vast swath of the old Confederacy.
They will ostracise and terrorise a vulnerable Hispanic minority with few legal rights, encouraging them to leave or disappear further into the shadows.
That doesn’t sound very good. Even though they are technically breaking the law, illegal immigrants are still human beings.
Which is why Lugo is speaking out. Though illegal, she is angry at feeling suddenly hated by a society she has contributed to. She has two kids and a hard, low-paying job in a factory that makes US army equipment. When Georgia passed its law she was laid off by a manager fearful of prosecution. Yet, within a month, she was rehired. No one had wanted her work.
Wait a second, that doesn’t make any sense.
First of all, companies with federal government contracts have to abide by FEDERAL immigration laws. So how did she get a job in the first place? Secondly, those companies generally pay better than the federal minimum wage. They also have to abide by OSHA regulations and other laws governing wages and working conditions. So what exactly is this job she has that nobody else wants?
The article doesn’t say.
From construction to agriculture, to restaurants to gardening, to childrearing, hotels and home help, illegal immigrants are a major driver of the US economy. They may have no papers, but that does not stop them paying taxes, buying homes and raising children who, if born in the US, are American citizens.
Buying homes? How the fuck are they qualifying to buy homes when they are working at jobs with wages so low nobody else wants them? What documents do they provide to verify income? Whose Social Security numbers are on those documents?
Back in Uvalda, Howard Morris’s business is not so lucky. Leaning on a tractor with his forearms coated in Georgia mud and sweat pouring down his face from the late-afternoon heat, Morris is worried. He owns 40 acres of onion fields, but fears no one will harvest his crops.
“The people that we normally hire are just not here,” he said. That is bad news for somewhere like Uvalda, which is reliant on agriculture.
Morris knows that if the Hispanics who have left do not come back, there will be trouble. “The crop could rot in the ground,” he said. That concerns Bridges, the mayor. “If we can’t harvest, it will decimate this community,” he said.
The problem is not unique to Uvalda. The Georgia Agribusiness Council estimates the labour shortage has left so many crops unpicked and rotting that it has cost $1bn. The industry currently has 30% fewer workers than it needs and, contrary to accusations that illegals take American jobs, no one is stepping in.
Nor is it just agriculture. The Georgia restaurant trade is in convulsions as staff flee. Karen Bremer, head of the Georgia Restaurant Association, says a quarter of her members’ businesses are struggling with too few staff. “The damage has been done. The bad news has already gone through the communities,” she said.
I’m no economics major but I am familiar with the Law of Supply and Demand. If there aren’t enough workers (supply) you raise wages (demand) until there are. If you’ve got a billion dollars in crops rotting in the fields you don’t just sit there and whine about it.
The picture below was taken outside a CBC job fair in Atlanta last week:
We’ve got 9%+ unemployment in this country and we’re supposed to believe we need to import MORE
IN HERSHEY, the American hometown of chocolate, the tops of streetlights look like Hershey Kisses. But there’s more than sweetness and light there these days.
The town, its company and its long-held image of All-American goodness are taking hits in a controversy involving hundreds of foreign-exchange students.
The students, on work, travel and cultural visas from China, Ghana and Eastern Europe, say Hershey gave them not culture but back-aching, production-line work on round-the-clock shifts at a candy-packaging warehouse.
They get about $8 an hour, minus charges for housing.
Hershey laid off 700 full-time workers over the past four years and plans to lay off another 500 next year. One might wonder if cheap-labor kids from other countries were always part of the plan.
Meanwhile, Hershey reports a profit for the quarter just ended of $130 million, up from $46 million a year ago. And sales jumped 7.5 percent to $1.3 billion.
I am not anti-immigrant but the Guardian story doesn’t add up. We have this poor brave illegal immigrant in a heart-wrenching drama. Very emotional – but what’s the point? What is the goal of publishing the article?
If we don’t let ourselves be manipulated by the emotional content and step back and think about it, the goal is obvious. We’re supposed to be manipulated into supporting the easing of restrictions on immigration.
Who would that benefit? You and me? The unemployed citizens of this country? The illegal immigrants who come here to be exploited? Or the people that will be exploiting them?
I don’t know about you, but I’m damn sure not going to trust the word of people that exploit cheap labor that we need more cheap labor.
This Thursday, the Obama administration announced it would do a “case-by-case review of deportations, allowing many undocumented immigrants without criminal records to stay in the United States” permitting them to apply for work permits and possibly stay.
The announcement came to a surprise for many Latinos, especially for the Latino groups and immigration reform advocates. During his speech last month at the National Council of la Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S, there was no indication of a change in policy. Obama made it clear that although tempting to bypass Congress and change the laws himself that he wouldn’t because “that’s not how our system works. That’s not how our democracy functions.” A lot has changed since that day.
Many believe that Obama’s decision influenced by the protest by pro-immigration reform activists protested on Tuesday in front of President Barack Obama’s Chicago reelection campaign headquarters.
So, what do you think? Is Obama just pandering to the Latino groups he needs to vote for him next year? Or is he pandering to the fat cat corporatist exploiters of cheap labor he wants money from? Or is he pandering to both of them at the same time?
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