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June 29, 2005

Comments

e

Hugo, you make an excellent point. When I served on the board of a non-profit that helped recent immigrants, someone once asked me if we served un-documented people. Of course we did; someone had to!

Fred Vincy

Hugo,

While I agree with your moral position that one should not discriminate based on immigration status, you are legally obligated to check the employment eligibility of anyone you employ (and retain a Form I-9 documenting that you did so). For the most part, then, you are right that for you this is an issue of civil disobedience. Clearly, there may be times when civil disobedience is appropriate, but in my view one should be very reluctant to resort to civil disobedience in a democratic society. Consider, for example, how you would react if a condominium association subject to Title VII refused to hire women for these jobs on the grounds that his religion taught him that women should not work outside of the home.

There is also a second issue here. Even if you conclude that civil disobedience is required of you here, does that justify your implicating your neighbor in a violation of law? I'm not a Christian, but I would not be surprised if that also raises moral issues within a Christian framework.

Glen Peterson

Some years ago, when the current immigration policy was formulated and made law requiring the use of the I-9 form, Roger Mahoney did a press conference stating the archdiocese position against that requirement and its intention of breaking that law. If I recall, it was something of an invitation to the authorities to come and arrest him if that's what they wanted to do. [This is how I remember it.]

I am a Christian. I would like to be known as a person who goes out of the way to treat immigrants with justice, dignity, respect; who pays fair wages (including withholding taxes, FICA, and workers comp) as a distinctive of being an "evangelical" Christian. This issue seems to be foundationally more biblical than other things that we are known for because of the notoriety of certain radio personalities (or wherever it is that they lurk and get out their strange messages).

Hugo

Fred, this is why I am willing to delegate the hiring to my neighbor, if he is unwilling to join me in such civil disobedience (which, of course, is universal in Los Angeles, where hundreds of thousands of the undocumented work daily.) Ultimately, I cannot wear a Christian hat and a citizen hat simultaneously if my duties to Christ and Caesar conflict. I won't drag my neighbor in to trouble. But when I hire folks to work inside my own home, I will not ask them for proof of their right to work. I am prepared for the consequences of that; civil disobedience always has consequences.

Glenn, on this issue, I've always been a huge fan of Cardinal Mahony. On some topics, he's fallen down badly. On immigration and justice for workers in the city of Los Angeles, he's been a superb and faithful shepherd.

The Gonzman

I'm going to take another direction - no suprise.

Your neighbor - brother - the "undocumented" (I'll use your euphemism for illegal alien) has a duty of his own, directed by Christ, to Render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's. In this case, since it harms none and does not violate God's law, his Rendering Unto is to be legal and right with the duly recognized and legitimate secular authorities by emigrating and working with proper documentation and within the confines of the legitimate law.

By being an enabler in flouting this law, you are leading him to being in conflict with the one of the teachings of Christ.

Besides that, it helps nobody when what we have is corporate America encouraging the creation of what is basically a serf class; having worked with other companies who have made it a practice of employing illegals - excuse me, undocumenteds - I can tell you with certainty that once they have saved the money that the miniscule fine would cost them, that they exploit them shamelessly, working them long and inhuman hours without overtime or other benefits that they would have to pay by working within the law, and by threatening deportation or worse if they ever say "No."

This is why I have said for a long time that the target of immigration authorities should not be the immigrant themself, but those who employ them, so that it became far to costly to risk. Reduce the demand, and the problem will disappear: No jobs, no people crossing the border for them.

Hugo

Gonzman, complying with Caesar's law would mean waiting endlessly for a visa. Do you have any idea what the chances are of a young Mexican or Colombian man getting a visa to the USA? To stay in an environment of unemployment and poverty may mean that families will starve -- obeying the law would bring colossal economic harm to millions of Latin Americans!

I state clearly in my post that I pay anyone who works for me quite well. I have no sympathy for the Wal-Marts of the world who exploit migrant undocumented workers, but I won't have those of us who do pay well lumped with those who don't.

