Monday, March 3, 2008

Illegal Immigrants: Not Job-Stealers, but Subject to Raids and Arrests in Danbury

The biggest complaint I hear about illegal immigrants is that they take jobs from Americans and soak up social services like education and medical care. In fact, studies show that in all cases except for low-skilled work, illegal immigrants are a boon to the economy and, over the long haul, give more than they take. In the fall, I read an awkwardly-worded letter to the editor from a man named Paul Streitz. Of all of his points, this is one of the more coherent:

"If illegal aliens are sending back 5 percent of their earnings to Mexico,
the Mexicans are taking billions out of the pockets of working-class Americans… U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro says, ‘We cannot deport 12 million people.’ Why should Americans deport anybody? Dry up the jobs. With the money that illegal aliens have made, they can all go back to their home countries drinking champagne on a first-class airline ticket."

Under the letter, it said “The writer is co-director of CT Citizen for Immigration Control, an Internet organization of residents throughout the state.” My first thought was, If you are anti-immigration, don’t say you’re from Darien, for goodness’ sake. That doesn’t help your cause. Darien has a certain rep that this man is not helping. My second thought was, you sound like a crazy man.

I was dismayed to find Streitz quoted recently in a Stamford Times article about Danbury’s controversial move to give police authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

"Paul Streitz... believes the measures taken in Danbury are a good thing for Connecticut, and he would like to see Stamford take similar steps.
"It makes the removal of illegal aliens with criminal records or who are subject to deportation orders easier (to pursue)," Streitz said. "But, there is not really any solution to removing illegal aliens that have not committed crimes. (CTCIC) has always recommended attrition through enforcement of employment laws. When the jobs dry up, the illegals will go home."

Quoted in the paper? Oh, no! Maybe this man is more legitimate than I thought! I did some research, and no, he’s as off-the-handle as he seemed in his Advocate letter. Jobs aren’t going to dry up unless the economy tanks. Streitz's energy is disproportionate to reality. If his biggest argument is a weak one about “taking billions out of working-class Americans,” maybe his passion about the subject comes from a different source: xenophobia. “The Mexicans?” Dude, most of the Danbury immigrants are from Ecuador! Streitz should do some reflection and ask himself if he should be saying, “It makes me nervous to see people with brown skin in groups speaking languages I don’t understand. I hear they’re going to be 30 % of the population 2050.”

I concede that Streitz isn’t totally insane. I share part of his opinion: police, ideally, would use their authority to deport immigrants who are wanted by their country of origin and/or lawbreakers here. However, the reality is not so neat, as shown by the Danbury police’s sloppy arrest tactics so far.

In September 2006, a Danbury police officer, posing as a contractor, invited 11 day laborers into a federal Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) van, then drove to a fenced lot and arrested them when they turned out to be undocumented. An Advocate article from Feb. 2008 reports that a federal judge ruled that the arrests were not racial profiling, stating that “’solicitation of day labor in our current culture has a strong correlation to undocumented presence in the United States and lack of employment authorization’ and thus it was not unreasonable for police to question the men, nor was it racial profiling.”

Not racial profiling? Are you joking? I know most day laborers are undocumented… so, the racial profile is that Hispanic day laborers are illegal. That’s racial profiling. I think the judge’s ruling will at some point be overturned, because saying it’s not racial profiling is wishful thinking. By that judge's logic, every Hispanic person looking for work or doing menial labor is fair game.

I don’t think many people would say that they are in favor of people being in this country illegally, but I think the steps taken by police under ICE create more problems than they solve. I’m not wild about people flowing willy-nilly over US borders either, but once people are here, I don’t think Danbury police should be raiding apartments in Danbury and scaring the crap out of little kids. By raiding the apartments of law-abiding illegal immigrants (I know, I know), police are alienating some of the only people who would be able to let police know who should be deported. Streitz is gung-ho about this arrest-o-rama, but we’ve seen that his attitude is based not only on logic. To me, the only logical response is to accept the people that are here. It's just too ugly not to. I can't see Stamford doing what Danbury has done.

Related Stamford Talk posts:

--Feb. 22: Day Laborer = Illegal Immigrant?

--Feb. 24: Stamford Day Laborers = Criminals?

Related articles online:

--articles about Danbury immigrant community and arrests

--articles about immigration and jobs.


Anonymous said...

The armpit of America...Stamford. Pretty terrible. Nothing to do here (wow several largely average and overpriced have that on one street in NYC). It was, is and will always be a a commuter town and not part of the elite Fairfield Country club. (Regardless of what the realtors tell you)

I am outta here..Brooklyn/Manhattan.

Unknown said...

Sometimes the research backs a different horse:
It says that crime is down in immigrant neighborhoods - no surprise to me...most of them work 2 and 3 minimum wage jobs, when do they have time to get in trouble?

Anonymous said...

I think we must seal our borders first and stop the influx of illegals from any country. Second or simultaneously, we have to remove illegals and only illegals who have been here less than two years and send them home, wherever that may be San Francisco.

My Stamford taxes are through the roof, I'm told by the Mayor himself that it's largely to do w/the cost of education, emergency services/unpaid bills at Stamford Hospital and welfare...and of course all his concessions to business.

So as someone who is biased in favor of Latins as I grew up in three Latin countries and feel more of an affitity with their cultures than my blue blood waspy background, I have to say that I think we've no idea if illegals are taking away jobs others would get, I doubt it, but we simply have tooooooo many and I don't want to pay for them. They should ban together and fight the Dictators who rule their country and not come here to escape.

I lived in three dicator led countries and I know how awful and scary it is but you have to sacrifice and make it a home worth staying in.

Enough free lunches, I'm going broke!