Two boys, two worlds

No one knows how many illegal immigrants there are in Western North Carolina. Statewide, the total immigrant population is estimated to be just over 600,000; 50 to 65 percent of them are believed to be here illegally. Perhaps 80 percent of the state’s immigrants are Hispanic.

Trailers in disrepair at one migrant camp are rented for $450 a month. photos by Jonathan Welch

Traditionally, many immigrant workers have been absorbed into North Carolina’s agricultural sector; more recently, however, the state’s building boom has claimed many of these workers, who now account for some 29 percent of the construction labor force.

This story is about two of those workers. In this country illegally, they also perform illegal work: Both under the age of 16, they are nonetheless assigned tasks forbidden by child-labor regulations, such as roofing, using power tools, and being on ladders and scaffolding 10 feet or more from the ground.

In exchange for their stories, the young men were promised anonymity, as was the guide who led us to their homes in Jackson County’s migrant-labor camps. They are identified here with pseudonyms.

This report does not attempt to give a comprehensive picture of the conditions faced by migrant workers in WNC. Instead, it offers a firsthand look at two boys who live in our midst.

First impressions

Mother and son hold their family bible. Immigrants in their community have started their own church.

Our first stop is a migrant camp down by the river; two rows of beige trailers lead up to the water’s edge. Some are empty and derelict; others are occupied and derelict. Windows are broken out and have no screens. In the winter, we’re told, there’s no heat. And after the last flood, some flooring was simply covered over with plywood, mold and all. For this, the occupants pay $450 a month, according to our guide, who works closely with the migrant community.

We’ve stopped here on our way to the scheduled interviews because “Dora,” our guide, needs to visit a client, but the woman isn’t home. Her young daughter greets us instead, holding a plump, smiling baby brother with a thick shock of black hair and cheeks reddened by a skin condition (the baby later gets free cortisone cream from a nonprofit health service). A bright patch of flowers blooms defiantly around the door of the dingy singlewide.

Illegal immigrants, Dora explains, don’t qualify for the safety net designed to protect American citizens. They are not allowed food stamps, cannot normally receive health care through Medicaid, and are ineligible for federal housing assistance. So they live in whatever housing they can find—and it’s often substandard and overpriced.

After waiting awhile longer, we drive to a second migrant camp for our first scheduled interview. The family we’re here to visit used to live in a camp much like the one we’ve just left. But the mother worried about the drug activity around them and found a way to move her children to a better place.

“Luis”

The contrast between the two camps is significant. This trailer has a good amount of yard around it and a wooden deck in front where several children are gathered and a friendly black dog is tied. Other trailers ranged behind and to the sides also seem to be in much better shape. There’s a feeling of community here; Dora says the residents have even started their own church.

“Luis” isn’t home yet. His sister greets Dora and her accompanying intern with an enthusiasm we see repeated everywhere we go. Toward us—three strangers, one carrying a camera—the migrants are polite but suspicious. But once Dora vouches for us, they accept our presence in good faith.

A man comes out of the trailer, shakes hands all around, and quickly sets up chairs for us on the deck before disappearing back inside, where a televangelist is preaching at full volume in Spanish. We chat with the children and neighbors while we wait; Dora asks them about various family members and friends. Across the road, children are doing what children do on a summer evening: running and playing, dogs trotting after them.

Luis’ mother arrives—a woman with pleasant features but furrowed brow, clearly worried about our presence even as she’s glad to see Dora. She grows even more concerned when Luis comes up and we explain to her that we want to interview him for the newspaper. And when the camera comes out, she goes into full alert.

Dora speaks rapidly in Spanish, telling her that we won’t identify Luis by name, and the pictures we’re taking won’t show his face. Our photographer has spotted a family Bible just inside the trailer, and he asks permission to shoot a photo with mother’s and son’s hands on it. After that she seems to relax.

Luis himself shows no reluctance to talk about his situation, though he frequently looks to Dora for approval or support. He’s a beautiful young man with handsome features and a brilliant white smile that grows even more striking as the light fades. He is 15 years old and has just finished the 10th grade, earning straight A’s. His lowest grade, he tells us at Dora’s coaxing, was an 89 in science. What subject does he like the most? “Algebra,” he says without hesitation.

Dora has already told us that Luis would like to become a doctor and that he’s smart enough to earn a scholarship. But without the proper documents, he won’t be able to pursue that dream here.

A 13-year-old at work

Luis says he started working in construction when he was 13. “They paid me $7 an hour,” he recalls. “I worked about 60-70 hours per week” at an upscale residential development. His job was “cutting wood”—one of the most dangerous, he comments—but he also worked on roofs and siding.

His first summer, Luis was on the job Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. He was always paid in cash, and he never received time-and-a-half for the extra hours, as required by law.

Dora says she contacted the corporation developing the project where Luis worked to try to get him the extra money he was entitled to. But “he’s an undocumented immigrant kid,” she says. “We had no power, so nothing came of it.”

Luis explains that he started working because he wanted to help his mom, who was trying to support her family on her wages from a local laundry. He’d been told his hours would be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. But then they added Saturday and then Sunday. “And then I had to give up going to church,” he says.

