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Illegal Aliens are Boosting for Billions, 60 Minutes
CBS News, 60 Minutes ^ | 07.10.04

Posted on 07/11/2004 4:43:20 PM PDT by Coleus

Boosting For Billions

July 11, 2004
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Approximately $10 billion worth of merchandise is stolen from stores every year.  (Photo: CBS/60 Minutes)

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“When you talk about shoplifting, not a lot of people think about organized crime. Most people think when you say shoplifting, it's the opportunistic shoplifter"
Craig Matsamato, security consultant for major retailers


Retailers are just beginning to realize that a huge chunk of stolen merchandise is being taken by well-organized gangs from South America.  (Photo: CBS/60 Minutes)


(CBS) "Boosting" is organized shoplifting, and if you think it's a petty crime, think again.

As Correspondent Steve Kroft first reported in February, approximately $10 billion in merchandise is stolen from stores every year -- and retailers are just beginning to realize that a huge chunk of it is being taken by gangs of highly skilled, well-organized professionals from South America.

Most of them started as pickpockets in places like Colombia, Chile, Equador and Peru, before being brought to the United States to ply their trade for what the FBI calls South American theft groups. The best of the lot move on to cargo thefts and jewelry heists.

But their bread and butter is "boosting." And you are most likely to cross paths with them, as 60 Minutes did, at a suburban shopping mall, where they steal crate loads of clothes, right off the racks.
Surveillance photos, taken by undercover police officers, show a team of seven South American thieves cleaning out an Old Navy store.

When they moved in to make the arrest, police found enough merchandise to fill a room, all taken in less than an hour, without anyone inside the store noticing a thing.

There may be as many as a 1,000 of these teams operating every day, and about the only the place they are ever captured is on the videotape in store security cameras.

Craig Matsamato was the head of loss prevention at T.J. Maxx and Reebok. He is now a security consultant for major retailers, and he has become well acquainted with the South American groups.

“You're finding them now out throughout California, Maryland, Chicago, Miami, New York,” says Matsamato. “When you talk about shoplifting, not a lot of people think about organized crime. Most people think when you say shoplifting, it's the opportunistic shoplifter.”

Like Winona Ryder?

“Winona Ryder, there you go. That's kind of how people look at shoplifting. Nobody really talks about the fact that, 'Geez, it's really organized, it's big business, and it's high loss to retailers,'” adds Matsamato, who says the South Americans usually work in small groups, relying on distraction, advanced planning and precision teamwork.

One or two people occupy the sales staff, while others go to work. And it doesn't take them long.

“They're professional at what they do,” says Sgt. Scott Guginski, who heads the New York Police Department’s Organized Theft Task Force, which focuses almost entirely on South American organized crime. He says they use specially-made booster bags, lined with foil or duct tape, to smuggle the stolen merchandise out of the store.

“The foil's on top of a piece of cardboard. And it's sewn into the linings,” says Guginski, who points out that the purpose of the foil on the inside is to throw off security at the doors. “If you're walking out with an item with a security tag, it won't set it off.”
South American shoplifting teams feed a black market for stolen goods that flourishes in most big cities. One discount outlet in Queens, N.Y., carried more than a million dollars worth of brand new, brand-name clothes, selling for half the retail price.

“It's known to certain communities where, if you live in that community, you know where you can go, and you can get a discount, a 50 percent discount, on clothing,” says Guginski.

Some of the loot turns up in other countries, and even online, where stolen merchandise occasionally finds it way onto eBay. For the South American gangs, Guginski says, boosting is a highly lucrative, low-risk criminal enterprise.

When he arrests somebody, are they cooperative?

“For the most part, no. They're trained and they know exactly what to say and what not to say,” says Guginski. “For the most part, you won't even get a name out of them.”

But he does get a picture. He has books containing mug shots, and surveillance photos of 2,500 South American gang members known to be operating in the United States. All of them have been arrested at least once; almost all of them are in the country illegally; and all have a number of different identities and aliases provided by the organization.

“What they do is, they come here and they'll either do jewelry theft or boosting and they'll work for six months and they'll go back to their country (and take the money they gleaned with them)."
Sgt. Tony Ojeda of Miami's Dade County Police Department has been following these groups for 14 years. He's arrested and interrogated hundreds of members, and says they have one thing in common: Almost all of them start off as pickpockets.

