Immigrant Rights News -- Mon, August 28, 2006
Immigrant Rights News -- Mon, August 28, 2006
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1. Houston Chronicle, "She sought sanctuary, became a symbol. Immigrant
living inside a church stirs U.S. debate over the fairness of immigration
2. Philadelphia Daily News editorial, "IMMIGRATION & SMALL-TOWN JUSTICE.
LOCALS STEP IN WHEN WASHINGTON CAN'T GET ITS ACT TOGETHER"
3. Florida Sun, "Immigration reform caught on discrimination, enforcement"
4. Rocky Mountain News, "Immigration wage debate rages. Pay stagnates in
sectors full of foreign-born workers"
5. Los Angeles Times, "GOP Sends Mixed Messages on Immigration"
6. Arizona Republic, "Border chase tactics questioned. Kin of immigrants in
fatal crash upset with U.S. bid to stop influx"
7. Houston Chronicle, "Border agents make zero-tolerance zone"
8. Christian Science Monitor, "Numbers show a second-rate US"
9. New York Times, "Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity"
10. New York Times, "Here Illegally [sic], Guatemalans Are Prime Targets of
Aug. 27, 2006, 11:12AM
She sought sanctuary, became a symbol
Immigrant living inside a church stirs U.S. debate over the fairness of
By TERESA PUENTE
Special To The Chronicle
CHICAGO - Elvira Arellano, the illegal immigrant who has sought sanctuary in
a storefront church, says only God knows her destiny.
In the compact room where she sleeps above the church, she has converted a
desk into a shrine of gifts from many of the people who support her attempt
to defy a deportation order.
Her case of disobedience is gaining attention from international news
organizations, American church alliances and activists on many sides of
larger immigration issues.
Last week, Arellano clutched a rose-scented rosary next to a key chain with
pictures of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and a prayer card of St.
Toribio, the unofficial saint of undocumented migrants from Mexico.
"God is great, and I maintain my faith in this church," Arellano, 31, said
in an interview in Spanish.
She has spent her time there since Aug. 15, the day set for her deportation
to Mexico by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
No legal protections
The single mother has become a stirring symbol in the immigration debate,
supporters said, giving a voice to the janitors, nannies and field workers
who normally live and work in the shadows. Arellano, in fact, had a cleaning
job at O'Hare International Airport before she was found to have used a
false Social Security number.
Federal officials said they can apprehend and deport Arellano at any time.
Her taking up residence in the church with her 7-year-old son, Saul, a U.S.
citizen by birth, gives her no legal protections, they said.
"She willfully flaunted the law by not showing up (Aug. 15)," Immigration
and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Gail Montenegro said. "She in fact
became an immigrant fugitive."
But immigration officials have confided to reporters that they have no plans
to remove Arellano from Adalberto United Methodist Church.
Her supporters argue that it is inhumane to separate a mother from her child
and that immigration reform is needed to protect millions of other children
across the country who have at least one undocumented parent.
"We believe that a moratorium (on such deportations) is the humane thing to
do," said the Rev. Walter Coleman, pastor of the church, where Arellano has
been a parishioner the past three years. He has granted her lodging
Chicago attorney Joseph Mathews last week sought a court injunction against
the woman's removal from the United States, arguing that the government
would be forcing the illegal deportation of a U.S. citizen — her son.
If the child stayed behind, he would most likely become a ward of the state,
Mathews explained. Arellano has no relatives in the United States and
insists that she won't be separated from her son. The court request is
Fighting since 2000
In a few other high-profile immigration cases, federal lawmakers have
sponsored a private relief bill seeking to block an immigrant or immigrant
family's removal. Illinois' senators, Democrats Dick Durbin and Barack
Obama, have expressed sympathy for Arellano but declined to get involved.
Durbin had sponsored a bill for Arellano when her son had a medical
emergency two years ago. Immigration officials said the move temporarily
halted her removal, but that the bill never passed and the deportation case
In 1997, Arellano was caught by immigration officials and deported when she
tried to cross the Mexico border northward. A later unauthorized crossing
succeeded and she migrated to Washington state, where her son was born. She
moved to Chicago in 2000 and was arrested at her airport job two years
She has been fighting deportation ever since and has been a public critic of
U.S. immigration policy. She founded a group called United Latino Family and
has helped organize protests and rallied for immigration reform.
Local Latino politicians have offered support. Cook County Commissioner
Roberto Maldonado announced plans to introduce a resolution to make the
county a legal sanctuary for immigrants.
"We know it doesn't have legal teeth but it has moral value," Maldonado
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., has asked President Bush to block the
Arellano's church refuge is along Division Street in the heart of Chicago's
Puerto Rican community. Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birthright.
"Before God, we're all equal. We're all mothers, too. We have to think of
her son," said supporter Carmen Rodriguez, 68, who is of Puerto Rican
Arab-Americans have donated food and water. Croatian-Americans left behind a
banner of support. From across town, a Mexican restaurant sends lunch every
day for Elvira and volunteers at the church.
A donor provided 50 watermelons; others gave toy trucks and games for the
boy and a refrigerator and vacuum cleaner for the church.
Arellano's case, though, may have created friction with some blacks.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell, who is black, took public offense
to comparisons of Arellano with civil rights hero Rosa Parks.
Mitchell wrote that the comparison fails because Arellano is not a victim of
an unjust system.
"Her chutzpah makes her a folk hero to some, but her blatant exploitation of
Parks' legacy undermines the fragile coalition between some blacks and
Hispanics that has formed around the immigration issue," according to the
Arellano said she has received supportive messages from blacks.
She is uncertain how long she will live in the church apartment. The living
room of her apartment, set up like a command center, is where volunteers
have a computer and a list of reporters who have requested interviews from
all over the world.
Volunteers sleep in the church, keeping watch for any arrival of immigration
But she said she would do whatever she has to do to raise Saul in the
country of his birth.
"What mother wouldn't do the best she could for her son?" she asked.
Philadelphia Daily News editorial
Mon, Aug. 28, 2006
IMMIGRATION & SMALL-TOWN JUSTICE
LOCALS STEP IN WHEN WASHINGTON CAN'T GET ITS ACT TOGETHER
IN SMALL MUNICIPALITIES across the nation, brush fires of discontent are
starting to erupt as officials struggle to control an influx of illegal
Towns like as Riverside, N.J., Palm Bay, Fla., and Hazleton, Pa., have
passed ordinances - some labeled "relief acts" - that punish landlords who
rent to undocumented immigrants, and the businesses that hire them. Some
cities, like Hazleton, have declared English their "official language."
Joe Vento, owner of Geno's steaks, probably understands.
And we understand, too, why these towns have enacted such legislation - the
federal government, which sets this country's immigration policy, has failed
miserably to provide strong oversight, enforcement or direction.
Faced with increases in crime and overwhelmed by requests for municipal
services, these small, not-so-well-off towns have taken things into their
own hands. And, as much as we might sympathize with their plight, their
efforts must not, and should not, usurp federal law. Several of these
ordinances face court challenges on such grounds.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the dance continues as a House-Senate panel tries
to reach a compromise on an immigration-reform bill that President Bush
wants signed this year. One obstacle: a guest-worker program supported by
the Senate and president, frowned on by the House.
The president's recent decision to send National Guard troops to help out at
the U.S.-Mexico border gave a visceral and temporary boost to supporters of
stricter enforcement, but it fails to address the real problems.
That's what these towns, some more awkwardly than others, want to do.
Hazleton, a community of about 31,000 in Luzerne County, is a former
coal-mining town that now depends on service and manufacturing industries.
