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Illegal Immigration: A Case Study

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This past weekend in Austin, we were handed a perfect object lesson of the nature of illegal immigration and immigration enforcement courtesy of gun-toting INS agents looking to make an example and score some PR points for Governor Perry and President Bush.

Early Saturday morning, java junkies at the Texas French Bread near the University of Texas were shocked when INS agents charged into the building with their guns drawn, heading for the kitchens in search of illegal aliens. They emerged a few minutes later with five people who were dragged away in handcuffs. Of those five, four were deported immediately without even so much as a hearing under the fast-track deportation provisions of the Secure Borders Act. One had the number of a lawyer and is still in the country and will presumably enjoy some limited measure of due process before being given the boot.

What makes the case interesting is the details of who the immigrants were and their actual social and economic status. If you believe the portrait of immigration painted by the scaremongers – by the Rep. James Sensenbrenners of the world – you'd expect these illegals to be borderline criminals, working unskilled jobs for below market wages, paying no taxes, stealing free health care and sending all their money home to their families in Mexico. You'd also expect the employer to be a modern Simon Lagree, stealing from willing Americans to cut costs, taking advantage of the vulnerability of the illegal workers and exploiting them every way that he can. Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.

All five of these workers were hired on the basis of what appeared to be legitimate work visas and social security cards. The employer had no idea that they were illegal and no reason to question them based on their documentation. It was not a matter of turning a blind eye. He had specifically checked their papers and they seemed legitimate.

Rather than being paid slave wages, they were being paid the same wage as his other employees. The lowest paid was receiving $9.50 an hour and the highest paid was working as a store manager, a salaried job paying about $30,000 a year. Taxes were being withheld from their paychecks, including Social Security and Medicare. It's quite likely that some of them even had health insurance.

All five of the workers had been with the company for several years. One of them had worked for Texas French Bread for over a decade. All of them had families with children living here in the United States, entirely in the open and not part of some sort of underground conspiracy. They all appear to have been functional English speakers.

In the aftermath of the raid, the bakery has had trouble finding skilled workers to replace the deported immigrants, and the owner has had to work in the kitchen until replacements can be found.

So what we're talking about here are not some day-laborer vagrants you can pick up at Home Depot. They're solid, lower and lower-middle income skilled workers. They're fully contributing members of the community, earning wages, paying taxes, spending money and taking nothing from the government or society that they haven't earned. In short, they're just like the rest of us, but for one difference – that armed men were able to legally come and take them from their homes and jobs and send them to Mexico with no notice, minimal evidence, and none of the legal protections the rest of us enjoy.

Texas French Bread owner Murph Wilcott expressed his own dismay and the concerns of the community when he commented:

About Dave Nalle

  • Maurice

    It is amazing to me that this issue seems to have reversed many of the positions of the people at this site. Dave normally comes across as Spock – cold hard logic that is undisputable. Now he comes across as emotional and empathetic. One bit of false logic from Dave:

    “Paul, I think it’s very telling that almost all of the major supporters of building a wall and increasing border enforcement live in northern states – most of them bordering on Canada, not Mexico.”

    This seems to imply that only ‘if you been there can you know’!

    I view immigration as allowing someone to come into my home. Since I have 5 kids I often have MANY visitors to my home. I make a point to meet each and every visitor. My wife and I have sometimes banned certain visitors from our house.

    I think we should keep track of our visitors in this country. Dave (the emotional empath) is right about the mexican people being generally hard working nice people. I just want to moniter ALL our visitors.

  • Dave Nalle

    It is amazing to me that this issue seems to have reversed many of the positions of the people at this site. Dave normally comes across as Spock – cold hard logic that is undisputable. Now he comes across as emotional and empathetic.

    Certainly not intentional, just a result of the fact that this particular article is based on a real-life case of specific individuals rather than the statistics and data I usually deal in. I have a more technical article in the works.

    One bit of false logic from Dave:

    “Paul, I think it’s very telling that almost all of the major supporters of building a wall and increasing border enforcement live in northern states – most of them bordering on Canada, not Mexico.”

    This seems to imply that only ‘if you been there can you know’!

    Not exactly, but I am suggesting that those of us who live in the Southwest have a hell of a lot more contact with the illegal population and get to see day to day the roles they are filling in society and the overall positive nature of their contribution. James Sensenbrenner has probably never even seen an illegal.