The work was hot, with no breaks except for a 30-minute lunch. Others were making $12 to $15 an hour, he recalls.

Since that time, Luis has worked weekends during the school year and all summer. Currently he is doing painting on a big construction job in Cherokee. Over time, he says, he’s learned to do “everything,” including plumbing.

Luis says his mother came to this country when he was 7 years old, while he and his siblings stayed in Mexico. Four years later, she arranged for them to join her. Luis crossed the border with his uncle, aunt and two sisters. He remembers walking among cactus spines and seeing lots of snakes. “Then we had to sleep in an empty water basin [a dry ravine], and we had to walk in the rain. It was cold at night and hot in the day. Then at the end, we didn’t have any water.”

They were guided, says Dora, by a “coyote”—someone who traffics in this kind of human migration. This person delivered Luis and his family members to a house in Arizona, where they were picked up and transported by car to Western North Carolina. Luis says he likes it here, because in Mexico it was “hard to have enough resources—here we’ve got enough resources to eat.”

Luis started school right away, which helped him learn English; he speaks it fluently now. Asked how he’s been treated, he says there were not a lot of “racist people” at his elementary school—just “two or three guys.” In high school, there have been a lot more students who talk about his race, he says, but still, “I got lots of friends.” (Federal law requires all children to attend school, regardless of their legal status. And under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1982 ruling in Plyler v. Doe, public schools may not deny education based on a student’s immigration status; they may only require proof that the child lives in the school district.)

Would Luis eventually like to return to his native country? Yes, he says. “I think of building a house there and going back there. And because, you know, I’m not with racist people down there. And also I think I can help.”

Where did he get the idea of becoming a doctor? The young man laughs, then says, “I just like to help people out. And I think that I want to save lives.”

“Michael”

Darkness has fallen. More neighbors have drifted over to where we sit, wanting to see Dora or just visit in the calm of the evening. There’s a comfortable sociability among the families here.

Soon, however, we pile into the van and head for our next destination—a very different place. As we wind and wind and wind up a long mountain road, Dora talks about having grown up here and the changes she’s seen. She also says she would adopt “Michael,” the young boy we’re about to see, if she could.

Eventually we pull into the driveway of a motel complex, climbing past the main building to a separate structure surrounded by trees.

Only male migrant workers live in the complex, we’re told—six to eight per room. They are mostly Mexican Indians who speak various native languages, says Dora, and upon arriving in America, they must first learn Spanish—in order to communicate with other Mexicans on their jobs and in their communities—and then English.

We park the van in front of a room whose door is ajar; inside, a paper printout of an American flag is taped above the bed. All the rooms have refrigerators; some also have hot plates, says Dora. The men typically share one cell phone per room.

Men stand in small clutches outside the rooms, and they’re intensely curious about our arrival. Dora speaks to many of them, explaining why we’re here. Again, their trust in her is our passkey, and a friendly group quickly gathers around Michael’s door.

To gain some privacy, and because Michael seems extremely shy, he asks if we can talk inside our van. So he, the translator and I clamber in and embark on a lengthy conversation, while Dora, her intern and our photographer wait outside, talking with the growing crowd.

Michael is a wisp of a boy who looks to be maybe—just maybe—12 or 13 years old, though he thinks he might be 14. His face still shows the smoothness of early youth, and unlike Luis, he is not quick to smile. Instead—whether out of shyness, fatigue, awkwardness or fear—he keeps his eyes downcast and his face angled slightly away from us. But he is obviously a child.

This child, however, left his native Chiapas to come to the United States about two years ago, traveling with his uncle (who is present) and a small group of friends. Like Luis and his family, Michael made the three-day border-and-desert crossing in hope of finding employment in “el norte.” He, too, remembers the cactus spines—that and hiding behind the lone available tree when immigration officials came through. Their only water, he says, came from a small hole where cows were drinking. The taste was “just horrible,” he recalls.

On the third day, they met up with trucks that took them to Phoenix. From there, they headed to Florida. Michael and his uncle made it; the truck their friends were in had to stop to fix a flat tire, and they were picked up and sent back to Mexico.

Uncle and nephew both found work in the tomato fields. “Hot,” Michael says with obvious distaste. Hot, hard work. After five months, he told his uncle he was going back to Mexico—he just couldn’t take it anymore. But in the local bodegas, they were hearing, “Hey, you know there’s another place—the climate’s a little easier, there’s a little bit more work.” So they tried to save some money for a couple of months, but they didn’t know how far away this place was or exactly where they ought to go. They were eventually delivered to WNC by a man who charged them $2,000 apiece once they got here—a lot more than they had. So they were left to work off the fee, which was paid by a new “friend” who also found them housing. According to Dora, such “friends” are called “contratistas” (contractors). They essentially buy the illegals, who must work for a period of time to pay off their virtual bondage.

All work and no pay

The gift of a new soccer ball provides rare relaxation for one young worker.

For two months, Michael went to a pickup spot for laborers at 6 a.m. almost every day, hoping to be chosen for work. But because of his slight frame, no one wanted him. Finally the “friend” connected him with a job blowing leaves from around people’s houses: 12 hours a day, seven days a week in November and December.

