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Sunday, June 27, 2004

Political Notebook: Readers respond to immigration stories North County Times - North San Diego and Southwest Riverside County News

Political Notebook: Readers respond to immigration stories North County Times - North San Diego and Southwest Riverside County News

Political Notebook: Readers respond to immigration stories

By: EDWARD SIFUENTES - Staff Writer

There are great, unanswered questions about what to do about illegal immigration in the United States: How do you keep out the hundreds of thousands who attempt to enter each year and what do you do about the millions who already are here?

The debate stirs strong passions. As the reporter charged with writing about immigration for this newspaper, I hear from many readers, through dozens of e-mails, phone calls and letters. It's not always flattering.

Several stories I have written about the recent rash of immigration sweeps in North County and farther north of the border have prompted more of these letters in recent weeks. Most are supportive of the sweeps carried out by the U.S. Border Patrol.


For example: "Sir, I think it's about time the Border Patrol started doing their job of finding illegal immigrants here in the United States and deporting back to where they came from. As a member of the U.S. military I find it completely unacceptable for people to break our laws and then complain when they get caught."

Some writers make good arguments, citing scholarly research in their letters, that illegal immigration taxes our social services, depresses wages and forces our working poor to compete for jobs with these people, though I doubt many of us, and none of the wealthy among us, are rushing to compete for seasonal, stoop labor and other low-paying jobs, as one writer suggests.

"American citizens and legal residents such as teenagers looking for their first job and the working poor are now unemployed or on welfare because entry level jobs are being taken by people who work for less than minimum wage and are willing to work for cash without benefits or paying taxes."

Another reader wrote: "Two decades of growth in the supply of immigrant workers cost native-born American men an average $1,700 in annual wages by the year 2000."

Other, nastier, unsubstantiated charges are made against the illegal immigrant population, among others: crime, racism and conspiracy to take over the Southwestern United States and claim it as Mexico.

Often these charges come with the prerequisite preamble: "Many of us are not xenophobic ... I am not against immigration."

This writer continues: "Mexicans have destroyed our health system. Mexicans have destroyed our school system. Mexicans have destroyed the natural balance of employment for the 18-23-year-old range. Mexicans are destroying our roads. ... Mexicans bring no value with them."

A popular target of such writers is Mexican President Vicente Fox, his "corrupt government" and the amorphous Mexican "elite classes." It's true that Latin American governments have fostered a very small group of very wealthy people ---- sometimes with a little help from the U.S. government ---- at the expense of the very poor.

"Just go to Coronado," one reader suggests. "Here in San Diego County and with a little research you will find a huge percentage of the luxury condos owned by the elite classes from Mexico and other Latin American countries who enjoy a posh lifestyle off the backs of their poor countrymen ... these luxury condominiums in Coronado are derisively called the 'taco towers.'"

Sometimes the arguments are venomous, unsigned diatribes. And sometimes they forget to how to spell.

"It's time to deport every last one of these invaders. They are leeches on the system and offer absolutely nothing to the community. They want nothing to do with America except her money. It's time we back the border patol and get rid of these third world scumbags."

Sometimes they are personal attacks.

"It would appear your roots have you subservient to the illegal mexican aliens here in this country. ... Please tender your resignation as a 'staff writer.'"

Another writer: "Thank you for being such a brilliant hispanic writer. ('Hispanic writer' means, as I'm sure a person of your educational accomplishments knows, someone who is being overpaid for substandard efforts in relating, in stilted English, the corrupt and discredited ideas of a racist and rapist Spanish conquering class in primitive aboriginal areas of South America which would eventually become known as 'Mexico', and in blaming it all on the descendants of caucasian European settlers who made the USA great in spite of the sucking demands of mestizo illegal aliens who are a parasitic presence in this country.)"

We are blessed to be able to call ourselves Americans. I spent three years in a U.S. Army uniform defending the people's right to such letters, and I am not sorry I did it.

However, I believe that members of the richest nation on Earth can expect some uninvited guests to try to live off the crumbs that fall from the banquet.

Contact staff writer Edward Sifuentes at (760) 740-5426 or esifuentes@nctimes.com.

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