Jobs have been the immigration magnet. So has inexpensive housing.
In July, following a shooting and then gunfire in a playground that put a
spotlight on illegal immigrants in the city, Hazleton reacted by adopting an
ordinance requiring all tenants to obtain a rental permit from the city's
That cleverly put the onus on the city, rather than the landlord, to
determine a tenant's legal status. And any business that knowingly employs
illegal immigrants or helps them avoid detection will lose its business
permit, plus responsible parties will face possible jail time. Hazleton
officials believe they have sidestepped the problem of federal oversight.
That will be determined in court.
The ordinances show what action some cities feel they have to take - but the
moves have fostered tension. In Riverside, some supporters of the town's
crackdown waved confederate flags and gave the Nazi salute to outnumbered
protesters. They claim the illegal workers, mostly from Brazil, don't pay
taxes, a charge the protesters deny.
The National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian Leaders, which has
filed lawsuits against Hazleton and Riverside and considers the ordinances
racist, favors temporary work permits that would allow illegals to work
while seeking legal status.
Back in Washington, we favor much of what was in the Senate bill - creating
a pathway for citizenship for undocumented workers, plus stronger
enforcement, with extra attention paid to employers who hire these workers -
and urge that these provisions remain in any compromise bill.
Until then, small towns will do whatever it takes to rein in a growing
problem that the federal government has utterly failed to control.
Aug 27, 2006
Immigration reform caught on discrimination, enforcement
By CORY REISS
Sun Washington Bureau
# ISSUE: The House and Senate have passed different versions of immigration
reform legislation that are far apart, but both would require employers to
use a computer system to verify a prospective employee's identity.
# WHAT'S NEW: A federal agency wants employers to take specific actions if
they receive letters identifying employees whose data do not match
government records. Such letters are sent routinely regarding Social
Services benefits, not for immigration enforcement.
# WHAT'S NEW: A federal agency wants employers to take specific actions if
they receive letters identifying employees whose data do not match
government records. Such letters are sent routinely regarding Social
Services benefits, not for immigration enforcement.
# WHAT'S NEXT: Immigration officials are weighing comments from diverse
groups that say the proposed rule would be burdensome to businesses and
prompt discriminatory practices. They prefer to let Congress pass
comprehensive immigration reforms, which could be tough this year.
WASHINGTON - Before job applicants can work at the Bird Key Yacht Club,
Marsha Woerner submits their identity information to federal authorities
over a computer system that checks databases for red flags.
The office manager doesn't take that extra step to protect members of the
exclusive club in Sarasota from being served martinis by felons, but rather
to avoid running afoul of immigration laws.
The club is one of almost 11,000 businesses - a fraction of the millions
nationwide - in a pilot project Congress authorized in 1996 to give
employers an easy way to reduce the odds of hiring an illegal immigrant.
"It saves you a headache in the long run," Woerner said.
Among the elements of immigration reform that the House and Senate have
agreed on, in principle, is that all employers should use an expanded
version of that system, which compares submitted information to millions of
Social Security and immigration records at the time of hire.
Congress, however, is so divided on other aspects of its rival bills, such
as the treatment of some 11 million illegal immigrants already in the
country, that prospects for a measure reaching President Bush's desk this
year are murky.
With immigration burning the feet of the administration and members of
Congress in a tumultuous election year, U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE), part of the Department of Homeland Security, is
considering an alternate route if immigration reform stalls. The agency,
known as ICE, has proposed its own rules that would put the onus on all
American businesses for weeding millions of illegal immigrants, many of whom
use fake Social Security numbers, from the workforce.
Critics say the plan would force every business to play cop with employees
while putting employers at risk of discrimination lawsuits on one hand or
federal fines on the other.
A broad array of business interests - from country clubs and construction
contractors to agriculture and restaurants - have united with labor and
pro-immigrant groups in a fierce campaign to derail the proposal, which they
say could result in widespread firings to avoid new federal liabilities.
Many of those groups support the Senate's more permissive version of
The proposed rule would set procedures and deadlines that employers should
follow when they receive notice that an employee's identifying information
doesn't match federal records. For the first time, the "no match" letters
would be considered evidence that an employer has "constructive knowledge,"
or reason to believe, that an employee may be illegal. That would set up the
companies for federal fines if they don't fire the employee or make sure the
problem is corrected quickly.
About 128,000 employers received no match letters last year from the Social
Security Administration, which checks all employee information after each
tax year for accuracy. By policy those letters are only sent to employers
with at least 10 employee discrepancies. Information on 8.1 million
individual employees didn't match last year.
Homeland Security issues its own notices to employers based on more limited
In written comment to ICE about its proposed rule, the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission raised concerns Aug. 14 about discrimination if
employers, faced with the possibility of sanctions, simply hire or fire
based on national origin.
"It is terrifying, quite frankly, the prospect of this becoming a final rule
without any kind of change because it's impact would be sweeping," said
Angela Kelley, deputy director of the National Immigration Forum.
ICE unveiled the proposal in June. Business groups ranging from country
clubs and construction contractors to agriculture and restaurants condemned
the proposal in public comments that ended Aug. 14, illustrating how deep
the issue reaches in U.S. businesses.
The no match letters are not now considered evidence that a worker may be an
illegal immigrant. Many letters are due to clerical errors, improperly
recorded name changes or other mistakes. Social Security does not issue the
letters for enforcement purposes but rather to match Social Security
contributions to the right people.
Most employers are widely believed to ignore the letters, considering it an
employee's problem and fearing discrimination claims. Enforcement advocates
say employers don't want to act.
Under the ICE proposal, employers that receive no match letters would have
to confront employees within 14 days and take steps to resolve the
If the problem isn't fixed to the government's satisfaction within 60 days,
the employer would have to fire the employee or risk being held liable.
Businesses complain, among other things, that the time frames for compliance
are unrealistic, especially for large companies.
Failing to take the prescribed steps could result in fines. ICE also has
ramped up criminal prosecutions of businesses that it alleges intentionally
hire illegal aliens and have, in some cases, received many no match letters.
Angelo Amador, director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce, said the proposed rule has stirred businesses that didn't think
they had much at stake in the broader immigration debate.
"This one will affect you regardless," Amador said. "It's easy for people to
understand and it's something that would affect U.S. citizens directly."
In dozens of letters, some sent on behalf of dozens of business groups,
companies, unions or immigration advocates, critics of the proposal asked
that it be scrapped so that Congress can pass a final comprehensive
immigration overhaul. Legislation passed by the House and Senate would
require businesses to use an expanded version of the electronic employee
verification system used by the Florida yacht club, although they differ on
"We're supportive of enforcing our current immigration laws, and we wouldn't
want to hinder our agencies from doing that," said Kerry Feehery,
spokeswoman for Sen. Mel Martinez, a Florida Republican who helped negotiate
the Senate immigration bill. "But we need to be really careful that we don't
create overly burdensome regulations for our businesses."
Differences between the House and Senate on other aspects of the bills are
so wide it is far from clear that Congress will be able to agree on a final
version. The Bush administration also is under intense pressure to show it
is tough on border enforcement and employers, while advocating leniency for
illegal immigrants already in the country.
"ICE is evaluating the public comments and is committed to continuing to
provide businesses with additional tools to help them comply with the law,"
said Marc Raimondi, spokesman for the agency.
There is some evidence that no match letters often fail to grab an
In 2002, the Social Security Administration sent letters to every employer
with at least one employee whose identifying information didn't match the
government's in the previous tax year. The agency sent 950,000 letters that
year involving 8 million employees. A Social Security spokeswoman said the
goal was to see if more letters to employers would prompt more accurate
Despite some reports of firings at the time, she said the agency "didn't get
a great response" and resumed its practice of only sending letters to
employers with multiple mismatches.
