Skip to comments.Mexican Immigrants Face New Set of Fears
Posted on 10/15/2001 1:46:42 PM PDT by uscit
ENVER, Oct. 12 The whole nation has been anxious this past month, but for millions of Mexican immigrants around the country there have been added fears.
Roundups of illegal immigrants in Colorado and tough enforcement of immigration laws at workplaces in Oregon have led to anguished, and apparently unfounded, concerns that the government is cracking down on Hispanic workers in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
But the truly punishing repercussion of those attacks has been a round of sweeping layoffs in the airline and hotel industries and other industries with large Mexican labor forces. One national union estimates that a third of its 265,000 members, most of whom are Hispanic immigrants, have been dismissed since the attacks.
The layoffs have posed harsh choices for Mexican immigrants as they consider whether to live with joblessness in the United States, where food stamps, health benefits and other services are mostly unavailable to them, or return to Mexico, where the outlook is still more foreboding. Hundreds of thousands of jobs in Mexico have been eliminated as the American slowdown has sparked a serious recession south of the border, not only in the villages that depend on money sent home by Mexican workers in the United States but also in the maquiladoras, the border assembly plants, where employment is off about 20 percent from last year.
The hardship began in late September for Dario Elizalde and his wife, Olga, when they returned to their home in a trailer park in Avon, Colo., after visiting relatives in Mexico. Olga, who had earned $7 an hour scrubbing toilets in vacation homes, was dismissed by her employer, who said tourists had canceled fall trips to the Rockies. Mr. Elizalde, who had earned $12 an hour framing houses, was also laid off.
"Its like we're in purgatory," Olga said in Spanish. "We don't know if we're staying or leaving."
The government registered a sharp drop in the number of illegal immigrants detained along the Southwest border in the first eight days of October 10,622 people, less than half the 22,912 detained in the same period last year. The drop may indicate that many workers are not trying to travel north, at least for now, because American agents have been searching border crossers more vigorously since Sept. 11.
But others may be staying home because they have heard about the layoffs of thousands of Mexicans in the United States. Leaders of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union in nine major cities reported last week that between 25 and 40 percent of the union's heavily Latino work force in those cities had been laid off.
"This is devastating," said Maria Elena Durazo, a national vice president of the union, which is setting up several relief centers to collect food for unemployed workers. "Nothing like this has ever happened in the memory of our union's leaders."
Thousands of Mexican workers have been dismissed from airport restaurants and parking lots and from companies that prepare in- flight meals. Others have had full- time jobs cut to part-time.
Ramiro Rivera, a father of two who waits tables in one Houston hotel and washes dishes in another, was working 80 hours a week before Sept. 11. Both hotels have trimmed his hours, to a total of 32 a week. "I'm surviving, but barely," he said.
Other industries with large Hispanic work forces have not seen large layoffs. Meat packing and poultry processing plants concentrated in the Great Plains and the Southeast are operating normally, although construction has slowed.
Still, some workers are returning to Mexico to wait out the storm. At a meeting that brought hundreds of Mexican workers together in a Roman Catholic church near Vail, Colo., last week, an unemployed carpenter said he was leaving for home and asked Leticia Calzada, the Mexican consul general in Denver, whether authorities would levy a tax on his power tools when he returned home. (She said they would not.)
Ms. Calzada said she received scores of anguished calls from workers fearing mass deportations after 29 Mexican dishwashers and janitors working at the Denver airport with false documents were detained on Sept. 19 and sent home.
Mexican workers were involved in at least two other immigration enforcement actions in recent weeks, one small and the other sweeping. But nothing suggests that the terrorist attacks have resulted in harsher treatment of Hispanic immigrants.
The same week as the airport roundup, immigration agents detained and deported more than a dozen Mexican laborers outside a slaughterhouse in Fort Morgan, Colo., northeast of Denver, workers said in interviews. Nina Pruneda- Muñiz, a spokeswoman in Denver for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, confirmed the detentions but said they were part of a long- running criminal investigation.
In a broader action that also raised fears that authorities had begun to enforce immigration laws more harshly, 834 Mexican workers in Portland, Ore., most of them janitors, were dismissed in recent days. But the mass dismissals resulted from an audit of 41 companies by the immigration service, begun in July, which determined that the workers lacked valid work permits, said Karen Kraushaar, a national agency spokeswoman. The agency has not altered its enforcement tactics with regard to Latin American immigrants since Sept. 11, she said.
At last week's meeting near Vail, Ms. Calzada repeated what President Vicente Fox of Mexico had said on a visit just before Sept. 11: that the United States could benefit both nations by granting legal status to three million undocumented Mexicans. But Tom Stone, a local county commissioner, told the largely Mexican audience that Americans now favor tightening, rather than relaxing, immigration laws.
Ms. Calzada has learned how the attacks have emboldened some anti- immigrant groups.
After ski resort owners invited her to address a Sept. 20 gathering in Snowmass, Colo., she received a letter from Mike McGarry, a leader of a group that opposes growth in Mexican immigration, warning that it would be "grossly inappropriate" for a Mexican official to speak in public after "the murderous destruction" caused by "illegal aliens."
"I don't like the idea of Fox telling us to legalize Mexicans who compete unfairly with the native American worker," Mr. McGarry said in an interview.
Yet Ms. Calzada said she had been warmly received everywhere she had appeared recently, a sign of continued good will toward immigrants.
"Americans as a people have noble hearts," she said.
Americans are being laid off in droves, the unemployment rate is skyrocketing, illegal alien terrorists easily hide in our "wonderfully diverse" communities waiting to murder us, and we're still not enforcing our immigration laws?
We're spending untold billions and risking our people's lives and killing innocent Afghans and engendering ill-will among the world's Muslims by pursuing terrorists overseas, which, to some extent we need to do. However, dollar for dollar, pound for pound, our overall well-being would be much more assured if we focused on securing our borders, expelling illegal aliens, and tightening up on legal requirements for those we let in.
God forbid the government would do it's freaking job.
Deport all these criminals now! I don't care where they came from, get them the hell out of here.
Oh sure, now he is concerned about paying taxes when he leaves! How many years did he recieve his paycheck "under the table"?
The hardship began in late September for Dario Elizalde and his wife, Olga, when they returned to their home in a trailer park in Avon, Colo., after visiting relatives in Mexico. Olga, who had earned $7 an hour scrubbing toilets in vacation homes, was dismissed by her employer, who said tourists had canceled fall trips to the Rockies. Mr. Elizalde, who had earned $12 an hour framing houses, was also laid off. Again, those are American wages for those jobs, and that pay should be going to Americans.
"Its like we're in purgatory," Olga said in Spanish. "We don't know if we're staying or leaving." Olga, my dear, any foreigner who relates America to purgatory should never set foot on our good soil again. Get out and stay out. I'm sure you'll be much happier in Mother Mexico.
This is what our fellow citizens are talking about when they smugly inform us that we need immigrants because Americans "won't do the jobs they do." Gee, it looked like my local blue collar workers were happy to work at T----s ; it was the plant management that threw them aside like trash, with the connivance of the "immigrants", who harrassed and threatened the few hardy souls who tried to stay on.
If any of those illegals can read this: we don't want you here, go back to your country the way you came!
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