Steve

Hugo,

I'm certainly with you on your concern for the poor and utterly disenfranchised. I'm not sure however whether your course is ultimately the one that does the most good, given that it's a one-time solution, and doesn't change the status quo. As one person hiring people for decent wages, you're helping those individuals (and important role), but do you become part of an exploitative black economy that further endentures those people to that economy, that is almost exclusively exploitative - you and a handful of other likeminded progressive christians being the serious minority.

You also have the problem of what happens if they have an accident while at work - you aren't covered by insurance, they aren't covered, there's no union to fight their corner...

We have a similar scenario in the UK right now with hiring so-called illegal immigrants, many many of whom are legitimate asylum seekers, and the majority of the rest of just economic migrants like the rest of us, their only distinction being that they move across borders not just across town or state for a better life. How do we best help them? In the grand scheme of things, I favour an open door policy - so much of the trouble in the countries where many of them come from (eastern europe, afghaninstan, north africa) were caused by us in the first place that it seems insanely immoral to refuse them entry here when they need to escape from the hell we've built for them. But employing them illegally is not a step on the road to legitimacy, stability or security. It's just extends their time working illegally...

I really don't know what the best option is, and I applaud your stance, and I'm sure the families in latin america would thank you for the money that gets sent home, but I'm still not sure that there isn't a better way through supporting unionisation and protesting the immigration laws...

The Gonzman

Much as I may sympathize, what it amounts to is still giving a man a fish as opposed to teaching him to fish. This has long been one of my biggest bones of contention with the American Liberals - not with their compassion for anyone, but with the fact that once that compassion wells up it blinds them to everything else.

Poverty does not occur in a vacuum, this isn't the result of chance or luck of the dice. Mexico is poor not due to a lack of natural resources, but due to the fact that they have a corrupt government that works hand in hand with big business, and sadly, with American big business to boot, and all those fat cats skim off the top and leave crumbs for everyone else. It's to their advantage to do so - to keep the people barely able to get by. Not so poor they are desperate and will risk anything (say - revolution? Even if only a revolution at the ballot box...) to make things better.

Vincente Fox doesn't have to deal with his problems as things stand. He can afford to chase after his political foes on charges of corruption, but he doesn't have to do any real houskeeping. "No problem. Send them to the Gringos. Senor Bush is sucking up for Latino votes, the Democrats are sucking up for Latino votes - Carrumba! How can they say no?" They've got a stranglehold on who can be put on ballots, who can get an education, and are practicing the ancient Roman art of "Bread and Circuses" as far as their proverbial unwashed masses are concerned.

You look at where our illegal immigration problems are occuring from, and it has one common theme - the governments there are corrupt. There are many poor nations who don't emigrate in such masses, because there is hope, social mobility, freedom, and reasonably forseeable reward for hard work. Look at Haiti - Under Duvalier, they did all they could to get here. Get that gang out, they stay home, because they have what I like to call a scrapping chance to better their lot in life.

These places that these immigrants are coming from are what we have always called "Banana Republics," and for years we've been nothing more than a safety valve to them, to alleviate the pressure and keep the lid from blowing off. Now, you yourself are small potatoes. A occasional day laborer or so isn't going to make or break anyone let alone national policy, and as far as casual labor goes, you shouldn't as a private citizen be forced to act as an agent for statist concerns, and in many ways you're a victim of your own tendancy of being entirely too scrupulous in this matter.

The failure here has been of the Republicrats in Washington abrogating their duty in the name of pandering to a voting bloc, with both sides there selling out not just our country but the freedoms of foreign nationals in the name of the allmighty Vote, and it's bastard son, the Fast Buck, and the third member of that unholy trinity, the Status Quo.

But what we need to do is to secure the borders, and not the least of those reasons include making Latin American countries clean up their own house, and also to stop sloughing off onto private citizens and industry things which are clearly the government's perogative and duty to deal with.