Employers worry that challenging an employee's identification would open
them up to discrimination claims. Many employers would prefer an electronic
verification requirement at hiring, although some worry about the details
that Congress must negotiate, to a rule by ICE that puts them squarely in
the immigration enforcement business.
Homeland Security doesn't have the authority to make America's more than 7
million employers use the electronic verification system Congress
established 10 years ago as an experiment, a spokesman said.
Peter Kilgore, general counsel for the National Restaurant Association, said
employers have long been confused about how to handle no match letters. But
he said they need guidelines, not hard rules "putting the employer's neck on
Rocky Mountain News
Immigration wage debate rages
Pay stagnates in sectors full of foreign-born workers
By James Paton, Rocky Mountain News
August 26, 2006
Walter Marshall knows he's competing with immigrants, both legal and
illegal, in his job hunt.
He cites a basic economic principle: An influx of Mexicans and Central
Americans willing to toil for less money surely depresses wages for
"Of course it makes it tougher," said Marshall, 54, who recently applied for
an $8.25-an-hour job at a downtown Denver Hyatt hotel. "It's supply and
It is easy to find anecdotes and statistics to support the idea that
competition from immigrants hurts some U.S.-born workers.
But immigration's full effects on the economy are complicated, and the story
unfolds differently depending on who's telling it.
Colorado's wage statistics tell one tale.
Pay in construction and hospitality, sectors known for relying heavily on
immigrant labor, have not grown as quickly as pay in other areas, state
Department of Labor and Employment figures show.
Average construction wages rose 1.2 percent from 2001 to 2005, after
adjusting for Denver-area inflation. Hotel, motel and restaurant pay
increased 4.2 percent. Contrast that with the finance and health care
industries, which saw inflation-adjusted gains of 6.3 percent and 8.9
Although there is no consensus, many economists agree that if anyone is
harmed, it is the low-skilled, poorly educated native. George Borjas and
Lawrence Katz of Harvard University looked at 20 years of immigration
starting in 1980 and found that a high school dropout who made $25,000 in
2000 would have seen his inflation-adjusted wages reduced by about $1,200,
or 4.8 percent. Others see a negligible dip and an actual wage gain for the
Immigration also is seen as one of the culprits in widening the gulf between
the wages of workers with skills and those without.
But an array of other factors - the decline of unions, advances in
technology, globalization and a recession that brought big job losses in
2002 and 2003 - may have contributed to lackluster wages.
Without immigration, companies likely would replace employees with
automation and manufacturers would move more work offshore. Businesses say
they might boost wages if the cheap labor force dried up, but they also
would raise prices for consumers and probably open fewer new restaurants or
factories. And that means fewer jobs.
"If we didn't have all these workers from Mexico, the wages would be
higher," said Sam Fox, owner of the restaurant NoRTH in Cherry Creek and
However, patrons would have to pay up.
Illegal immigrants - estimated by the Pew Hispanic Center at 225,000 to
275,000 in Colorado - also pay taxes. One Colorado study suggests that those
taxes aren't enough to offset the total cost of services, such as K-12
education, emergency medical care and jail time.
Others argue that immigrants do not compete with natives. Rather, they
perform work Americans avoid, playing a complementary role that spurs the
Any way the issue is examined, immigration is probably not the biggest
problem facing America's least fortunate workers. And some observers believe
the enforcement of immigration laws is a more important matter than the
Bogus papers prevalent
Employers will never admit it publicly, but everyone knows construction
companies and restaurants are full of people with bogus papers. Veterans of
the construction industry guessed that three of every 10 workers are illegal
"Who do you think built the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field?" asked Rob
McReynolds of D&D Roofing in Colorado. A big chunk of the workers probably
were illegal, he said.
McReynolds heads to Mexico to pick up at least a couple dozen workers every
year - legally - taking advantage of the H2B visa program, he said. The
temporary laborers, he added, are paid $11 an hour to start.
But illegal laborers are common in construction, and they earn less.
Don Hanneman of Castle Rock Construction is concerned about younger
generations' lack of interest in construction and other kinds of
"Not a lot of guys want to be doing what we're doing," said Hanneman, whose
company does highway work, including paving. "For many years, we've been
preaching 'Go to college.' This adds up to a lack of a labor force in
construction. And we're dependent on our cousins to the south to take care
The flip side of the argument is Americans would do the tough jobs if they
came with respectable pay.
Hanneman doesn't buy it.
"Rome conquered countries because they needed labor," he said. "Romans
didn't want to get their togas dirty.
"Let's face reality," he added, "neither do we."
Hanneman said a labor shortage and the flurry of activity in construction -
from Stapleton to the Fitzsimons redevelopment in Aurora to the massive face
lift under way in Vail - actually keep wages up.
He said the typical raise for his workers was 4 percent to 4.5 percent last
year. That's not bad, considering prices in the Denver, Boulder and Greeley
area rose 2.1 percent.
The documented Mexican workers may settle for less, but Hanneman says he's
obligated by law to pay the going rate. The average laborer now makes about
$14 an hour, he said. By contrast, the minimum hourly wage in Colorado is
Jim Gleason, of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners in
Colorado, estimated 60 percent of people in carpentry, drywall and concrete
framing are immigrants, and a large percentage of them - possibly half - are
in the state illegally.
Wages in his industry, he said, have suffered as employers face pressure to
keep costs low and turn to cheaper nonunion labor and illegal immigrants.
And wages, he said, do not tell the whole story because an increase in pay
may come at the expense of benefits.
"It's greed on the part of developers," he said, "especially in housing,
where there are billions of dollars in profits to be made and they want to
sell a house cheap."
Unions have declined sharply. Unionized workers in his sector have gone from
nearly 70 percent of the employee base at the peak to 10 percent today, he
The carpenters union, Gleason said, has shifted its strategy. It now aims to
recruit immigrants, though he added that persuading them to sign up has been
difficult because many are afraid of being caught.
Bruce Miller, head of Denver Drywall, said wages for his workers have
climbed by at least 3 percent annually in recent years, but he acknowledged
that continuing to boost pay is a challenge. Competitors exploiting
inexpensive Mexican labor are able to submit lower bids, he said, putting
pressure on everyone else.
"We know what the cost of materials is," he said. "They are paying the same
for that. They may even have to pay more because we are bigger. So when they
start beating me by too much, what does that tell you?"
No one disputes the idea that the immigrant stream can lower wages.
"It defies reason to think that it wouldn't," said Mike McGarry, director of
the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform, a group that has supported
tougher enforcement of immigration laws.
Bart Conway, a carpenter by training who visited an employment center
recently in pursuit of work, has had a bunch of jobs, including a furniture
repair gig, and has seen the negative effect of immigration.
Still, he said other trends have played equal roles in squeezing the average
worker. Conway lost a job driving a forklift at a warehouse once when the
employer turned to automation to save money.
"At least none of my jobs have gone to India," he said. "I know a lot of
people who had that problem."
A high-low split
Some say the wage drop due to immigration is barely perceptible. Giovanni
Peri at the University of California, Davis, analyzed immigration from 1990
to 2004 and concluded high-school dropouts' wages were only 1 percent to 2
percent lower than what they would have been otherwise.
Educated workers see their earnings climb modestly because of immigration,
"Some workers gain and others lose," he wrote in a recent report. "However,
the aggregate effect of immigration on wages is positive."