Then Michael, who still didn’t understand English, talked with a man who was looking for construction workers. The promised wage, $8 an hour, sounded good to the boy, so at age 11 or 12 he began laying shingles on the roofs of new housing going up in the area. He worked for three months without getting paid.

But when the man who’d hired him left, the new supervisor started paying him $10 an hour and shifted him to inside jobs. Michael now works 40 hours a week—a schedule that precludes the possibility of attending school. Instead he works year-round, sending money to his mother and three sisters in Mexico.

Through the windows of the van, I see that about a dozen men have now gathered. They’ve brought out stacks of pictures. Our photographer tells us later that the pictures were of their families back in Mexico.

Meanwhile, Michael has warmed to the translator; his voice becomes more animated, and he has started making eye contact. We ask him what it’s like living here in the motel.

“It’s difficult because, you know, living with somebody you’re renting from, it’s their apartment and they can decide who goes, who comes in.” There are seven people living in his room, he says, and together they pay $800 a month.

Michael wants to stay here at least another three years, he says, to save up money. After that, he’d like to go home and start an “artisan” business—something creative, not the construction skills he’s learning here.

Eventually we climb out of the van, and Dora gives Michael the present she’s brought—a new soccer ball. Delighted, he immediately wanders off to the empty lot at the end of the building to play with it, a lone figure silhouetted against the dark hillside.

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26 thoughts on “Two boys, two worlds

  1. mitchel12

    Good Grief…This is going to start some heat, but propaganda like this makes my skin crawl.

    LEGAL Immigrant here….I moved to the US with my family when I was 5. Life was no picnic…let me tell you, but we went thought the proper channels to do it. My mother, struggling to learn English, worked for free for 2 years in an office just to acclimate. At the end of her work day she attended community college at night and then studied English with my dad until the wee hours of the morning. All 5 of us lived in a Best Western and Winnebago the first 5 years we were here….

    Me…self employed, make just enough to not qualify for any govt assistance programs, I fork out a ton for health insurance “just in case”. I am having to move away from Asheville because I simply can’t afford it anymore…

    …back to the article. I would like to think that everyone in this world is capable of compassion; lend a hand to your fellow man in need. I am right there with you, I know how it is first hand. This is a two way street…a this article presents only one direction.

    Yes, it is a seeming crime for illegal immigrants to be forced to work long hours, pay exorbitant amounts for sub standard housing, and work in conditions that are not safe. I understand that reasoning perfectly well…the slumlords, employers, ect should be held accountable…HOWEVER…the point no one seems to resonate with is that they are here ILLEAGLY.

    Most of them never want to become citizens…as your article clearly emphasizes in both cases. They come here, work for 10 or so years and retire in relative luxury in their home country. I have a major problem with this. All I am asking is that any immigrant who wants to come to LIVE and work in this country, come here to do just that…and show that dedication by becoming a honest, contributing citizen of the US. Not use it up solely for money and send it all back over the border.

    Their presence here only adds the fuel to fire the more dishonest among us to subject them to unacceptable conditions. One goes with the other, and BOTH need to be curtailed.

    I don’t ever hear anyone actually talking about dealing with the corruption that is Mexico…is it so far out of reason to expect that their own country should be held accountable for the conditions its citizens are born into?

  2. jeff

    I commend the writer on being very articulate, not entirely truthful, but articulate.

    It appears that the only law that Dora and Luis were interested in enforcing was proper pay for overtime. What about the fact that he is here illegally?

    “not allowed food stamps, cannot normally receive health care through Medicaid, and are ineligible for federal housing assistance”…What about not paying taxes and who pays for Luis’ lunch at school, along with the teacher’s salary among other things?

    And for Luis to say “And because, you know, I’m not with racist people down there” is not true either. The Mexican police terrorize illegal immirants from Central American. Immigrants trying to fill the work void created by Mexicans moving here. Or as an American, try moving there, living free off of the government (if you can) and see how you are treated. There are people in EVERY country who are racist and don’t accept outsiders, not just America!!

    If the writer were more interested in truth than trying to provoke a tear she would have done more than interview two children and presenting a one-sided story. But she is articulate.

  3. dori

    hey jeff… well, the reverse is also true of the thousands of Americans who go to live in Mexico, whether they’re retirees, hippies or bank robbers. I feel confident that most Americans who do just want to live a much easier lifestyle, which the privilege of having US dollars makes very easy indeed. Hello, Puerto Vallarta. However, I haven’t met a SINGLE ONE yet that’s gotten a Mexican passport. Oh goodness no…

    and last time i checked Americans shouldn’t really be throwing stones when it comes to calling out government corruption.

  4. mitchel12

    Dori- It’s like you are trying to compare Apples and Elephants.

    “the thousands of Americans who go to live in Mexico”…as compared to the millions and millions of Mexicans who crossed the border illegaly to be here? To go undocumented, commit crimes, pay no taxes, and drain our social system?

    Last time I checked, there aren’t many Americans (wanted felons aside) who felt forced to cross the border into Mexico, seeking a better life than the one they have here. We all know what goes on in Mexican jails.

    Legally establishing residence in another country is no crime, not to mention putting valuable money back into a crumbling country on top of it.

