April 30, 2006


Immigration's Bottom Line: How a Restaurant and Its Workers Ripple Through the Economy (Neil Irwin and Dana Hedgpeth, April 30, 2006, Washington Post)

At table 10 of the Oval Room, a high-price lawyer slurped an $8 bowl of asparagus soup. Over at table 71, a crowd of Office and Management and Budget staffers toasted a retiring colleague, while at table 76, a White House correspondent leaned in to hear what her lunch partner was saying.

In the kitchen of the restaurant, there was a different kind of kaleidoscope. The sous-chef, a Panamanian immigrant, directed two cooks from El Salvador, one from Guatemala and one from Honduras. A Salvadoran immigrant ran the food to the tables. All the activity was monitored by the general manager, an Austrian by birth, who needs to satisfy the owner, originally from India.

Just as all of those workers depend on the swirl of official Washington business for their livelihood, official Washington depends on them. Tomorrow, immigrant groups plan to boycott workplaces and stores to prove just that point. But one day of activity at the Oval Room, a sleekly designed spot a block from the White House, shows how difficult it is to make any kind of simple calculation.

The tangled web of economic connections among immigrants and those born in the United States creates jobs at a Philadelphia seafood distributor and revenue for the local cable company, even as it causes a financial drain on local hospitals and schools. The impacts are so intertwined that significant changes to immigration laws could change the nation's commerce in unforeseen ways.

"We would not exist without immigrant labor," said Ashok Bajaj, owner of the restaurant. "If the laws change, the entire economics of the restaurant industry would change, too."

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 30, 2006 10:07 AM

I seem to recall that Pat Buchanan has sired no offspring. Wonkette (the real one, not the current impersonators) made the same mistake once. I guess it's some sort of blogger blind spot.


Posted by: Ed Bush at April 30, 2006 10:14 AM



Posted by: oj at April 30, 2006 10:18 AM

The reason bologna and other assorted lunch meats were invented was so workers could make sandwiches to take to work. Throw in a pickle or pepper and some cheese, plus a thermos of coffee and you have a well rounded meal. These politicos need to quit rubbing shoulders with people who are greasing their palms over expensive dinners and get to work making the government lean and mean. Ashok Bajaj can go back to India and clean the cow crap off the bottom of her feet. Pat Buchanan's kids can supervise your kids on how to stamp out metal lunch boxes.

Posted by: AllenS at April 30, 2006 11:01 AM

I liked Tony Bourdain's advice to aspiring chefs in his excellent Kitchen Confidential:

(1) learn Spanish (or you won't be able to communicate well with the cooks working under you. and (2) Learn the political history of Central America, or you'll ignite a war in the kitchen by pairing the Nicaraguan whose family were murdered by the Marxists with the Salvadoran who family was killed by the other side's death squad goons.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at April 30, 2006 11:14 AM

Is everyone at the Washington Post-Democrat named Dana?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 30, 2006 11:55 AM

--(2) Learn the political history of Central America, or you'll ignite a war in the kitchen by pairing the Nicaraguan whose family were murdered by the Marxists with the Salvadoran who family was killed by the other side's death squad goons.--

And that's why they won't advance.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 30, 2006 12:12 PM

Thank you for your thoughts, Sandy P. If I understand your point, they'll advance just fine, like the Chinese and the Irish before them. You could argue that the home countries should have stopped the immigration. Sending money to the 'boys' kept the 'troubles' going for far longer then they should have. I have no knowledge on the Chinese side, but it wouldn't surprise me.....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 30, 2006 1:26 PM

I'm totally disgusted with the impending "shut down America" boycott/walkout--and plan on being as in-your-face about supporting the U.S. as possible tomorrow. I honestly fear for my safety, because I will wear my white-stars-on-blue-and-red-background-sundress from my High School Band Concert (Class of '76!) while I go out for breakfast, lunch, dinner and shopping. I now must give up my weekly meal at my favorite Mexican restaurant because he is closing Monday (and had signs up last night for the protest!)

Oh, I've worked in restaurants--both "front" and "back of house"--and truly resent the idea that if it weren't for illegal immigrants, we wouldn't have restaurants. I call B.S. on that one. About the problem of everybody from different countries hating each other-I worked in a place in Atlanta in the early 80's where we had folks from Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam working there--and somehow they managed to keep from hurting each other despite serious problems between their countries...but maybe since they weren't lawbreakers to begin with, it wasn't an issue!

Posted by: Barb in Georgia at April 30, 2006 3:32 PM

Wow, you'll be inconvenienced for a day? Our hearts bleed...

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2006 3:41 PM

15 of my Employees told me they will not come to work Monday. Should I fire them?

Posted by: h-man at April 30, 2006 3:49 PM


Sure, if you think it's cost effective to train new ones to do the same work.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2006 3:55 PM

I've learned that if someone has you by the b*lls, your heart and mind will follow where ever they lead you.

That's why I still oppose illegal immigration.

Posted by: h-man at April 30, 2006 4:03 PM

I've learned that if someone has the same heart and mind it doesn't matter where they were brn, they're American already.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2006 4:07 PM

And if they don't, then one should point that out. Right?

By the way, there are other valid reasons to oppose illegal immigration, that don't relate to cultural or racial reasons. Overcrowding, effect on environment, for instance.

Posted by: h-man at April 30, 2006 4:16 PM

Overcrowding? in America? words fail me.....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 30, 2006 4:19 PM


Sure, if you don't mind looking silly. Overcrowding?