He suggested that the skills immigrants possess and the occupations they
seek complement those of the native-born. Less-educated workers from Mexico
and Central America often take agriculture jobs or become gardeners, nannies
and janitors, he said, while natives wind up in areas such as manufacturing
Within an industry, an immigrant is more likely to have a low salary and a
menial job, and a U.S. worker often is a manager with a higher salary, he
said. So the average wage in sectors such as construction or farming may not
reflect the rosier reality for some native employees.
Transfer of wealth
Fox, the restaurant owner who is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., noted at some
point the burden of higher expenses is passed on to patrons. For instance,
plastic "to-go" containers that used to cost 22 cents each are now 35 cents.
It may seem slight, but it adds up and eventually may hit customers.
The same is true of labor. Without the Mexicans in his kitchens - here
legally, he said - wages would rise, and so would the price of his pasta.
The lack of cheap help also might make it less appealing to grow. Fox has 19
restaurants and hinted he is exploring a couple of new places in Colorado,
which would mean demand for more workers.
Not everyone can stomach the concept that immigration sparks the economy and
that higher returns generate expansion.
McGarry of the immigration reform group sees it as "a transfer of wealth out
of the hands of workers into the hands of employers."
The economist Borjas said in a recent commentary that lower wages do not
mean a "net loss" for the economy. There are clear benefits. Wage decreases
translate into higher profits and lower prices as part of a "redistribution"
of wealth, he said.
"Whether or not such transfers are desirable is one of the central questions
in the immigration debate," he said.
Higher wages in the short run might sound nice, but think about the economy
without millions of immigrants, said Lee Driscoll, CEO of Wynkoop Holdings.
The company runs the restaurants that are partly owned by Denver Mayor John
Hickenlooper and held in a blind trust.
"If we double the wages, then you gotta double the cost of food," he said.
"Then people don't go out to eat, and restaurants fail, and you end up with
And then paychecks shrink again, Driscoll said.
Wynkoop is living an economic scenario that differs from almost every other
player in the industry.
A former dishwasher at one of Hickenlooper's restaurants, the Cherry
Cricket, is accused of killing a Denver police officer last year. Facing
criticism, Wynkoop changed its hiring practices and started verifying the
Social Security numbers of applicants before hiring them, going above and
beyond what is required, he said.
However, his rivals still lure lots of illegal workers, he said, because
it's so easy to get away with it while doing what the law demands. The fact
that employers can "blissfully go along" relying on illegal immigrants is a
"sham," he said.
Driscoll said now he cannot find enough reliable workers, and overtime costs
for existing employees have risen by $1,000 a week.
Need for training
While immigration has been debated fiercely, the issue is not the most
important one in talking about the economy and wages.
Ledy Garcia-Eckstein, senior policy analyst with the Denver Office of
Economic Development, said she believes "the economy is bifurcating into
high-skill, highly paid jobs and low-skill, low wage jobs."
Most of the fastest-growing occupations in the coming years will require
training and education beyond high school, she noted.
Low graduation rates could mean fewer people will be equipped to get the
good jobs, leaving more to compete for the bad ones.
Marshall, the job seeker in Denver, harbors no bitterness about illegal
immigrants. He said the focus should be less on Mexicans and more on
"The major problem in this country is we don't have the training," Marshall
The economic impact
• An increase in cheaper immigrant labor translates into higher profits for
businesses and lower prices for consumers, economists note.
• But it can drive down wages for poorly educated and low-skilled U.S.-born
workers. Immigrants are willing to work for less.
• Other factors can hurt the least fortunate, including manufacturing jobs
moving offshore, a decline of unions and a host of new technologies -
leading businesses to put a premium on higher skills and education.
• A shrinking immigrant work force could lead to more employers scaling
back, closing or moving somewhere else, observers say.
• The people who suffer the most from the influx of new illegal immigrants?
Probably the group of immigrants already here, says economist Giovanni Peri.
• Illegal immigrants have contributed and drained resources, paying taxes
and spending on goods and services while benefiting from taxpayer-funded
• What: U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., will hold a Senate field hearing on
the potential economic impacts of national immigration legislation on state
and local governments.
• When: 2:30 p.m. Wednesday
• Where: Aurora City Council Chambers, 1515 E. Alameda Parkway, Aurora
Coming next week
• Monday: The costs of health care for illegal immigrants
• Tuesday: The debate over children of illegal immigrants, known as "anchor
• Wednesday: The options for immigration reform in Congress
By the numbers
30% of construction workers are illegal immigrants, industry veterans
$12.29 an hour : The state's median wage in 2005 for a construction laborer,
according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment
$34.06 The median hourly wage for a construction manager
225,000 to 275,000 : The estimated number of illegal immigrants in Colorado,
close to the numbers for Virginia, Maryland and Washington state, according
to the Pew Hispanic Center.
No. 8 Colorado's rank in the country in adding to its foreign-born
population, according to an analysis by the Piton Foundation in Denver
patonj@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-2544
Los Angeles Times
GOP Sends Mixed Messages on Immigration
Candidates talk tough about enforcement, but the White House, in an effort
to lure Latino voters, says it's time to discuss reform.
By Maura Reynolds
Times Staff Writer
August 27, 2006
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration's announcement last week that
stepped-up enforcement appears to be slowing illegal immigration was
designed to send a message: The nation's borders are becoming more secure
and it's time to talk about broad immigration reform.
That would appear to contradict the message coming from many Republicans on
the campaign trail: The border is dangerously porous and talk of reform is
But it is less of a contradiction than meets the eye. While Republican
candidates are trying to hang on to their congressional majority by
trumpeting the need for border security, the White House is laying the
groundwork for a longer battle over immigration with an eye on capturing the
Republican Party leaders have the task of balancing the party's conflicting
short-term and long-term goals on immigration.
In the short term, many if not most congressional Republicans are taking a
hard-line approach. In some districts, that means denouncing proposals for a
guest worker program or legalization of some immigrants as amnesty.
"What you are seeing on the House side is uniform agreement on 'border
security first,' " said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican
Congressional Committee. "Where they go beyond that is up to the
individual…. This is district by district. Each race is local."
But strategists at the Republican National Committee and in the White House
are concerned that some of the tough rhetoric could give voters the
impression that Republicans are anti-immigrant. And that's a long-term
danger for the party, because its leaders are convinced that Latino voters
are the key to turning the GOP into the country's dominant party.
"You always have self-serving politicians who are focused on one thing —
getting elected or reelected — and they put rhetoric ahead of what's good
for the country," said Allen Weh, chairman of the Republican Party of New
Mexico, where the GOP has been battling to increase party registration.
"We're going to have some collateral damage from this rhetoric, no doubt
about it," Weh said.
As a voter group, Latinos hold tremendous appeal for Republicans. First and
foremost, they are the fastest-growing segment of the population.
Republicans also believe that despite Latinos' traditional loyalty to the
Democratic Party, they have a chance to make significant inroads by
emphasizing issues other than identity politics.
For instance, party leaders think the Republicans' socially conservative
positions on issues such as abortion and gay marriage will resonate with
Latino Catholics, as well as with the swelling number of evangelical
Protestants. Messages such as self-reliance and low taxes can be made to
appeal to the many Latinos who are small-business owners.
On immigration, the party is essentially trying to send two messages at
"We are a nation of immigrants, and we are a nation of laws," Republican
National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman said this summer in a speech to a
conference of Latino officials. "We must forge a new way, a solution that
recognizes these two essential concepts."
Whether a double-barreled message will resonate with voters remains to be
seen. But many House Republicans aren't willing to take chances on a
long-term strategy at the expense of losing control of Congress in the short
"We have to solve our short-term problem before we solve our long-term
problem," said a senior Republican leadership aide, who would discuss
internal party strategy only on condition of anonymity.