    On that note: I ran into a Canadian couple visiting Asheville recently. They purchased two modest condos in PV, Mex a few years ago (at a hefty price tag I may add) and before they were ever finished, the Mexican builder spent all of his construction down payments, didn’t finish anything, and ditched the project without recourse. They never could get any title to the land and are just out all of their money…suckers.

    The Mexican govt doesn’t make it easy for any one (foreigner or local) to actually own anything…if you have ever seen a mexican property deed, let me know.

  5. dori

    perhaps you should spend more time LIVING in mexico, mitchel12…

    there isn’t even a NEED to own property in mexico – you can live quite happily without owning property. you’re right, SUCKERS. as well – consider this, if you will – it’s quite alright for US citizens to legally walk into Mexico with $200 and a passport (like i did) and stay for years, but to be a Mexican and LEGALLY enter the US, you have to have a passport that is consistently viewed with suspicion and at LEAST $1500 US DOLLARS in a provable bank account – for a three month visit. it’s no wonder people are bitter, that’s fifteen THOUSAND pesos, and rules out all sorts of people from ever paying us a visit – students, artists, etc.

    as for “taxing our social system” quite frankly i’m getting tired of this argument that our “system” is supposed to do everything for us. no wonder we’re an obese nation… if people are starving for food why aren’t they out there picking fruit with illegal mexican immigrants instead of waiting for food stamps every month? why aren’t we teaching people to grow gardens? the mexican work ethic should be teaching us fat lazy fools something.

    this country was FOUNDED on poor people seeking better lives here (two-thirds of me wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my immigrant grandparents)… if it’s no longer the same, perhap we should take down the statue of liberty and stop yelling about how “free” we are – with so much dependence on our “system” i’d hardly call that free.

  6. nm

    Jeff,

    The article states that Dora tried to get overtime pay for Luis, it does not state that anyone thought he was entitled to it.

    The article is not making a statement as to whether its “right” or “wrong” that these people are not receiveing government aid. It is merely stating that fact to help build a picture of what their life is like.

    Luis says he experiences less racism in Mexico. I think we can assume that he knows how he feels.

    There is nothing untruthful in this story. It presents lives of two people in our area.

    Why is it so difficult for people to understand that information about a subject does not always have to include a moral judgement?

  7. jeff

    nm,

    did you read the article and HIS words? he did not say that he experienced “less racism” as you describe. His words were and I quote,”And because, you know, I’m not with racist people down there.” Where do you see the word less?

    Furthermore, the article does state the Luis was ENTITLED to overtime pay. It states and I qoute “He was always paid in cash, and he never received time-and-a-half for the extra hours, as required by law. Dora says she contacted the corporation developing the project where Luis worked to try to get him the extra money he was entitled to. But “he’s an undocumented immigrant kid,” she says. “We had no power, so nothing came of it.” If we was nto being paid under the table and had taxes taken out…how much do think he would have been paid. Sounds to me as if he was receiving compensation.

    Lastly, you state “Why is it so difficult for people to understand that information about a subject does not always have to include a moral judgement?” That is exactly this author has tried to do in this article…pass judgement about our system and how it is failing people that is has no obligation to support.

    before you respond to this…please READ the story.

    dori(dora?),

    only Mexican citizens are required to have Mexican passports. American citizens are required to have American passports. the illegal immigrants have neither.

    if you don’t OWN property, what do you do…perpetually rent, live off of the government? there are those of us who prefer to do neither. We do work. And if you think there is no obese Mexicans, you obviously don’t see alot of Mexican women standing in lines. That is not to be deragatory just honest. You do not see many if any Mexican women over the age of 35-40 who are not overweight.

  8. dori

    um… whether or not i own property or rent has nothing to do with whether i work or not – plenty of people both rent AND work. i work ALL THE TIME – in fact, i’m happily self-employed and unlike many wage slaves, i pay for EVERYTHING – insurance, potential unemployment, etc… so, if i’m ever unemployed you’re right, i might just “live off the government” and collect the unemployment i’ve been paying for – after all, i pay for that government which is, in theory, here to serve ME.

    and yes, i do, i rent – i travel all the time, often for months at a time – which makes owning property more of a hassle than it’s worth and quite frankly i’m not so keen on being enslaved by a bank for 20-30 years to pay it off, anyway – i’ve got other investments.

    i’m surprised, frankly, that for such a “liberal” town and an alternative weekly there are so many conservative-minded people here but then again, i guess i’m still in the south much as asheville seems to want to deny that. so much “get off mah lawn” here.

    as for my comment about passports – sure, illegal immigrants don’t have them, but their children can (and once again – if it weren’t for a much more open policy on immigration, i wouldn’t be here – my father’s family came from the mediterranean during the turn of the century – poor as dirt and in need of a better life). my comment meant to convey that very few of us americans who choose to go live in Mexico become mexican citizens, and if they have children whilst living in mexico, i can assure you more than likely they’re making sure that kid’s got a US passport so they can enjoy all the benefits.

    once again, i’m amused – many of the Mexicans who come here learn one, if not TWO additional languages to get by (many Americans can barely even speak English correctly, especially down here, lol). They put up with substandard living and long work hours in places like slaughterhouses and “chemically-enriched” fields so they can feed their families. when Bush put a halt on migrant workers, many farms suffered because most Americans still think they’re “too good” to do that sort of work and no one was out there picking the fruit.