“That is their foundation. It doesn't matter what their specialty is, that is their foundation. They all learn the art of pickpocketing,” says Ojeda. “Obviously, No. 1, they wanna get money. But the second thing, even more important, is they're looking for travel documents to smuggle more of the criminal element into the United States.

South American thieves have been sneaking into the United States using phony passports and visas since the '70s, when informants used to talk about a now-defunct college for thieves called “the school of the seven bells.”

They would dress up a mannequin and they would attach sleigh bells to all the pockets. For the student to be able to graduate, he actually had to lift a wallet from all seven pockets – without ringing the bells.

Those most likely to succeed tend to gravitate toward jewelry theft, which is the most lucrative business the South Americans are in involved in.

Surveillance photos show a jewelry team casing out a store in Boston, looking for a jewelry supplier, or courier, making a sales call. They've been known to follow a victim for weeks or even months, learning their routines, waiting for the right time to strike.

“This is not something that happens occasionally. It's pervasive. It's an epidemic,” says Rich Loebl, vice president of Le Vian jewelers in New York. He says the thieves are so brazen, they'll even target jewelers in the city’s heavily fortified diamond district.

“They say there are more police officers on the street here than anywhere else in New York. And the reason is, it's not safe to be out here without a police officer,” says Loebl.

Turns out he was right. But Loebl learned all of this the hard way. In 1999, he was followed leaving a department store in Cincinnati. After waving off his police escort, he stopped at a restaurant. When he came out, a van with five people screeched up beside his car.

“They got over $5 million,” says Loebl. “That’s a frightening haul.”
Last year, the South American gangs were responsible for 195 jewelry robberies, stealing an estimated $75 million in merchandise.

One surveillance video, taken from a police helicopter, shows one of their favorite tactics. A gang member gets out of his car and sneaks up on a jewelry salesman's vehicle to puncture his tire.

“What we're seeing is they'll pop your tire, you'll have a slow leak, you'll be driving, you'll pull over because you have a flat tire,” says Guginski.

Then, the thieves strike with paramilitary precision. In fact, police believe some of the leaders may be former military members or ex-policemen.

Guginski says they'll rely on surprise, but if there is any resistance, they'll resort to violence: “We've had one individual that was followed from Long Island back into the city, where they actually cut him from ear to ear, cut his throat. He had the jewelry bag wrapped around his hand, and they actually took, like, a hatchet and tried to take off his wrist to get that bag.”

Within 24 hours, the gems will have been re-cut and the precious metals melted down. Then, they're recycled back into the legitimate jewelry industry.
Guginski took 60 Minutes out on one of his operations, looking for South American thieves "shaping up," or meeting, on the streets.

“Sometimes you might not be sure what type of crime they're gonna go out that day to commit. And you'll have to surveil them and actually watch them for a little while,” says Guginski.

This morning, Guginski became suspicious of some people inside a white minivan, which 60 Minutes was shadowed for several hours through New York City, across the entire state of New Jersey and into eastern Pennsylvania.

The South American crews from New York travel as far as the Midwest, and can be gone for more than a week. Lieutenants in the organization, who are called hombres, select the types of crime, and the targets. They also supply the vehicles, expense money, and shopping lists.

The white minivan finally pulled into an outlet mall in Tannersville, Pa. It turned out to be a boosting team made up of three women. After several forays into the store, they spotted the camera, so Guginski, assisted by local police, moved in for the arrest.

They were all illegal aliens from Colombia. One was a fugitive, having jumped bail on a California burglary charge. Another had been arrested for shoplifting four months earlier and deported, but somehow got back into the United States. Because shoplifters are not considered serious criminals, they rarely spend much time in jail.

“These groups predetermine and have plans if somebody's arrested. If a team of eight goes out and two of those people are arrested, it's the responsibility of the other six to get the money together to bail 'em out and get 'em back out on the street,” says Guginski.

Then, he says, they disappear, traveling to another city or assuming a new identity. The few cops who follow these groups say they've carved out a criminal niche, exploiting a system that lets people who commit property crimes off easily.

60 Minutes also talked to a retailer in California who said it's not uncommon to arrest these people and find them with plane tickets in their pocket for Kansas City or Chicago. And they'll check and four days later, some of them have been arrested out there.

