October 16, 2005


A mixed blessing for immigrants (Jay Root, 10/16/05, Dallas Fort-Worth Star-Telegram)

Welcome to the Gulf Coast post-Katrina, the nation's latest immigration magnet.

Lured here by the promise of fat paychecks and an emergency federal decree temporarily suspending immigration-enforcement sanctions, immigrants sleep in tents, crowded hotel rooms and parking lots. They haul trash and cut trees, fasten tarps to damaged roofs and tear out wet Sheetrock from thousands of soaked buildings.

It started out as a trickle. But over time, the post-Katrina job market has drawn large numbers of immigrants -- some legal, some not -- to New Orleans and other coastal communities from Florida, Texas, California, North Carolina and other immigrant-rich states.

Many are natives of Mexico or Central America, but some come from as far away as Brazil. LVI Services, an environmental remediation company based in New York, recently had hundreds of Hispanic immigrants staying in the Best Western in downtown New Orleans, three or four to a room. [...]

Employers have little to fear in hiring illegal workers. Even before Katrina hit, work-site immigration enforcement was lax.

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office in August found that the number of fines issued to employers for knowingly hiring illegal workers has gone from 417 in 1999 to three last year. Arrests of unauthorized workers dropped 84 percent from 1999 to 2003, the report found.

Katrina made the threat of employer sanctions even more remote.

On Sept. 6, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would "refrain from initiating employer-sanction enforcement action for the next 45 days for civil violations ... with regards to individuals who are currently unable to provide identity and eligibility documents." The department said it would review the policy and make further recommendations at the end of that period.

The competition for immigrant workers can be fierce, even if they are abandoned later.

Marco Topete of Texas-based Tops Contractor Services planned two weeks ago to give Sheetrock repair work in New Orleans to seven migrants sent from Houston with $130 for gas and food.

They had planned to meet at a gas station in the Metairie area, but Topete lost contact with them for about 15 minutes. When he caught up with them, it was too late: Contractors installing blue tarps on roofs for the Army Corps of Engineers had hired them on the spot, he said.

Topete said he accused the contractor of "stealing" his workers and was stunned when the contractor gave him $130 in cash and offered Topete $100 for every additional migrant worker he could produce.

" 'Welcome to the new slave trade,' " Topete recalled the contractor saying. "I thought it was really mean."

In the end, the workers told Topete that they were going to Mississippi because where they were staying was hot, dirty and dangerous.

Regardless of difficult work and primitive conditions, immigrants will continue to be drawn to New Orleans, said immigration expert Gregory Rodriguez, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan New America Foundation, a public-policy center in Washington.

Throughout U.S. history, immigrants from Ireland, Italy, China, Mexico and elsewhere have been used to complete huge infrastructure projects, from the transcontinental railroad to the New York subway system.

"In a weird way, this tragedy will make it a magnet for opportunity seekers," Rodriguez said. "It's the irony of tragedies."

Where's the "mixed" come in?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 16, 2005 11:54 AM

Little that is "mixed" for the immigrants, but there they go again taking good jobs away from them that needs 'em.

Posted by: ghostcat at October 16, 2005 2:18 PM

OJ, et al -

It's a good thing you cut off that other thread, before I dug my hole all the way to Cathay, but: (1) the topic of my provocation was the enduring effects of literally treating generations of human beings as livestock, NOT about race, (2) therefore, there were no implications whatsoever about black Africans in general, or black African-Americans who are not the descendants of slaves, (3) reactions of otherwise-reasonable commenters demonstrate that some lines of inquiry remain strictly taboo, and (4) when Pat Moynihan started writing about the illegitimate births and the sorry state of the black family in America, he got the same tut-tut reaction. At the time, I got slammed by my black friends for even entertaining such an obviously racist thought.

Finally, and I promise to never raise this topic again, it was MALE slaves who bore the brunt of the brutal domestication policies. Whether a genetic effect or cultural, it should not surprise that the females carried the shattered culture on their shoulders.