Rainbow

My child goes to school with children of undocumented aliens. They all live better than poor taxpayers with their subsidized housing, free lunch, free medical care etc. My daughter's friend's father owns houses all over town while we pay for his kid's lunch. My kid has peanut butter every day. My daughter will never have a room of her own. His two children each have their own room, thanks to the low income condo he controls. We will never have a living room since that is where she sleeps. If I wasn't going through my retirement savings, we would be living in one room. His income isn't reported. He uses it to invest. Don't feel so sorry for those doing the underground economy. They are living a lot better than those of us paying taxes if not now in a few years from now.

Rainbow

P.S. I doubt if you would hire me or any other out of work or unemployed middle aged person if I were to show up at the day labor site. Not to mention all those young men would probably beat me up before I had a chance to compete for a job.

Rainbow

I meant underemployed. I am one of the millions of part-time independent contractors who work 10 hours to get paid for one hour with no benefits. but hey, I ain't homeless yet!

Hugo

Rainbow, I have seen how most undocumented workers in the San Gabriel Valley live (I don't know where you are). I've seen three families in a studio apartment; I've seen the grinding poverty. I've been in the villages in Mexico and Colombia from whence they came. I have never, ever, met an undocumented laborer who owned condos all over town. These aren't the hungry young men I see on Lake and Villa Avenues, wearing the same clothes day after day, willing to work for next-to-nothing.

As for getting beaten up, our Pasadena Job Center is clean, has security, and even has coffee for the men who wait there. Workers sign in in the morning, and then are hired off a list. I've had these folks in my home, and never had a bad experience.

mythago

My child goes to school with children of undocumented aliens. They all live better than poor taxpayers with their subsidized housing, free lunch, free medical care etc.

Government subsidies are based on your income and household size. A "poor taxpayer" has exactly the same eligibility as a poor undocumented alien--though, of course, the poor taxpayer who reports legal income may qualify for the Earned Income credit. And undocumented aliens do pay sales taxes, just like the rest of us.

Hugo, I agree with Fred (duh--we're lawyers), but I caution that you need to have insurance, and you need to be sure that your insurance will cover you if a worker in your home is injured. (Some insurance policies may refuse to pay if you knowingly broke the law.) It would be catastrophic if a worker injured him or herself, and, having no recourse to the worker's compensation system, had to seek that money from you. Whatever your good intentions in paying those bills, you might not be able to do so.

I hope your worker center also offers assistance or referrals to English-language classes and immigration assistance.

My daughter's friend's father owns houses all over town while we pay for his kid's lunch.

Then his problem is unreported income, not undocumented immigrant status. Why don't you report him?

Rainbow

The point is by encouraging the underground economy you are further grinding the working poor into the further poverty. How would it kill you to hire a union carpenter? The undocumented become documented by marrying or through amnesty and then use their knowledge of the underground economy to rack up the money and investments while paying no taxes. Believe me it is tempting to quit my independent contractor gig, fake an accent and work off the books as a nanny. I could probably double my take home pay.

Maybe Roumanian, no one knows what that accent should sound like?

Rainbow

To Hugo

They beat you up before you get to the sign up sheet. Somehow, I don't see you hiring middle-aged vaguely white women for fixing up jobs -- does not fit your preconceived image.

Rainbow

It is the same who cares if they are illegal attitude that leads educated people to jump their visitor's visa and get black market jobs. You haven't lost your job yet Hugo but check with some computer programmers, accountants, and laboratory workers.

mythago

Computer programmers aren't losing their jobs because educated people "jump their visa". They lose their jobs either to H1B workers, or to outsourcing.

How would it kill you to hire a union carpenter?

So Hugo should be hiring a union undocumented alien instead of a nonunion citizen?

If you think marrying is a simple ticket to citizenship, you really know zero about immigration law.

