September 17, 2006


Home-building boom relies on illegal workers (Sanjay Bhatt, 9/17/06, Seattle Times)

When thousands of Seattle-area Latinos stayed away from their jobs May 1 to take part in a nationwide show of support for immigrants in the work force, the largest housing-construction project in all of King County became a ghost town.

The next day, the sprawling job site in the foothills of the Cascades was abuzz again with activity: Mexican workers were hanging heavy sheets of drywall while crews listening to Spanish radio installed cabinets and painted the walls of million-dollar homes with views of the Seattle skyline.

As the noon hour approached, a familiar taco truck made its way across the work site, honking the first stanza of "La Cucaracha" in a signal to hundreds of workers: lunchtime at Issaquah Highlands.

"If I look outside my window right now it looks like we're south of the border," said veteran builder Jim Nietmann, a superintendent for one of at least a dozen homebuilders at Issaquah Highlands, a community that will eventually have at least 3,250 homes. "Easily half are from Mexico, and they're fueling our industry."

Latino immigrants have become essential to builders at Issaquah Highlands and at other nonunion job sites across Puget Sound during the biggest wave in home construction in decades.

Locally, many inspectors, construction foremen and union organizers estimate that in the last few years they have come to represent anywhere from half to 90 percent of the work force at residential job sites in the Puget Sound region. They dominate unskilled-labor crews and are prevalent among drywallers, framers, roofers and other semiskilled trades.

And it's an open secret that many of these workers are here illegally.

Imagine thinking yourself a conservative but being made rabid by the notion of importing hard-working Christians to make home ownership more affordable?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 17, 2006 9:17 AM

Actually, the exploitation by some building companies of cheap, illegal labor that enjoys none of the workplace protections (like workers comp) that the rest of us think of as standard probably ought to give the good Christian pause.

Posted by: kevin whited at September 17, 2006 9:56 AM

Which is why we have a moral obligation to legalize them.

Posted by: oj at September 17, 2006 10:01 AM

Until you've had dealings with INS, it's hard to understand how corrupt and evil they are. I think that's where many conservatives get tripped up. Twenty five thousand or more in bribes? Not in America!

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at September 17, 2006 12:00 PM

Gentlemen: put all of your comments together: if the illegals became legals and got the full load of benefits and protections they would no longer enjoy their competitive advcantage and their places would be taken by newer, less-legal illegals.

I mostly look at this as a moral problem, with corruption prevasive. Many, many people are living a lie, living in economic sin, as it were, participating in theft, fraud and every injustice with each breath.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 17, 2006 1:14 PM

And they still manage to send $40 Billion a year back home.....

Posted by: Sandy P at September 17, 2006 1:21 PM

It's not about competitive advantage. Natives just don't think they should have to work hard.

Posted by: oj at September 17, 2006 4:36 PM


Economic sin? Give us a break, it's a full time job just keeping ahead of the non-economic ones.

What in the world are you saying? There are millions of real people with real families caught in a real mess. Wherever we stand, let's at least realize we have a very poignant human story here and dispense with the faux-theology. Throwing in abstract drivel like "economic sin" reminds me of Stalin suddenly announcing that everybody has to fight "cosmopolitanism"

Posted by: Peter B at September 17, 2006 7:33 PM

The article states: "...the walls of million-dollar homes..."

I must be missing something, oj. When you say "... homeownership more affordable"

Posted by: AllenS at September 18, 2006 7:51 AM

Peter B: You are missing the import of the words, "living in economic sin, as it were."

The home builder who gave himself an advantage overf his more scrupulous competitors has unjustly harmed both those competitors and the legal, higher-priced workers. That is an economic sin.

Just as the adulterer sins not just once, as at the inception of a meretricious relationship, but again and again, at each act of adultery, so the thief and cheat offends again and again, by retaining the fruits of his theft and fraud, until amendment and restitution are perfected.

Just saying, "I'm sorry," is not enough: one must stop doing it, and give back what has been stolen. Otherwise, the actor is "living in sin."

As to the distinction between non-economic and economic sin, we may suggest that the relative importance and impact on our neighbors of the two domains be considered. I am little affected directly by my neighbor's neglect of the Lord's Day, but rather more by his theft and fraud.

Now bring market economics to the analysis. The immigration-law cheat wouldn't be doing it if there were not an economic advantage. Either the houses he builds are less expensive and he can sell more of them, or he is simply enjoying more profit. In the first case, he is harming his competitors as noted above; in the second, the entire community, by having bidded up demand via his ill-gotten gains.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 18, 2006 11:35 AM

None of them are scrupulous. They hire from amongst those who will do the work, which is immigrants.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 11:46 AM


The home builder who gave himself an advantage overf his more scrupulous competitors has unjustly harmed both those competitors and the legal, higher-priced workers. That is an economic sin.

Says who? That sounds more like something from Socialist International than theology.

Don't you think one of the implications of "Render unto Caesar..." is that we don't attribute spiritual consequences to breaking Caesar's rules? This is no more "sin" than failing to file an income tax return and it is darn dangerous to talk as if it is.

Posted by: Peter B at September 18, 2006 2:43 PM

The whole thing was illegal and everyone involved should have been prosecuted, fined, deported and jailed.

Posted by: Jean at September 18, 2006 4:54 PM

To the Camps!

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 5:37 PM

What a great thread! We should envy our Jewish friends their tradition of such disputation.

Peter B: STFB, "This is no more 'sin,' than failing to file an income tax return. . .."

Well, there it is:

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para 2240:
Submission to authority and co-
responsibility for the common good
make it morally obligatory to pay taxes,
to exercise the right to vote and to
defend one's coluntry.

For the Sola Scriptura set, we have Romans 13:6ff

"For therefore also, you pay tribute. For they[the state] are the ministers of God serving unto this purpose. 7 Render therefore to all their dues. Tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom is due; fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor."

Of course let us not forget Our Lord's teaching of the coin of tribute.

I am actually shocked and somewhat appalled that anyone would suggest that it is other than sinful to cheat on taxes, given that the harm to one's neighbors is so immediate and apparent. If the swindler paid too little, others paid too much.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 18, 2006 11:33 PM

Show us the man who pays all his taxes and we shall crucify him.

Posted by: oj at September 18, 2006 11:44 PM


You would make a good Metternich. We'll leave aside for the moment the dicey notion that any one church can define sin for public purposes in America in 2006 on the basis of internal "credos" and doctrines. Are all the illegals sinning or just the Catholic ones? There are hundreds of thousands of laws and regulations out there. Are you suggesting it is the teaching of the Church that: A)disobeying any of them is by definition a sin ("coin of tribute" 'n stuff); B)the Church endorses the secular authority punishing these sins as it sees fit as a matter of theology;

And wouldn't an amnesty wash away the sin ? I knew the U.S. Government was a superpower, but I never realized its writ extended quite that far.

But hey, don't fret, it isn't just you Catholics who have lost your way on this one. The very liberal Protestant Church I used to attend up here makes it very clear God expects me to adhere to municipal recycling regulations and is taking no responsibility for my soul if I don't.

Posted by: Peter B at September 19, 2006 6:55 AM