Of course Malthusianism and Darwinism have always led directly to racism.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2006 4:20 PM

Different folks have different views on what is too crowded. I'm a country boy. If I want to live in Mexico City or Tijuana, I'll move there, thank you.

Malthus might help explain why Mexico is such cr*p hole, now that you mention it.

Posted by: h-man at April 30, 2006 4:30 PM

Tell 'em you're going to pick two names out of a hat and fire those two, h. Keeps your retraining costs down, and gives the other 13 something to think about.

Posted by: joe shropshire at April 30, 2006 4:35 PM

Yes, H-man, and no one is forced to live in a city. New York would be twice as large if they got rid of the rent control. People like to visit the countryside but that's not where they want to live.
Overcrowding is not going to be a problem anytime soon, so be calm.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 30, 2006 4:38 PM


That's not population, just politics.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2006 4:45 PM

Was that "bleeding heart" comment directed at me about my missing out on my favorite Mexican restaurant? I should've been more clear---we've been faithful weekly patrons since they opened 4 years ago-with a check average of $35. We stayed away up to now after the last "action", which they supported. But now? I'll make my own ceviche, tacos, flautas, quesodillas, guacamole, and enchiladas.
Don't tread on me.

Posted by: Barb in Georgia at April 30, 2006 5:19 PM

Those who think we're running out of space should take a drive, sorry oj that's the only way to do it, across our country north/south and east/west. Even driving around Florida on major highways, the undeveloped land goes as far as the eye can see. In the Midwest, you can see clear from the Gulf of Mexico to the North Pole.

Only the areas around major cities are congested.

Posted by: erp at April 30, 2006 5:32 PM


God gave us satellite imagery so we could see how empty the world is.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2006 5:53 PM


go on Tuesday.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2006 5:55 PM

Hmm...More points off for me.
I should've inserted the word, "never"--as in "Never going back-ever."

Posted by: Barb in Georgia at April 30, 2006 6:15 PM

Your loss.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2006 6:18 PM

What am I missing? It's a wonderful thing that people are trying to shut down our country tomorrow? We should all stay home and tacitly agree?
I know a young man from Bolivia whose Visa runs out next month. He is planning on doing the right thing and going "home" before applying to come back. Maybe we should tell him just to forget about following the law and just blend into the woodwork - is this what you're advocating?

Our loss for missing out on our favorite restaurant?--Yup, especially me, 'cause now I'll have to do the cooking and cleanup. I don't fix gringo , so it'll taste just fine. Their loss, maybe? Our little $1800 or so a year may not seem like much-but that means finding the equivalent of 300 other customers to take our place.

Posted by: Barb in Georgia at April 30, 2006 6:44 PM

You'll go back once your little fit is over.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2006 7:07 PM

That's not what I meant, Robert.

One of Miloevic's (sp) call to arms was something that happened in the 1300s, IIRC.

You come to America, you put it in the past, let it go. We're not like that. America's neutral ground, you start fresh.

The Irish still haven't let it go. Didn't a certain part of Ireland hinder US and the Brits in WWII? I thought Churchill begged them to let US put posts there to watch the Nazi fleet.

E Pluribus Unum.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 30, 2006 7:42 PM

Barb, tell them why they've lost a reliable customer.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 30, 2006 7:53 PM

Ok...I've obviously said something really wrong and have given offense. 'Not at all aware of what it might be-so I'm going to leave it at that.

Posted by: Barb in Georgia at April 30, 2006 7:59 PM

oj, satellite imaging isn't the same as driving through endless fields of wheat and corn and oil rigs and immense irrigation machines rolling along over the vegetable farms and watching the mountains get closer and closer until you actually are climbing over them.

I hope you take those adorable kids of yours on at least one camping trip to the west coast, stopping to see some of our national treasures on the way.

Sooner than you know, they'll have their own lives and won't want to spend them with you old folks.

Posted by: erp at April 30, 2006 8:25 PM

h-man: Treat the UA (AWOL) employees like any other UA employees, no better, no worse. Whatever you do when one of your people just doesn't show up, do it.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 30, 2006 8:28 PM


Leave the state and ride in a car? What kind of monster would do that to their kids?

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2006 8:34 PM


OJ is messing with you - anyone who makes always or never statements is just giving him blog fodder. Especially on immigration.

Don't take it personally. And don't take the restaurant thing personally, either. One reason why so many Mexicans are so "excited" about May 1 is because they finally have a chance to shout with a loud voice. "I am here and I can roar". But, like all such 'protests', it will last a day.

Imagine what would happen if the reconquista crowd tried to stretch things further - even Harry Reid would return to his nativist roots. Most governors would order their states to begin enforcing all immigration law (presuming D.C. did nothing), and the politics in CA, AZ, NM, and TX would suddenly get very ugly, very fast.

But that isn't going to happen.

Posted by: jim hamlen at April 30, 2006 9:32 PM

Thank you for responding, Sandy P. I am sorry my post was not clear. America is and has been neutral ground, but you don't forget your past. The Irish I was talking about were American, but sent money back to Ireland. It's easy to fund and help terrorists when you don't live where the bombs go off. Americans make soo much money compared to the rest of the world, they can fund wars as a pastime.....

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at April 30, 2006 9:35 PM


Make sure you tell the restaurant owner that you not only plan never to go back but that you will be sure to tell everyone you know why they shouldn't patronize that restaurant. I've found business owners get a little cranky when the customers have the audacity to interfere with their profit margins this way.

Posted by: sharon at May 2, 2006 6:55 AM