House Republicans are using their summer recess to hold a series of events
around the country designed to drum up support for their "enforcement first"
approach to immigration.
That was the central idea behind a Republican-written bill, passed last
year, that raised illegal border crossing from a misdemeanor to a felony.
That proposal sparked nationwide street protests by Latinos, who carried
signs saying, "We Are Not Criminals."
Democrats who are working to prevent Republican gains among Latinos say that
the administration's attempt to send two messages at once caught up with
them last spring.
Joe Garcia, who works on Latino issues for the New Democrat Network, said
that before the street protests the administration had been courting Latino
voters while simultaneously encouraging right-wing radio hosts to beat the
drums over border security, raising fears of terrorists and foreigners
flooding into the country from Mexico.
"This is an issue that plays to the xenophobic base," Garcia said. "For a
long time, [the president] was able to conduct two separate campaigns. The
problem is that the two of them met."
It's conventional wisdom in Washington that little is expected to happen on
immigration legislation before the election in November, which allows
candidates maximum leeway to run against whatever version of immigration
reform works best in their districts.
But some GOP House leaders are weighing whether it would help candidates if
they were to pass a modified immigration reform proposal before the
election. Under discussion is a two-stage bill: first, border security, and
second, some form of guest worker program "triggered" by certification of
improvements in border security.
"We can do it in phases," the House Republican aide said, noting the goal
would be to act before the election. "I wouldn't rule that out."
Garcia said too much damage had been done to the Republican Party's image
among Latinos. A poll conducted recently for his group showed that support
for the president and the GOP had fallen dramatically since the 2004
"How do you call a certain group 'criminals' and then turn around and offer
an olive branch?" Garcia said.
However the congressional election turns out, the long-term strategists are
unlikely to give up on their goal of sending more Republican Party
membership cards to Latinos.
And toward that end, they hope to move the discussion, at least
incrementally, toward the next stage: Now that the borders are tight, what
is to be done about the millions already here?
"I don't expect every Hispanic to wake up tomorrow and suddenly realize he
is a Republican," Mehlman said in his speech this summer. "But I do hope we
can come together as a nation to talk about immigration — without the angry
Border chase tactics questioned
Kin of immigrants in fatal crash upset with U.S. bid to stop influx
Daniel Gonzalez and Susan Carroll
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 25, 2006 12:00 AM
Soledad Gomez and her son Victor Hugo Olivos shuffle daily from room to room
at Banner Good Samaritan Hospital in Phoenix, bleary-eyed from crying and
lack of sleep.
In intensive care they visit Luis, Soledad's son and Victor Hugo's brother.
Luis, 30, remains comatose with multiple head injuries and broken bones. In
the surgical unit they see Luis' wife, Teresa, 21, who still doesn't
remember who she is. Finally, they visit Luis and Teresa's baby girl, born
three months premature.
The three were among the passengers packed like cordwood into a Chevy
Suburban loaded with undocumented immigrants that rolled four times on Aug.
7 near Yuma after the driver tried to elude authorities.
Eleven died, including an unborn fetus, and 10 were injured, making it among
the deadliest vehicle crashes involving undocumented immigrants. U.S.
authorities say the driver sped up to evade the Border Patrol and crashed
after he swerved to avoid spike sticks on the road. A federal grand jury
indicted the driver on felony charges, U.S. officials announced Thursday.
The wreck has renewed controversy over the Border Patrol's pursuit policy,
assailed by agents and union members for giving smugglers an advantage and
by human rights activists for being dangerous.
Relatives of the crash victims are questioning the Border Patrol's tactics
and say the SUV could have been stopped without a chase. But preliminary
results from an investigation into the incident found proper procedures were
The Yuma crash also prompted a coalition of human rights groups to send a
letter this week to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael
Chertoff asking for the Border Patrol to suspend "hot" pursuits pending a
review of its policy. Meanwhile, government officials and family members
continue to work to get the dead back home and the injured connected with
Stopping the smuggler
The U.S. attorney for Arizona said that a federal grand jury has indicted
the driver, Adan Pineda-Doval, 20, an undocumented immigrant from Michoacan,
Mexico, with 11 felony counts of transportation of undocumented immigrants
resulting in death and transportation of undocumented immigrants, placing
lives in jeopardy. Pineda-Doval, in federal custody, faces life in prison or
the death penalty if convicted.
But Soledad and Victor Hugo don't blame the driver. Nor do they blame Luis
or any of the migrants who crossed the border illegally. They believe the
Border Patrol's tactics are at fault.
"This is an injustice," Victor Hugo said at the hospital. "Why did they use
spikes to stop them? These were human beings, not armed criminals. . . .
They could have followed the vehicle until it ran out of gas," he said.
Border Patrol agents from the El Centro sector, west of Yuma, were manning a
checkpoint in northern Yuma County when they spotted the Suburban using back
roads, officials said. The El Centro sector was helping out in Yuma as part
of the Arizona Border Control Initiative, designed to slow the massive
influx of illegal immigration through the state.
On the morning of the crash, according to Yuma County Sheriff's Office
investigators' reports, the white Suburban passed through a very steep,
hilly area along Martinez Lake Road in northern Yuma County. The stretch of
road has sharp ups and downs that local police call the "whoop-dee-dos."
The loaded Suburban, with the Border Patrol vehicle behind it, made it
though the hills at an estimated speed of about 45 mph, said Capt. Eben
Bratcher, a Yuma County Sheriff's Office spokesman. However, the driver
"punched it" as soon as he hit an open stretch.
Up ahead, agents had laid out a spike strip to deflate the tires, according
to reports. Bratcher said the driver lost control trying to avoid the spike
strip. He added that at least one wheel hit the spikes. Preliminary speed
estimates put the Suburban at about 80 mph.
Lloyd Frers, a spokesman for the El Centro sector of the Border Patrol, said
the spike strips are "specifically designed to safely deflate a tire."
Bratcher said he believes the Border Patrol deployed the strips properly.
"I absolutely, 100 percent believe the spike strips were used in a safe
manner," he said. "The driver saw them, quite obviously, and still crashed
because he was still trying to break the law and get away."
The Border Patrol's actions are not part of the investigation, Bratcher
said. He said investigators do not have a speed estimate for the agents
behind the Suburban because they were not involved in the collision. The
accident remains under investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement
The Border Patrol's pursuit policy has been dogged by controversy for years.
It states that agents are not allowed to engage in "hot pursuit," officials
said. So if a smuggler breaks a traffic law, such as driving into oncoming
traffic, the agent must discontinue the pursuit, according to the policy.
But agents are permitted to put out spike strips, used by law enforcement to
stop speeding vehicles, as long as they are ahead of the vehicle and follow
safety guidelines, officials said.
"Our policy ensures that we ensure the safety of not only our agents but of
the general public," said Gus Soto, a Border Patrol spokesman. "If the
vehicle that we are trying to pull over acts in a method that will
jeopardize the safety of others, we will back off. We will terminate the
The inability to pursue dangerous drivers has angered some agents, who feel
hamstrung as smugglers speed ahead.
T.J. Bonner, head of the National Border Patrol Council, the union for the
nation's rank-and-file agents, opposes the policy, in effect since 1992.
"It's ridiculous. It encourages people to break laws," he said. "Smugglers
know what the policy is. When they see an agent, they punch the accelerator
. . . and create a dangerous situation on the highway."
Bonner said the policy took effect in response to a wreck outside of
Temecula,Calif., in 1992 that killed six people near a school zone.