    if you have EVER been to Chiapas (and i have) you will see a few very obvious things – rich Mexicans, rich ex-pats, indigenous people fighting to save a lifestyle being destroyed, and many, many, DIRELY poor people who see NO OTHER OPTION other than to make a life-endangering attempt to work here in the US to survive. Quite frankly, as someone who’s worked all over the planet and gotten paid for it, i can understand why, eventually, people want to go home eventually when they’re through.

    our social system isn’t just taxed by illegal immigrants, many of whom have a MUCH stronger work ethic and desire to feed their families than many Americans who leech off the government. But, whatever – i don’t see it as “who should get gov’mint money” – i see us as all as humans who desparately need help on a planet that desparately needs help. thankfully, if it all comes crashing down i know how to plant my own food. and if, by chance, you’re wondering who will help you if and when that happens, come on by, i’ll give you some veggies – even if you’re Southern. ;-)

  9. Amy

    How sad it is that people start taking sides, playing the same old “illegals living off the government and my taxes”, and forget we are talking about human beings.

    Did anybody notice the article touched the subject of slavery? “…such “friends” are called “contratistas” (contractors). They essentially buy the illegals, who must work for a period of time to pay off their virtual bondage.”

    Human beings taking advantage of other’s desperation. Plain and simple, that is our biggest issue here. Focus people.

  10. Kyle

    All I can say is 7 bucks an hour, 2 years ago was alot. 10 bucks an hour is more than my other half makes (and no she doesnt get overtime, so same damn thing). And lets remember that hospitals take an oath to help everyone so even without medicaid, their visits are paid by you and I. You know, it would be another thing and some form of pitty if these people were making two bucks an hour, but without taxes being taken out, these people are actually doing better than WNC’s non-existent middle class. And to the last poster. They are breaking the law, plain and simple. If a rapist or murder were living next to you, you wouldnt say “we are talking about human beings”. Some of these illegals are rapists, some are criminals beyond living here illegally, in fact the worst gangs in WNC are reportedly mexican gangs. Those arent the legal mexicans. Oh and the next time you want great workers, who would love to be noticed, make 10 bucks an hour and receive housing… visit your local homeless shelter. We have USA citizens (legal people – some even decorated war veterans) that live and sleep on the streets every single day.

  11. dori

    jeez kyle – make your “other half” should consider getting one of the mexican’s jobs… she’d be making more money.

  12. judi

    dori – I was born in Atlanta, speak English well enough to have scored 790 on the SAT achievement test in English, and have lived in the South all my life. Enough of your nastiness toward conservatives and southerners….

    The point here is that these people are breaking the laws they don’t want to follow, and whining because the law that benefits them won’t pay the boy time and a half. There is nothing conservative, southern, stupid, or ignorant about noticing the hypocrisy in that very convenient double standard. Try sticking to the point without all the bashing, OK?

  13. nm

    jeff, you originally wrote:

    >>And for Luis to say “And because, you know, I’m not with racist people down there” is not true either. The Mexican police terrorize illegal immirants from Central American. Immigrants trying to fill the work void created by Mexicans moving here. Or as an American, try moving there, living free off of the government (if you can) and see how you are treated. There are people in EVERY country who are racist and don’t accept outsiders, not just America!! < < and then you wrote: did you read the article and HIS words? he did not say that he experienced “less racism” as you describe. His words were and I quote,"And because, you know, I’m not with racist people down there.” Where do you see the word less? I just thought if he is not "with" any racist people "down there" he was experiencing less racism. I don't think (as you do) that his statement about who he was with was meant to include the entire country of Mexico. He's telling how he feels. Don't you get it? You can't debunk his feelings with facts about Mexico or anything else. The article said: >>Dora says she contacted the corporation developing the project where Luis worked to try to get him the extra money he was entitled to.< < OK it does say "entitled." What really stuck in my mind was the last part of that: >>But “he’s an undocumented immigrant kid,” she says. “We had no power, so nothing came of it.”<< That is acceptance of his position, she realizes they are not in a position to demand overtime pay. If she felt he was entitled she would have gotten a lawyer, went to the employment security commission etc. What really discusts me about you Jeff is you seem like you are just trying to reason away any empathy you might feel for these people. I think you are afraid to realize that some people have a harder life than you and it is not their fault, and what scares you the most is that if you recognize that, you also have to recognize the fact that your life is easier than some people's and its not because of anything you did to "earn" this better life. You are not ready to be humbled by the fact that YOU are illegitimate by your own values.

  14. dori

    judi – they CAN’T follow those laws, or they’ll get sent away – and lack the resources to come here legally (see my previous post, and tell me if you care to sponsor some mexicans for $1500 apiece so they can come and work). yep, sent home to starve. far be it from ‘merica to let people in other countries starve while we sit on our over-abundance (*cough*)

    yes, i guess, pardon my abhorrence of conservatism. as for the south – this place bleeds of horrible history, sorry – we’ve sure got some pretty mountains here, thank goodness someone put a stop to all the rich people trying to put gates around ’em. but the south is also home to slavery, something that obviously still exists here.

    and sincerely, i hope you’re not considering an SAT score some sort of achievement. unless, of course, you’re 18.