“I don't think anybody really has a good grasp on how central and how organized it really is,” says Matsamato.
Special task forces are springing up in big cities such as Los Angeles, Miami and New York. And retailers are trying to push a bill through Congress that would treat shoplifting by these rings as a federal felony with penalties of up to 10 years in jail.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Extended News; US: Arizona; US: California; US: Florida; US: Illinois; US: Maryland; US: Massachusetts; US: New York; US: Pennsylvania; US: Texas
KEYWORDS: aliens; boosting; bushamnesty; columbia; crime; druggangs; hispanic; hispanics; illegalalien; illegalaliens; illegaliens; illigration; immigration; immigrationlist; police; shoplifting; southamerica; theft
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1 posted on 07/11/2004 4:43:20 PM PDT by Coleus
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Comment #2 Removed by Moderator

To: Coleus

...just stealing what Americans won't steal (and for a lot less money).


3 posted on 07/11/2004 4:46:39 PM PDT by NoControllingLegalAuthority
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To: Coleus

I remember seeing a 60 Minutes segment identical to this one last year, so it could be a rerun.


4 posted on 07/11/2004 4:47:27 PM PDT by Mr. Mojo
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To: Coleus

"I say make it all legal" - GWBush


5 posted on 07/11/2004 4:48:19 PM PDT by dagnabbit (Islamic Immigration is the West's Suicide)
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To: Coleus

This is being reported in such an unfortunate manner.

As we all know, these are just thefts that citizens of the United States don't want to commit.

< /sarcasm >

Once again, the myth of illegal aliens is stripped bare for anyone with half a brain to see and accept.


6 posted on 07/11/2004 4:49:46 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
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To: Coleus

I just watched that segment and I was cursing and swearing all the way through.

What the hell good is our so-called Department of Homeland Security! Just another government department that is a waste of taxpayer money as far as I'm concerned.

What a joke we have become and I'm sure our enemies agree.

I'm fed up!!!!


7 posted on 07/11/2004 4:50:45 PM PDT by Mears
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To: NoControllingLegalAuthority

...and for a lot less money. Heh heh heh...

nice line


8 posted on 07/11/2004 4:50:45 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
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To: Coleus

There is next to no crime enforcement. Nope, the illegals see clearly enough what we have going on here. It's unlicensed, it's organized, and it's the Land of Opportunity.


9 posted on 07/11/2004 4:51:49 PM PDT by RightWhale (Withdraw from the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty and establish property rights)
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To: DoughtyOne

The only reason they aren't stealing from Wal-mart is cause the stuff is too cheap to bother stealing AND re-selling on the black market.


10 posted on 07/11/2004 4:52:13 PM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: dagnabbit
"I say make it all legal" - GWBush

Yawn, you know Bush never said that, by the way when are you calling one of the biggest boosters of illegal aliens in Congress, Rep. Joe Baca(D-CA).

You are always silent about that, kinda of like border patrol union that is always silent on criticism of democrats.

11 posted on 07/11/2004 4:53:54 PM PDT by Dane
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To: Mears

When I found out that an overwhelming percentage of the security, baggage and airline employees at our nation's airports were illegal aliens, that did it for me. I could not fathom that would be possible and it put me on notice to what level the corruption had risen in our nation's leadership. We are living in some parallel universe, to the one where the law used to be something to be respected.


12 posted on 07/11/2004 4:54:46 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
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To: Coleus
Because shoplifters are not considered serious criminals, they rarely spend much time in jail.

Thievery ought to be treated more seriously. I don't think it's petty. I think it's horrendous. When someone robs me of my possessions, no matter how small, they've robbed me of the time it took me to earn those possessions. They've robbed me of part of my life.

13 posted on 07/11/2004 4:55:51 PM PDT by agrarianlady
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To: DoughtyOne

The law? The only thing politicians and illegal aliens have in common is how they can line their own pockets AND scratch each other's backs.


14 posted on 07/11/2004 4:56:08 PM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: goldstategop

Oh you guys are in rare form tonight. Good one. Still the appologists show up to demonstrate astounding ignorance.


15 posted on 07/11/2004 4:56:28 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
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To: agrarianlady

Of course with all this boosting going on, we all wind up paying the cost in the form of higher prices in the stores, a reduced selection of available goods, and lousy customer service.


16 posted on 07/11/2004 4:57:33 PM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: goldstategop

Well, I agree with the sentiment, but I think you've elevated the debate a little more than I would. Backs???? Sniker...


17 posted on 07/11/2004 4:57:33 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
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To: dagnabbit

A truly stupid remark.


18 posted on 07/11/2004 4:58:17 PM PDT by sinkspur (There's no problem on the inside of a kid that the outside of a dog can't cure.)
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To: Coleus

Hey, these people need something to do to occupy their time between elections and their DemoRat serial voting.