    I view immigration as allowing someone to come into my home. Since I have 5 kids I often have MANY visitors to my home. I make a point to meet each and every visitor. My wife and I have sometimes banned certain visitors from our house.

    But immigrants don’t come into your house any more than anyone else does and certainly not without your permission. You have no say in what legal immigrants come here either, but you’re not trying to shut down all immigration. Or are you?

    I think we should keep track of our visitors in this country. Dave (the emotional empath) is right about the mexican people being generally hard working nice people. I just want to moniter ALL our visitors.

    I agree. And the way to do that is to provide a safe, trackable and legal way for them to come here to work under a guest worker program. So long we are trying to close the borders we will never be able to control or know who is coming through despite our efforts. That cannot be the main element of the effort to deal with immigration.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    comment #104 sez…
    *Not exactly, but I am suggesting that those of us who live in the Southwest have a hell of a lot more contact with the illegal population*

    isn’t that just a variation on the “chicken-hawk” argument?

    just goes to show how low some will stoop, eh?

    just a Thought

    Excelsior?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Gonzo, the difference is that I’m not saying that those who don’t live in the southwest are disqualified from having opinions, just that they may not have as much personal experience of illegal immigration. There are valid reasons for having concerns about immigration which stem from general concerns about national policy, but there’s also an awful lot of mischaracterization of immigrants, who they are and what they do, which anyone could correct through some research, but which some of us have first hand experience with.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    no..you imply it , both in the quote i used and earlier in the commentary

    care to have me look over it all again and show you?

    you also make the assumption that unless you live in a particualr area you have no experience with illegal mexican immigrants….and there show prejudice and ignorance…many parts of the country have quite a large illegal population, and many more folks than you think have direct experience

    but no one is saying that the vast majority of these people’s only crime is illegally crossing the border…the next larger set are those committing felonies via identity theft, and then the small minority of actual criminals/gang members/smugglers

    the first group, as i have stated, shoudl be given the chance…after going to the end of the line and satisfying the qualifications for citizenship as well as any fine/public work to pay back for their coming here illegally…

    the latter groups i have just mentioned have lost the priveledge of being in this country IMO, and should be deported or jailed for their crimes

    problem with that?

    the only other thing i think anyone has asked is that the border is secured to stop any further illegals as well as drug trafficers and human smugglers from getting in as easily…this is also a Natrional security Issue for obvious reasons

    nice try at dodging tho…

    Excelsior?

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I’ve already said repeatedly that I have no problem with deporting every illegal who’s committed a crime beyond those associated with just living in this country. They’re the bad apples and need to go.

    As for securing the border from drug traffickers, not an issue if we get off our asses and legalize as many drugs as possible.

    Regardless of what you may think I implied earlier, I was just addressing the demographics of the issue. Most of the major opponents of immigration seem to be from non-border states with the exception of Tancredo, and most of those more familiar with the border and the illegal immigrant population seem to have a more rational attitude. It’s just an observation of fact. Doesn’t imply anything more universal or radical than that, and if you think I said it did earlier, I’m telling you now that it didn’t.

    We basically agree on this issue, except that I don’t see massive border redesign as a practical first step, but as one of the parts of a multi-element process, ALL of which need to be implemented at the same time to realistically work.

    Dave

  • http://factfinding.org Wanos

    What I find disgusting is the Hmong people, who were recruited by the CIA to fight the communist North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War were not automatically made American citizens while illegal immigrants are being proposed this offer. The Hmong people lost hundreds of thousands of lives because they helped the U.S. armed forces. When the U.S. pulled out of South Vietnam, most of the Hmong were left behind to be slaughtered by the communists. Only a few handful escaped, and others were able to come to the U.S. as permanent legal resident aliens. Point? I find it extremely sick that illegal immigrants are going to be granted U.S. citizenship when legitimate legal aliens who served the U.S. and lost their lives for the cause are not being given this same proposal. In fact, even over 2 decades after the U.S. pulled from South Vietnam, there were Hmong refugees living in Thailand, in sickly camps, and being abused by the Thai government. It wasn’t until there was a commission in Washington D.C. just a few years ago that the U.S. finally pressured the Thai government to do more, and also to allow more refugees to come to the country they’d served.

    Check out: factfinding.org for more information.