Posted by: ghostcat at October 16, 2005 2:47 PM

If "them that needs 'em" would DO them, we'd all be much better off.

There are nine million Americans at least marginally attached to the U.S. civilian labor force that are currently without jobs.
I would have thought that we could get ten thousand of those people to go to work on the Gulf coast, at least temporarily, in return for $ 30,000 a year in a low cost of living area, but no...

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 16, 2005 2:54 PM


The Welfare State is specifically designed to break about faily and other social structures and make individuals dependent on the State. The most marginal populations succumb first. Here that's a lot of black folk. As Thodore Dalrymple points out, in Britain the same underclass is almost all white. Slavery left blacks in a bad position to withstand the assault, but breeding had nothing to do with anything.

Posted by: oj at October 16, 2005 4:19 PM


Them that won't do them.

Posted by: oj at October 16, 2005 4:20 PM

This is similar to your insight regarding the manufacturing industry consistently moving to ever cheaper environs. Except in this case ever cheaper labor (and there will continually be somebody cheaper) is moving here instead of industry moving there. Net result will be damaging to our country. It is a neverending process (at least as you outline).

Approximately 20% or more of Mexican Nationals are in the US ILLEGALLY. Yet Mexico is the richest nation in Latin America. Continueing to ignore this fact would seem to indicate that we will be swamped with over 20% of all of Latin America in a few years. They will arrive in a country that is increasingly incapable of demanding behavior or acceptance of any American political values. Because of 1) general theory of multiculturalism which treats all cultures as equally valid and 2) as pointed out in this article incapable of even enforcing laws that might impact "minorities" greater than the general population. Evidence of the Bush Administration's "3" civil cases versus the "447" civil cases under Clinton. This will not end well. On the bright side, I'll be dead.

Posted by: h-man at October 16, 2005 5:23 PM

OJ -

My comment about stealing all the good jobs was 100% facetious.

And while I agree with you about the effects of the Welfare State, there is more than one reason why black Americans were particular vunerable to those pernicious effects. Remember: the bulk of the underclass in America is not black.

Posted by: ghostcat at October 16, 2005 5:33 PM

Yes, because the bulk of the population isn't. Are the rest of the underclass former Roman slaves or something?

Posted by: oj at October 16, 2005 6:01 PM

Their values are better than ours, as witness their work ethic.

Posted by: oj at October 16, 2005 6:03 PM

Only if we count the Gaels as former Roman slaves. (Actually, we could make that case with a straight face, couldn't we?)

Posted by: ghostcat at October 16, 2005 6:15 PM

Lured here by the promise of fat paychecks

And, of course, the chance of a date with Paris Hilton. Meanwhile, back in the village, those that stay behind eke out a mean living while dedicating their lives to sustainable development, UN supervised world peace and gender equality.

Some days, one dreams of just nuking the left.

Posted by: Peter B at October 16, 2005 7:03 PM

"their values are better than ours, as witness their work ethic" and also contrasted with law and order conservatives too fearful to offend, by actually making a good faith effort to enforce the law.

Posted by: h-man at October 16, 2005 7:27 PM

Offend who? The law's a joke.

Posted by: oj at October 16, 2005 7:33 PM

It becomes a joke, when not enforced. Although I'm not laughing. (Bush not wanting to offend potential hispanic voters.) (btw 65% of them will probably always remain potential)

Posted by: h-man at October 16, 2005 8:03 PM


Your premise would have to be that it was enforced at some point, which is false. we need the labor more than the law.

Posted by: oj at October 16, 2005 8:30 PM


The U.S. is better off having the cheap labor move here, rather than moving the factories there.

For one thing, it means that we re-inject all of the money that they spend on living expenses and entertainment, back into the American economy.

It could be a problem if America were overcrowded, but our population could double without causing many significant problems.

In the meantime, we're only getting about one million immigrants a year, including the illegals.
Since the Boomers are going to start retiring soon, at the rate of three million a year, we can (potentially) use all of the immigrants that we can get.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 18, 2005 3:27 AM