19 posted on 07/11/2004 4:58:47 PM PDT by Navy Patriot
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To: DoughtyOne

Yes, I see it, too. I look at what goes on in this town and realize we have no recognizeable industry, yet there are new SUVs and fantastic new homes everywhere and the town is sloshing with money. I'm beginning to think the real pros are unlicensed.


20 posted on 07/11/2004 4:58:51 PM PDT by RightWhale (Withdraw from the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty and establish property rights)
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To: RightWhale; DoughtyOne; Coleus
Let us not forget the bands of native born Irish and English gypsies that also run scams in your scorn.
21 posted on 07/11/2004 4:59:00 PM PDT by Dane
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To: goldstategop

Bigot! LMAO


22 posted on 07/11/2004 4:59:40 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
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To: Dane

They might be pros, but they are the old school. The new pros run circles around them.


23 posted on 07/11/2004 5:00:07 PM PDT by RightWhale (Withdraw from the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty and establish property rights)
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To: Coleus

This is a new world re: immigrants. The Latinos here in California are sending money back to their families. Mexico, for one, has a governmental program that will match funds sent to Mexico from foreign nations. The money is used to build highways, hospitals, etc.. This is the new immigrant. They are preparing to return to their homeland to live the good life. I say let's make it easy for them to do just that!


24 posted on 07/11/2004 5:00:44 PM PDT by Blake#1
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To: RightWhale

Let's give away everything for free. That ought to cut down boosting, shoplifting, and theft to ZERO.


25 posted on 07/11/2004 5:00:51 PM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: NoControllingLegalAuthority

Its just their culture and we as Americans need to be tolerant. Who are we to change this great people. Diversity. Weren't we once the illegal aliens in this melting pot. We need to provide for the less fortunate. There. That just about covers it.


26 posted on 07/11/2004 5:01:55 PM PDT by mlbford2 (Sorry for spelling errors, I'm a product of a state university)
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To: Dane

Yes Dane, with between ten and twenty million illegal hispanic immigrants, let's focus our efforts on the vast numbers of gypsies taking over our neighborhoods, schools and hospital waiting rooms. Good point.


27 posted on 07/11/2004 5:02:18 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
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To: Coleus

This article is a lie as everyone knows "Our Diversity Is Our Strength!"


28 posted on 07/11/2004 5:03:17 PM PDT by AEMILIUS PAULUS (Further, the statement assumed)
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To: DoughtyOne
but somehow got back into the United States.

LOL !!

Where has this guy been.

29 posted on 07/11/2004 5:03:51 PM PDT by Missouri
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To: goldstategop

Now that's better. I can see you're willing to give diversity the respect it deserves. I take it back. Heh heh heh...


30 posted on 07/11/2004 5:04:16 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
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To: goldstategop

Good idea. Already being implemented. Everything is being given away--free.


31 posted on 07/11/2004 5:05:24 PM PDT by RightWhale (Withdraw from the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty and establish property rights)
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To: RightWhale
They might be pros, but they are the old school. The new pros run circles around them

There are people in every ethnic group that are bad and yes shoplifting is a serious problem and should be cracked down on, but let's be serious and admit that shoplifters are in every ethnicity.

32 posted on 07/11/2004 5:05:29 PM PDT by Dane
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To: Missouri

I'm not sure, but this is good for a nice summer laugh.


33 posted on 07/11/2004 5:07:59 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
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To: DoughtyOne
Yes Dane, with between ten and twenty million illegal hispanic immigrants, let's focus our efforts on the vast numbers of gypsies taking over our neighborhoods, schools and hospital waiting rooms. Good point

Yawn, doughty, I am not defending the shoplifters, just pointing out that they are in every ethnicity.

34 posted on 07/11/2004 5:08:00 PM PDT by Dane
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To: Dane

Yawn Dane, keep trotting out the obvios for everyone to address like a good little propagandist. You ought to know that I'd be against criminality from any group, but the predominant problem that presents itself, is one of massive hispanic cause. I can't change that, and I'm not going to appologize to you or anyone for addressing the issues as it exists.

If any group wishes to be free from criticism on this or any other issue, they should pass the word along to modifly behavior.