Growing numbers of law enforcement agencies in Arizona and nationwide in
recent years have restricted pursuits to safeguard the public from
unintended car crashes and deaths. Phoenix police, for example, no longer
chase fleeing drivers unless the person is wanted for a violent crime.
The Border Human Rights Working Group said in the letter to Chertoff that
smugglers risk their lives and the lives of human cargo to avoid stiff new
criminal penalties against smugglers.
"Under these well-known circumstances, hot-pursuit cases by the Border
Patrol are a recipe for death, injury and the destruction of property," the
Six of the 10 injured passengers were transported to Good Samaritan. One
later died. The hospital takes reasonable action to collect bills from
uninsured patients but it may have to absorb some or all of the costs, said
Bill Byron, the hospital system's director of public relations. It's
possible the hospital will apply for some costs under a recent federal law
that reimburses border hospitals for emergency care to the undocumented, he
Soledad and Victor Hugo, from Michoacan, said the family doesn't have the
money to pay the hospital bills.
Luis, who was trying to get to Phoenix in hopes of getting a gardening job,
remains attached to a respirator, family members said. The crash caused
multiple fractures in his cranium and face. It broke his lower left leg and
snapped the tendon on his right knee. It sheared the flesh on his left arm
down to the veins and ripped open the left side of his chest "like he was
clawed by a tiger."
Teresa, meanwhile, has taken a few steps but has trouble keeping balance.
She still can't speak. She was 6 1/2 months pregnant the day of the
As soon as they are stable, doctors plan to send Luis and Teresa back to
Mexico, Soledad and Victor Hugo said. They don't know who will raise the
healthy baby girl, born by Caesarean section. The grandparents named her
Maria Soledad de los Milagros, or Maria Soledad of the Miracles, "because it
is a miracle that the three of them survived," Soledad said.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Aug. 24, 2006, 2:52PM
Border agents make zero-tolerance zone
By ALICIA A. CALDWELL Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press
DEL RIO, Texas — Standing in a cramped federal courtroom last month, illegal
immigrant Walter Oscar Portillo-Machado pleaded with a judge for mercy. But
he came to the wrong place for that.
The Salvadoran man was caught along a 210-mile stretch of the Texas-Mexico
border that has been set up as zero-tolerance zone for illegal immigration.
Instead of merely getting sent back home, immigrants here are arrested,
prosecuted, and sometimes sentenced to prison before they are formally
kicked out of the country.
The effort began late last year along a border area that includes the Rio
Grande border towns of Del Rio and Eagle Pass. It has been hailed by federal
officials as a creative use of local and federal resources to tighten the
While other border sectors avoided strict enforcement because they did not
have enough jail space or prosecutors, authorities in the Del Rio area found
bed space elsewhere in the region, assigned federal agents to help prosecute
cases and began running illegal immigrants through a courtroom at a rate of
one case per minute.
Immigration advocates have criticized the practice, saying it only moves the
problem elsewhere along the border and may sacrifice civil liberties for the
sake of efficiency.
"There's nothing we're doing that wasn't already on the books," said Hilario
Leal Jr., a supervisory Border Patrol agent in the Del Rio sector. "It's
nothing new. We just started enforcing the law."
The Del Rio sector also ended the widespread practice of "catch-and-release"
that freed most non-Mexican immigrants with a piece of paper ordering them
to show up in federal immigration court a month later _ and almost no one
Most Mexican citizens with no criminal record who cross outside the Del Rio
sector are still escorted back shortly after their arrest. Those from other
countries are held in a detention center _ not as criminals serving time _
while the paperwork is being completed to return them to their home
But in the Del Rio sector, every adult illegal immigrant, regardless of
their home country, is criminally prosecuted and removed from the country
after they have served his sentence.
"They know if they come (to Del Rio) they are going home, they are going to
jail," Leal said.
Before the effort began, illegal immigrants came across the river near Del
Rio in droves, with Central and South American citizens often surrendering
to agents because they knew they would be let go _ after receiving food,
water, medical care and sometimes a ride to a bus station, along with their
notice to appear in court.
In recent years, the situation had become so hectic that Del Rio sector
agents were lucky if they patrolled the border for two hours during an eight
or 10-hour shift, Agent Cynthia Bilyk said. The rest of their time was spent
processing the immigrants.
Agents in the sector were averaging about 500 arrests a day, Leal said. Now
there are fewer than 100 daily arrests, and the reforms are credited with
reducing arrests by about 29 percent so far this fiscal year.
While the changes have curbed arrests, freed up agents and other resources,
they have not slowed the traffic at the federal courthouse.
The day Portillo-Machado stood shackled and handcuffed in the courtroom, he
was surrounded by more than 30 defendants facing the same charge. The judge
handled about one guilty plea a minute.
When his name was called, Portillo-Machado said "Cupable," which means
guilty in Spanish. He then asked the judge for forgiveness and was later
sentenced to 120 days in jail.
Court staff said the day's docket was light in comparison with the average
crowd of would-be immigrants that often overflows the courtroom.
Magistrate Judge Dennis Green said the cases are heard quickly, but each
defendant meets with a court-appointed lawyer before going to court. If
there is any question about an immigrant's potential defense, that person's
case is heard separately, the judge said.
The federal court's two Del Rio magistrate judges are hearing about 2,100
cases a month. Their counterparts farther from the border in West Texas are
averaging about 140.
Opponents say the process just pushes the problem to other sectors.
"The border is like a balloon," said El Paso immigration lawyer Felipe D.J.
Millan. "If it expands in one area, guess what? It still comes in from
Millan also worries that the reforms in the Del Rio sector and a similar
plan in southern New Mexico are simply backdoor efforts to criminalize
"It's a wasted resource," Millan said. "It's a way of criminalizing someone
who just wants to come here and work."
Christian Science Monitor
August 28, 2006 - http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0828/p17s02-cogn.html
Numbers show a second-rate US
By David R. Francis
The United States is the world's only military superpower and has the
globe's largest economy. Yet, by some measures, the US is a second-rate
industrial nation - at best.
"Compared to other advanced economies, our market-driven model yields highly
varied results regarding the living standards of our citizens," notes a
study by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a nonpartisan think tank in
It's an open question as to whether most Americans are better off than most
"We leave a lot of people behind," says Sylvia Allegretto, an economist at
"We are a dynamic economy," says Timothy Smeeding, an economist at Syracuse
(N.Y.) University. "A lot of people are doing well," he adds. But for those
with median incomes ($40,000 a year) or less, it is a "second-rate" economy.
They "are not getting much help."
Many Americans - self-confident and rightfully proud of their nation's
economic accomplishments - don't believe that other rich nations beat out
the US in a number of areas. But statistics say that's the case.
In terms of the percent of its population living at or below the poverty
line, for instance, the US ranks worst among 16 wealthy countries, according
to the Luxembourg Income Study. That study found that 17 percent of
Americans are poor. As for child poverty, the US also sits on the bottom,
with 21.9 percent.
Finland has the lowest overall poverty rate, with 5.4 percent.
On Tuesday, the US Census Bureau is scheduled to release data indicating
whether poverty last year increased for the fifth year in a row. The
official US poverty rate in 2004 was 12.7 percent - that's 37 million
"Many would argue that it isn't how well off the affluent are in a society
that matters most of all," the EPI study says, "but how the most vulnerable
Christopher Ruhm, an economist at the University of North Carolina,
Greensboro, attributes the relatively poor performance of the US in many
social areas to a matter of choice.
His research finds that many rich nations are "more family friendly." For
instance, most West European governments (not employers) provide six months
or more of paid leave from jobs for mothers after childbirth.