  15. jeff

    nm,

    your last response was not just stupid, it was down right ignorant!

    debunk his “feelings about facts”. what kind of loopy logic is that? if i don’t feel that something is true it must not be true? i look outside, it is 10:35pm, pitch dark, but i don’t feel tired…so using your logic it MUST NOT be nighttime!

    you claim that i know nothing about the boys in this article and that i am reasoning away empathy for them (law breakers). and then in your own warped and twisted hypocrisy you claim to know me by stating:

    < <<"I think you are afraid to realize that some people have a harder life than you and it is not their fault, and what scares you the most is that if you recognize that, you also have to recognize the fact that your life is easier than some people’s and its not because of anything you did to “earn” this better life. You are not ready to be humbled by the fact that YOU are illegitimate by your own values.">>>

    Do you really suppose you know me and what kind of life i have lived or how hard it was? Do you have psychic powers added to your resume? If so…where was I last night? crystal ball not working? i was at a soup kitchen helping others serve and clean up after those in this country who the system might have failed not those who preceive that it has failed them!!

  16. jeff

    judi,

    I give up!! and it is probably just as well that you do to. NM and DORI have their own perceptions of reality. and it appears that when either of us brought up a point it was not addressed but attacked with twisted logic or personal attacks. you can not reason with those who are unwilling or unable to listen. dialog is a two-way street. and for the record judi, i think that is a fine score. maybe we should have discussed more history and less English. What do Watts,Queens, Compton and Harlem have in common? Race riots. What else do they have in common? None of them are in the SOUTH, dori!!

    as I said to Luis, racism, bigotry and stupidity are not isolated to anyone geographical area.

    dori, it is true that slavery was predominantly in the south…but not soley in the south and not soley in America. where is slavery currently most prominent, dori? the south? NO. want to ask NM and the crystal ball? how about Sudan. and where is Sudan, you might ask? Africa.

    Going back a couple of hundred years..where did slaves come from? for the most part (barring a few costal attacks)they were sold to the slave traders by other raiding tribes. sounds as if Africans had a hand in and profitted from slave tradaing as well. But we tend to overlook that.

  17. nm

    jeff,

    >>your last response was not just stupid, it was down right ignorant!< < Now if I've _ignored_ something, you would fill me in right? Wrong, you think ignorant has the same meaning as stupid. What a great way to start your latest post. >>debunk his “feelings about [sic] facts”. what kind of loopy logic is that? if i don’t feel that something is true it must not be true? i look outside, it is 10:35pm, pitch dark, but i don’t feel tired…so using your logic it MUST NOT be nighttime! < < If you don't feel its true--you don't feel its true. Thats my logic. Your logic would call me a liar if I said that I'm not tired at 1am. And then if someone went on to write an article called "NM Doesn't Feel Tired at 1am" I suppose you would go on to attack the author and call him and NM both a couple of liars. Thats what your logic is. >>you claim that i know nothing about the boys in this article< < No I didn't. I assume you read the same article and know as much about them as I do. >>and that i am reasoning away empathy for them (law breakers).< < That was perfect a perfect demonstration, you really can't deny it now! <>

    Quite defensive here, I’m thinking my cold read wasn’t far off. So what about working in a soup kitchen lets you off the hook for what I’ve accused you of being? Look at the last line, you’re trying to say the people you helped are better than the ones mentioned in the article. You just spew self-righteous garbage with every line. Admit it, and you will grow. That will be $100, thank you.

  18. dori

    jeff – i was born in detroit. there were race riots there, too. my own mother was beaten down in one. detroit’s population history is rather interesting tho, don’t you think? free blacks coming to work, poor white southerners following after the economy collapsed down here… i heard the word “nigger” more in michigan than i do down here, even. sad to say, too, that word’s still in use.

    now, if you’ll excuse me, i’m off to go teach english to some illegal immigrants. they help me keep up my spanish, too.

  19. AlmostShannon

    Jeff, don’t you realize that everyone has their “own perception of reality?” That is what life as a human being is, having your own feelings and perceptions of things. I think that Dori and NM have some very good points here, especially that you and many Americans, “seem like you are just trying to reason away any empathy you might feel for these people. I think you are afraid to realize that some people have a harder life than you and it is not their fault, and what scares you the most is that if you recognize that, you also have to recognize the fact that your life is easier than some people’s and its not because of anything you did to “earn” this better life.”

    And the difference between ignorance and stupidity is that when a person is ignorant, they do not know better and they make the wrong decision. When someone is stupid, they know better and they still make the wrong choice. It seems like stupidity is the tie that binds America in these days of modern slavery. How long did it take for America to wake up and see that African slavery was wrong and that African Americans were not 3/4 of a person? These illegal immigrants are not 3/4 of a person either, and they certainly don’t deserve to be living in these conditions. The children in the article are innocent and they DESERVE a better life. America can do better. This is America, the land of opportunity for all. I certainly don’t see Mission-St. Joseph hospital going into bankruptcy due to the rising costs of treating illegals! As someone said earlier, why don’t we just take down the statue of liberty if we are going to allow PEOPLE to be treated this way? I applaud Nelda Holder’s article for shedding some light on our ignorance (or in some cases stupidity).