Hugo

Folks, can we keep the arguments here focused on Christian responses to immigration? It's my blog, and I'm trying to keep this narrowly focused -- hope you'll understand. There are lots of places to talk about immigration in political and economic contexts, but I'm only interested in how faith informs our responses to the undocumented among us.

mythago

Well, I thought the tangent was more about whether you're actually doing harm through hiring undocumented aliens, in the sense that would be contrary to the principles of our faith.

Hugo

Fine, as long as we keep faith front and center.

Rainbow

My faith says there is nothing wrong with hiring a legal, union worker, but some people are too cheap.

When did Christ say you could not hire a union worker?


Carpenter's Local Union 409
(213) 488-0258
(213) 385-3510
533 S Fremont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90071

Plumbers Union Local No 78 AFL-CIO
(213) 688-9090
1111 James M Wood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90015

United Electrical Union Local 1010
(909) 947-8077
1408 S Grove Ave
Ontario, CA 91761

www.laschools.org/fs-general/ download/psa/LAC_Labor_Directory_2.pdf


To mythago:

Marriage is the easiest immigration route for women. Ask all the women on the marriage sites. Every man I know who has married in the last year has married an illegal.
It is easier than having to talk to your wife.

Hugo

Good lord, I've hired many a union worker for complex jobs; never crossed a picket in my life, paid dues to CTA for years (I've given over 10 grand to my union in the last eight years, I'm confident). Is there a gardener's union? Is there a union for folks you need to move a whole bunch of boxes? Perhaps there ought to be, but in the meantime what's wrong with paying the fellow from the street corner 20 bucks an hour?

I have a million dollar liability policy on my place; I just read through it and it doesn't mention illegal immigrants anywhere I can see...

Rainbow

Sorry I missed the part that Hugo pays 30% more than union wages to illegals who are not insured and who can put him into bankruptcy if they get injured on the job or if shoddy work falls on someone's head. that is not Christian charity, that is just plain st----!

Rainbow

So next time go to your local women's shelter or your local senior center and offer someone there the $20/hour for gardening. I could move boxes. There a few jobs for women paying that kind of money off the books. some feminist you are.

Michael

As for getting beaten up, our Pasadena Job Center is clean, has security, and even has coffee for the men who wait there. Workers sign in in the morning, and then are hired off a list. I've had these folks in my home, and never had a bad experience.

For what it’s worth, I too live in Pasadena (Texas). Texas, like California, (obviously) has a big illegal immigration problem and like Cal, has a lot of day labor centers, which I use frequently for home and ranch (east Texas) projects.

I have never had a negative experience with the guys (or gals) I hire. In fact, just the opposite. The men I hire have a better work ethic than the American Citizens that also frequent these work centers. Houston, the closest metropolis is over 50% Hispanic. They are more honest than the locals.

I personally have a lot of respect for illegal immigrants. Here you have men that brave crossing the Rio Grande, often a deadly swim. Sometimes they cross many miles of desert terrain that are often deadly. Many die every year or are swindled by Coyotes to get them across, and through the checkpoints, braving deadly conditions just to get to cities where they can find work to feed their families. Last year for instance, a trailer load of immigrants died of heat exhaustion because a coyote left them sitting in the heat locked up in the Texas sun. They are at the mercy of these coyotes that frankly don’t show much mercy.

Most don’t speak the native tongue. They are very vulnerable in many ways. In short, they, to me, risk their lives and their freedom, just so they can feed their families and sometimes their community back home. I have a lot of respect for men willing to brave these conditions for their family. I think they are brave men. They are not bums or losers, mooching off the system. The ones that I can communicate with, are decent men. They pay their taxes like everyone else, except perhaps income taxes.

And yet, when they do get here, they are taken advantage of (Hugo aside) by a lot of the people that hire them. Often swindled and ripped off. And it’s not like they can go to the police when they are.

Yes….. It takes more balls (sorry ladies) than I have to do what they do. Think of how you feel when you visit a country where you don't speak the language. You arrive with little or no money. And you got to sink or swim.

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