Among the choices the US makes: It spends more than all other nations
combined on defense. It spends relatively little on alleviating poverty. It
chooses a private health system rather than a socialized, or partly
"The idea that we have the perfect economic model is erroneous," says Ms.
Allegretto. "We could learn something from these more interventionist
Americans, with their faith in free markets, have their government intervene
in the economy less than do Europeans. Nonetheless, the US still has what
economists term a "mixed economy" - a free market, plus some government
intervention. US economic intervention tends to favor business more than the
Some other comparisons:
• The US has about the same or worse income mobility between generations.
The poor have a slim chance of escaping their parents' poverty, says
• The US has an educational system that is "not terribly great," says
Smeeding. International tests indicate that the "outcomes" for US students
are about average for rich nations.
"Our smartest kids do as well as smartest kids anywhere," he says. But
that's not the case for low-income families. The odds of their children
entering or graduating from college are not good.
• The US spends more on healthcare per capita than any other rich nation.
Americans with adequate health insurance get good health care. But about 16
percent of Americans have no insurance.
For all that spending, the life expectancy in America shares with Denmark
the bottom ranking out of 16 wealthy countries. Denmark spends about half as
much per capita as the US does.
The usual comeback to such comparisons is that the US has a marvelous
job-creation economy. But the EPI study find this claim "exaggerated." US
job growth since 2000 has been "lackluster" and "far worse" than several
other well-to-do nations belonging to the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development.
"Countries should not assume that the highly deregulated, high-inequality US
model is the most successful economic model," concludes the study. Nations
with less inequality and more regulated markets have "impressive" economies.
Citizens in these countries "have a deep respect for the role of the
government in their lives," the study notes. "They look at the US model with
a more jaundiced view than policymakers touting the US model."
How America stacks up
Here are a few ways the US compares with other members of the Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group of rich industrial
Military spending: US is No. 1 (by far)
Income per capita: No. 2 (Oil-rich Norway is No. 1)
Poverty (proportion of people living at or below poverty line): Worst
Productivity (per hour): No. 5 (2004)
Annual weeks worked: Most
Unemployment rate: No. 5
Source: Economic Policy Institute, 2006.
New York Times
August 28, 2006
Real Wages Fail to Match a Rise in Productivity
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE and DAVID LEONHARDT
With the economy beginning to slow, the current expansion has a chance to
become the first sustained period of economic growth since World War II that
fails to offer a prolonged increase in real wages for most workers.
That situation is adding to fears among Republicans that the economy will
hurt vulnerable incumbents in this year’s midterm elections even though
overall growth has been healthy for much of the last five years.
The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since
2003, after factoring in inflation. The drop has been especially notable,
economists say, because productivity — the amount that an average worker
produces in an hour and the basic wellspring of a nation’s living
standards — has risen steadily over the same period.
As a result, wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation’s
gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in
1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the
1960’s. UBS, the investment bank, recently described the current period as
“the golden era of profitability.”
Until the last year, stagnating wages were somewhat offset by the rising
value of benefits, especially health insurance, which caused overall
compensation for most Americans to continue increasing. Since last summer,
however, the value of workers’ benefits has also failed to keep pace with
inflation, according to government data.
At the very top of the income spectrum, many workers have continued to
receive raises that outpace inflation, and the gains have been large enough
to keep average income and consumer spending rising.
In a speech on Friday, Ben S. Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chairman, did
not specifically discuss wages, but he warned that the unequal distribution
of the economy’s spoils could derail the trade liberalization of recent
decades. Because recent economic changes “threaten the livelihoods of some
workers and the profits of some firms,” Mr. Bernanke said, policy makers
must try “to ensure that the benefits of global economic integration are
sufficiently widely shared.”
Political analysts are divided over how much the wage trends will help
Democrats this fall in their effort to take control of the House and, in a
bigger stretch, the Senate. Some see parallels to watershed political years
like 1980, 1992 and 1994, when wage growth fell behind inflation, party
alignments shifted and dozens of incumbents were thrown out of office.
“It’s a dangerous time for any party to have control of the federal
government — the presidency, the Senate and the House,” said Charles Cook,
who publishes a nonpartisan political newsletter. “It all feeds into ‘it’s a
time for a change’ sentiment. It’s a highly combustible mixture.”
But others say that war in Iraq and terrorism, not the economy, will
dominate the campaign and that Democrats have yet to offer an economic
vision that appeals to voters.
“National economic policies are more clearly in focus in presidential
campaigns,” said Richard T. Curtin, director of the University of Michigan’s
consumer surveys. “When you’re electing your local House members, you don’t
debate that on those issues as much.”
Moreover, polls show that Americans are less dissatisfied with the economy
than they were in the early 1980’s or early 90’s. Rising house and stock
values have lifted the net worth of many families over the last few years,
and interest rates remain fairly low.
But polls show that Americans disapprove of President Bush’s handling of the
economy by wide margins and that anxiety about the future is growing.
Earlier this month, the University of Michigan reported that consumer
confidence had fallen sharply in recent months, with people’s expectations
for the future now as downbeat as they were in 1992 and 1993, when the job
market had not yet recovered from a recession.
“Some people who aren’t partisans say, ‘Yes, the economy’s pretty good, so
why are people so agitated and anxious?’ ” said Frank Luntz, a Republican
campaign consultant. “The answer is they don’t feel it in their weekly
But Mr. Luntz predicted that the economic mood would not do significant
damage to Republicans this fall because voters blamed corporate America, not
the government, for their problems.
Economists offer various reasons for the stagnation of wages. Although the
economy continues to add jobs, global trade, immigration, layoffs and
technology — as well as the insecurity caused by them — appear to have
eroded workers’ bargaining power.
Trade unions are much weaker than they once were, while the buying power of
the minimum wage is at a 50-year low. And health care is far more expensive
than it was a decade ago, causing companies to spend more on benefits at the
expense of wages.
Together, these forces have caused a growing share of the economy to go to
companies instead of workers’ paychecks. In the first quarter of 2006, wages
and salaries represented 45 percent of gross domestic product, down from
almost 50 percent in the first quarter of 2001 and a record 53.6 percent in
the first quarter of 1970, according to the Commerce Department. Each
percentage point now equals about $132 billion.
Total employee compensation — wages plus benefits — has fared a little
better. Its share was briefly lower than its current level of 56.1 percent
in the mid-1990’s and otherwise has not been so low since 1966.
Over the last year, the value of employee benefits has risen only 3.4
percent, while inflation has exceeded 4 percent, according to the Labor
In Europe and Japan, the profit share of economic output is also at or near
record levels, noted Larry Hatheway, chief economist for UBS Investment
Bank, who said that this highlighted the pressures of globalization on
wages. Many Americans, be they apparel workers or software programmers, are
facing more comptition from China and India.
In another recent report on the boom in profits, economists at Goldman Sachs
wrote, “The most important contributor to higher profit margins over the
past five years has been a decline in labor’s share of national income.” Low
interest rates and the moderate cost of capital goods, like computers, have
also played a role, though economists note that an economic slowdown could
hurt profits in coming months.
For most of the last century, wages and productivity — the key measure of
the economy’s efficiency — have risen together, increasing rapidly through
the 1950’s and 60’s and far more slowly in the 1970’s and 80’s.
But in recent years, the productivity gains have continued while the pay
increases have not kept up. Worker productivity rose 16.6 percent from 2000
to 2005, while total compensation for the median worker rose 7.2 percent,
according to Labor Department statistics analyzed by the Economic Policy
Institute, a liberal research group. Benefits accounted for most of the
“If I had to sum it up,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior economist at the
institute, “it comes down to bargaining power and the lack of ability of
many in the work force to claim their fair share of growth.”