  20. bluegrass_brad

    I am very liberal in almost all of my political viewpoints, I have been a Democrat since I was 18. However I cannot abide with the increasing flood of illegal immigrants into this country. I am a native western North Carolinian (born and raised near Boone), have traveled around the world (30 countries) been to almost every state in the union multiple times and have lived in California (6 years) and Colorado (3 years). Living in these “destination States” for illegal immigration (North Carolina is now considered one as well) has given me some insight on some of the problems that come with illegal immigration. Many of the schools are overcrowded and very underfunded. In some cases you have an influx of several thousand people whose children must attend schools, putting a much heavier burden on the system. Yet the parents, since they are illegal, are not paying into the tax system which supports these schools at all. In these situations ALL the students pay the price, illegal or no. Is it fair for children of legal residents of this country, both native and legal immigrant, to compromise the quality of their education. No. The same thing is happening with health care systems in destination states. Emergency rooms are overcrowded and due to the excessive burdens cannot give quality care to anyone. Is it fair that taxpayers, both native and legal immigrant, shoulder these extra burdens in education and healthcare. No. Many illegals also refuse to try to learn english, which hinders not only their day to day lives, but also their children’s education in this country. Certainly not all illegals do this, many try very hard to learn the language. But in my experience there are many communities in eastern Colorado as well as central California who advocate spanish as the first language always. What message does this send? How can you convince others you want to be a part of this society when you refuse to do something as basic as learn the national language? While all illegal immigrants are certainly not criminals, an unfortunate fact is that in areas with higher concentrations of illegal immigrants, there are higher instances of property crimes and violent crimes. Dori, Your argument that these anti-illegal immigrant views are southern is not only laughable, but it is also indefensible. states and counties in the west and north are taking much more aggressive stances on illegal immigration than here in the south east. Anti-illegal immigration legislation has been, or is about to be, introduced in California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Arizona, and Colorado and Virginia to name a few. They are joined by southern state Georgia. As a matter of fact in 2006 more than 500 pieces of immigration-related legislation have been introduced in state legislatures, and 57 of them have been enacted in 27 states. Obviously, no matter what your particular views are, the facts show this is far from “a southern thing”. The “banning migrant workers hurts farms” argument is also a straw-man argument. Farms that depend on ILLEGAL immigrant labor are hurt. And why do you suppose that is? It is because they pay illegals a slave wage that they couldnt pay a legal immigrant worker, because that legal immigrant worker would be protected by laws and unions. Businesses that build their budgets on the back of illegal labor deserve to be hurt. Farms and other business that exploit cheap ilegal immigrant labor are the real villains here.
    But what to do about it? I am very much for immigration. Immigrants have helped to make this country successful. They work hard, usually for less. One glaring problem I see is that the process of immigration is so convoluted and full of red tape. the process takes so long and is so confusing that many just cross our borders illegally. The process should be simplified to allow easier access to those seeking to come into our country legally. Another thing would be to create and ENFORCE extremely severe penalties for any business found to be using illegal immigrants for cheap labor. And I mean make those penalties count (lets say something like 15,000 fine per illegal found to be working in your company) so that large companies have to take notice. Living in Colorado I saw so many illegal immigrants who were being taken advantage of. Made to work in terrible conditions. An illegal cant complain about dangerous work conditions for fear of deportation. If the immigration process was simplified, many of those people would have been legal immigrants, and would be protected by US laws for working conditions, OSHA regulations, and things like that. Minimum wage laws would also apply. They would have taxes taken out of their paychecks. a streamlined system could still help to keep convicted criminals and the like out of the country. You are still going to have illegal immigrants, nothing will stop it. However there are many, many immigrants who will choose to go the legal route if it is a viable way to go. The system is broken, we need to fix it correctly instead of band-aid solutions that are almost impossible to enforce.

  21. Land of the free, home of the brave.

    You can still be a compassionate American without being an apologist for illegal immigrants. Ultimately, the Mexican government (one of the most corrupt in the Western Hemisphere) must be held accountable for the actions of these children and all other illegal immigrants entering this country. But why must we treat them like hardened criminals? Yes, there are illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes who should be punished and deported. But what about the majority of whom are not just trying to seek a better life, but are also trying to escape oppression and fear from their home country?

    The United States government sends BILLIONS of dollars in humanitarian aid to Third World countries to address hunger, poverty, disease, and natural disasters that take place on foreign soil. Why can’t we take care of the people who are here? We must not treat immigrants, illegal or not, as sub-humans, particularly if they are minors.

    Our recent world history has seen this type of exodus before: Jews escaping from Nazi Germany, Eastern Europeans escaping Communist Russia, and Cuban exiles fleeing from Fidel Castro’s dictatorship. People are coming to America for the opportunity that WE WHO LIVE HERE, take for granted every day by living our lives in excess and not making ourselves tangibly better. Why does Hurricane Andrew kill so many people and cause billions of dollars in catastrophic damage, while Hurricane Dean of similar strength has yet to claim its first fatality and cause minimal structural damage in the Yucatan Peninsula. The richest country in the world, yet we cannot protect our own.