35 posted on 07/11/2004 5:11:21 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
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To: Dane; RightWhale; DoughtyOne
Let us not forget the bands of native born Irish and English gypsies that also run scams in your scorn>>

Let's not:

Irish Travelers' Scams

Mother in Beating Surrenders

Irish Travelers linked to scams in state

Unwelcome Stares at Quiet Clan
After Child Beating, Secret Life Ends for Irish Travelers

Cons, Frauds and Other Lies

El Paso County, Colorado, District Attorney's Office

36 posted on 07/11/2004 5:12:22 PM PDT by Coleus (Roe v. Wade and Endangered Species Act both passed in 1973, Murder Babies/save trees, birds, algae)
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To: RightWhale

Boy, if that isn't the truth.


37 posted on 07/11/2004 5:12:31 PM PDT by DoughtyOne
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To: Coleus

An illegal alien jumped bail? I can't believe it.


38 posted on 07/11/2004 5:12:52 PM PDT by 4.1O dana super trac pak (Let them eat amnesty)
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To: Mears

First step would be to enforce the immigration laws on the books.

Then set up an Express lane for deportations.

Then any city, state, or county government/law enforcement element that refuses to obey and help gets tossed in the "Klink!" Elected or not!

Oh yeah and if you're in one of those sob sister immigrant aide groups that help the illegals you tossed in the "Klink" with Bubba.


39 posted on 07/11/2004 5:13:17 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: Dane

The new pros are not ethnic.


40 posted on 07/11/2004 5:13:34 PM PDT by RightWhale (Withdraw from the 1967 UN Outer Space Treaty and establish property rights)
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To: Dane
You are always silent about that, kinda of like border patrol union that is always silent on criticism of democrats

The Border Patrol isn't always silent on the criticism of democrats. Try going to the Union's website. The union doesn't have to single out Baca or the Democrats because the love of illegal aliens is bi-partisan.

41 posted on 07/11/2004 5:15:27 PM PDT by Ajnin
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To: Ajnin; Marine Inspector

Why don't you and Marine Inspector identify yourselves so you can have both the standing and the accountability?


42 posted on 07/11/2004 5:17:09 PM PDT by Barlowmaker
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Tancredo
43 posted on 07/11/2004 5:17:30 PM PDT by Coleus (Roe v. Wade and Endangered Species Act both passed in 1973, Murder Babies/save trees, birds, algae)
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To: sinkspur
A truly stupid remark.

I stand corrected. Actually G Bush said "have it all legal" not "make" when peddling his dishonest amnesty/global labor market scam last January. From the Jan 21, 2004 White House press release:

"So what I want to do is to say, let's have it all legal, in this sense: You can come to our country for a period of time, so long as there's a job available for you."

But you're still right that GWB's remarks were truly stupid.

44 posted on 07/11/2004 5:19:03 PM PDT by dagnabbit (Islamic Immigration is the West's Suicide)
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To: Ajnin
The union doesn't have to single out Baca or the Democrats because the love of illegal aliens is bi-partisan

Uh, IOW, the union doesn't even mention and is silent about Baca(D-CA) becuase he is a democrat.

The union is very transparent.

45 posted on 07/11/2004 5:19:16 PM PDT by Dane
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To: Coleus
Boy, I sure am glad these illegals are boosting our economy. < /sarcasm >
46 posted on 07/11/2004 5:20:29 PM PDT by sweetliberty ("A wise man's heart inclines him to the right, but a fool's heart to the left." (Eccl. 10:2))
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To: Coleus

This is outrageous, don't we have enough outsourcing without having to use foreign theives.


47 posted on 07/11/2004 5:21:59 PM PDT by Always Right
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To: Coleus

You can support anyone you want, Coleus, but for full disclosure, you are the one on FR who compared John Edwards to Abraham Lincoln.


48 posted on 07/11/2004 5:23:09 PM PDT by Dane
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To: Barlowmaker
Why don't you and Marine Inspector identify yourselves so you can have both the standing and the accountability?

How is identifying myself going to give me standing and accountability? What do these things have to do with anything that has been said?

49 posted on 07/11/2004 5:24:45 PM PDT by Ajnin
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To: Dane

Compare?

Full disclosure?

I just stated an historical fact based on an assumption made by you. If one is to attack Edwards, one should do it from the vantage point of he being the 4th most liberal Senator in the Senate and not from being a trial lawyer. The republicans won't win on the issue since they never passed any tort reform legislation in the past 10 years! The trial lawyer issue will backfire on them.


50 posted on 07/11/2004 5:27:42 PM PDT by Coleus (Roe v. Wade and Endangered Species Act both passed in 1973, Murder Babies/save trees, birds, algae)
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