Nominal wages have accelerated in the last year, but the spike in oil costs
has eaten up the gains. Now the job market appears to be weakening, after a
protracted series of interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve.
Unless these trends reverse, the current expansion may lack even an extended
period of modest wage growth like one that occurred in the mid-1980’s.
The most recent recession ended in late 2001. Hourly wages continued to rise
in 2002 and peaked in early 2003, largely on the lingering strength of the
Average family income, adjusted for inflation, has continued to advance at a
good clip, a fact Mr. Bush has cited when speaking about the economy. But
these gains are a result mainly of increases at the top of the income
spectrum that pull up the overall numbers. Even for workers at the 90th
percentile of earners — making about $80,000 a year — inflation has outpaced
their pay increases over the last three years, according to the Labor
“There are two economies out there,” Mr. Cook, the political analyst, said.
“One has been just white hot, going great guns. Those are the people who
have benefited from globalization, technology, greater productivity and
higher corporate earnings.
“And then there’s the working stiffs,’’ he added, “who just don’t feel like
they’re getting ahead despite the fact that they’re working very hard. And
there are a lot more people in that group than the other group.”
In 2004, the top 1 percent of earners — a group that includes many chief
executives — received 11.2 percent of all wage income, up from 8.7 percent a
decade earlier and less than 6 percent three decades ago, according to
Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, economists who analyzed the tax data.
With the midterm campaign expected to heat up after Labor Day, Democrats are
saying that they will help workers by making health care more affordable and
lifting the minimum wage. Democrats have criticized Republicans for passing
tax cuts mainly benefiting high-income families at a time when most families
are failing to keep up.
Republicans counter that the tax cuts passed during Mr. Bush’s first term
helped lifted the economy out of recession. Unless the cuts are extended, a
move many Democrats oppose, the economy will suffer, and so will wages,
But in a sign that Republicans may be growing concerned about the public’s
mood, the new Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., adopted a somewhat
different tone from Mr. Bush in his first major speech, delivered early this
“Many aren’t seeing significant increases in their take-home pay,” Mr.
Paulson said. “Their increases in wages are being eaten up by high energy
prices and rising health care costs, among others.”
At the same time, he said that the Bush administration was not responsible
for the situation, pointing out that inequality had been increasing for many
years. “It is neither fair nor useful,” Mr. Paulson said, “to blame any
New York Times
August 27, 2006
Here Illegally, Guatemalans Are Prime Targets of Crime
By RIKI ALTMAN and TERRY AGUAYO
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., Aug. 21 — It took Esteban Velásquez a year to save
enough money to buy a gold chain he had always wanted. But last summer, as
Mr. Velásquez, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, walked to a convenience
store with a friend, a man punched him in the face and ran off with the $400
piece of jewelry.
Robberies of illegal immigrants have become a serious problem here in recent
years, and the victims, mostly from Guatemala, often avoid reporting the
crimes, fearing deportation.
“I was afraid,” said Mr. Velásquez, 25, a landscaper who arrived here six
He reported the crime but later tried to hide from the authorities to avoid
appearing in court. “But then I thought, whether I’m documented or not, I
still have my rights,” he said.
With such crimes on the rise — they are common enough to have a chilling
street name, “Guat-bashing” — the Guatemalan-Maya Center in Lake Worth,
Fla., and the Guatemalan Consulate in Miami, along with local law
enforcement agencies, religious groups and banks, are working to help
illegal immigrants from Guatemala protect themselves.
Predators know that Guatemalans often carry cash in their shoes or underwear
because they do not trust banks, police officials said, and that if they are
in the United States illegally, they often lack the documentation needed to
open accounts. They are frequently attacked on Friday nights, the police
said, after they have cashed their paychecks.
“They’re being preyed upon because they’re easy victims,” said Capt. Mary
Olsen of the West Palm Beach Police Department. “They don’t fight back. They
’re very modest people, and they’re afraid of the police.”
In February, the department assigned Freddy Naranjo, a police officer from
Ecuador, as a liaison between the police and the immigrant community. He has
become a familiar face in neighborhoods with high rates of crimes against
“The hardest part was trying to work with their trust,” Mr. Naranjo said.
“They didn’t trust the Police Department. The major thing is to come out and
report these crimes, not hold back.”
Another law enforcement official said that it was the responsibility of the
federal government, not the local police, to round up illegal immigrants,
and that local officials would report them only if they were charged with a
Between January and early August, Captain Olsen recorded 15 arrests
involving robberies of Guatemalans in West Palm Beach. Fernando Alvarez, a
community relations supervisor for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office,
estimated that more than 50 robberies of Guatemalans had been reported in
unincorporated parts of the county this year.
The figures probably do not reflect the actual number of attacks, law
enforcement officials said, since few illegal immigrants report the crimes.
Some victims have lost more than money in the attacks. In February, two men
shot and killed Osmar Bernardo, 26, who was walking home from a convenience
store in West Palm Beach. In December 2005, Eben Roblero, 21, was gunned
down while repairing his car in an alley behind an apartment complex. Both
of the victims were Guatemalans.
Even law enforcement officials have been accused of victimizing immigrants.
In recent years, a West Palm Beach police officer and a county sheriff’s
officer were arrested on charges of stealing money from immigrant
Immigrants from other Latin American and Caribbean countries, including
Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti, El Salvador and Mexico, are also frequent
targets in Palm Beach and neighboring counties.
Rosa Bardales, an illegal immigrant from Honduras, hesitated last year
before reporting a break-in at the two-bedroom duplex she shares with her
husband, baby daughter and two other people.
“I thought I could be deported and separated from my daughter,” Ms. Bardales
said. “I couldn’t begin to imagine what that would be like. But I left it to
Ms. Bardales, who makes $180 a week working on a construction cleanup crew,
was robbed of $300 in the break-in.
According to Census Bureau figures from 2005, Palm Beach County’s population
of 1.2 million people includes 18,002 Guatemalans, 37,377 Mexicans, 7,745
Hondurans, 2,386 Nicaraguans and 3,013 Salvadorans. Many are migrant
Benito Gaspar, a supervisor for the Guatemalan-Maya Center, said the actual
immigrant population was probably three to four times as large as that
because the census figures did not include many of the illegal immigrants.
Mr. Alvarez said the sheriff’s office had organized forums with other
organizations in West Palm Beach and Lake Worth where Guatemalans could
register for identification cards and passports from the Guatemalan
Consulate. The program started in 1998 but has gained momentum recently, he
To get an ID card from the consulate, immigrants must present a birth
certificate or a proof-of-residency card from Guatemala, said Beatriz
Illescas, the country’s consul general in Miami. The cards make it easier
for illegal immigrants to get jobs, rent apartments and open bank accounts.
Diane Wagner, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, said that in 2004 her
company began accepting Guatemalan passports and ID cards issued by the
consulate as forms of identification needed to open a savings or checking
And like the police in West Palm Beach, the county sheriff’s office is
increasing its presence in immigrant neighborhoods, giving lectures,
attending church and even hanging out in convenience stores and Laundromats
to spread the word that the police can be trusted.
“We want them to have a better place to stay,” Mr. Alvarez said. “We’re not
Outside his uncle’s modest rented home in West Palm Beach, Mr. Velásquez
said he avoided going outside and remained stunned that someone would grab
one of his few valuable possessions.
“We come here to work and we work very hard for little money,” he said.
“That’s why I felt so sad when I lost my chain. Who knows how long it will
take me to save for another one?”
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