    America has already been bought and paid for already by lobbyists, special interest groups, the religious right, and foreign governments. Why must we treat illegal immigrants as common criminals, when they are simply seeking a better life like the rest of us. Make no mistake, they are breaking the law. But there has to be a better way. I’m not claiming that I have all of the solutions, but these poor sould are NOT the direct cause of the problem. Unfortunately, that is the politically convenient answer, particularly for the conservative ideological base.

  22. Juan Cantu

    I have an idea. Why doesn’t everyone in the United States of America boycott all fruits, vegetables, and meats, basically everything that touches an illegal immigrants’ hands -stained with their sweat and breath- to make it to our locally, or nationally progressive (or otherwise) stores for us to buy legally? Black Market, anyone?

  23. judi

    Dori,
    I guess Jeff is right about giving up on you – your ignorance surpasses belief. The 790 was 10 points shy of a perfect 800. Notice I said it was on the ENGLISH achievement test. You are obviously completely unaware of the existence of said test. My purpose in writing about my score in the first place was to impugn your foolish statement about the people in the South’s not knowing how to speak English. Apparently you are a classic liberal – not too interested in facts.

    This is an obvious clash between those who understand the rule of law, and those who don’t frankly care about anything but expediency. Mexico and Haiti and other such “poor” countries got that way because they don’t understand the value of the rule of law. Mob rule gives rise to disastrous economies as well as “mob boss” dictatorships. These both spell poverty for the masses. Illegal immigrants are bringing this ideology with them, because they are only coming here to gain material wealth (by whatever standard you judge that.) The immigration laws are very fair to those who are in fear for their LIVES, not their QUALITY of life. I’m sorry you simply like to argue, Dori, but the facts are the facts. I am going to take Jeff’s advice. You have already cemented your position. No point in wasting time trying to jackhammer your closed mind.

  24. dori

    ha, judi i figured that might ruffle your feathers a little… i am well aware of the SAT – i, too, took it in high school.

  25. chuck

    I do not think I read one valid point that wasn’t filled with emotional rhetoric and misspellings in this entire thread. From either so-called ‘side’ of the so-called issue.

    You all just appear to love to argue with the ghosts in your head.

  26. chuck

    judi, et al:

    Our economy would collapse from the lack of cheap, migrant labor here in the US. The people who whine about ‘the millions’ coming here to steal American’s jobs seem to have no understanding of how our economy works.

    Why do you think GW Bush is trying to create a worker-visa program? Against the wishes of most of his so-called ‘base’ of supporters? Do you really think you are ready to pay five to ten times the current cost for most of your meat and vegetables? Because that is a safe estimate of what we would be paying for goods if producers couldn’t hire ‘illegals’ for pennies on the dollar.

    Also, judi, you state that poor places like “Mexico and Haiti and other such “poor” countries got that way because they don’t understand the value of the rule of law.” Do you really not understand basic political history?

    Both of these places you mention are ‘poor’ because wealthy business interests (most of which just happen to be based out of the United States), with the help of national militaries, go in and gut their economy to ensure cheap labor there and here. Please do some research on either of the countries you have mentioned.

    Haiti is a place with a recent history full of illegally sponsored coups, slavery, and colonial rule. This generally leaves the local population in poverty. Not, as you imply, their mental and moral inferiority which leads to their desire for “mob rule”.

    In fact, Haiti successfully held its first democratic Presidential election in the early 90’s. But this was quickly over-run by a violent coup, sponsored, in part, by the US Government. (And this isn’t silly conspiracy nut-job stuff. You can look it up in most recent history books)
    This lead to the Haitian ‘boat-people’ we used to hear about in the mid 90’s. People risking their lives on boats often made from small pieces of wood, over the ocean for God’s sake, just so they could escape death and poverty in their homeland. That is not the action of a lazy person.

    And these are the people you claim only understand “mob rule”?

    As for Mexico, The U.S. and other foreign countries have a history of corporations going in and taking advantage of political corruption at their own profit. Exxon and Shell have both literally gotten away with murder in that country, hiring para-military agents to kill striking workers asking for better living conditions, unpolluted water, etc.

    Why do you think ‘millions’ want to move here in the first place? Because they love living in fear of deportation? Because they love being looked down on by locals? Because they love sneaking over the border at risk to their own lives?

    If the United States government did not directly benefit from the destruction of Mexico’s economy, these ‘millions’ you speak of would have no need to emigrate. They would be able to stay in their own, beautiful country and enjoy living in the land they and their children are born in.

    Whether or not you agree with the premise the author of this article makes, the leaps most of you xenophobes make to justify your own lack of knowledge is absurd. And your understanding of history shows how much our public school system has failed its purported aims.

    But now, with the Dollar declining rapidly, I wonder how many of you will be fleeing economic and political persecution in your own homeland in the coming years? Do you expect your neighbors to the north (that’s Canada, in case you missed Geography, as well) to be as welcoming as you are when you are scrounging to feed yourself and your children? You might find it easier to get to know some of those you decry as ignorant and immoral, so that you can gain a broader picture in all of this. Not to mention good ‘ol fashioned Christian compassion.

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