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Demonstrations address plight of illegal residents

By Wallace Kaufman
Posted Sunday, May 14, 2006

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Chatham County, NC - Most or all of the comparisons and questions I posed about recent and past newcomers can be answered and elaborated by a little research. Perhaps the more difficult question to quantify is how many present newcomers from other countries are illegal, but contrary to Pete's assumption that I have "no idea" I do have an idea based on some experience. We have no reason to assume the proportion in Chatham's unskilled workers is different than in other areas. Since legal immigration to America is limited and difficult, it is reasonable to assume a large portion of Latinos are illegal. My own experience with employers and translating for defendants in legal procedings is that perhaps more than half are illegal.

One might also note that in the recent immigration demonstrations the demonstrators were not addressing the plight of legal residents, but illegal residents. If there were not many of them, one would assume smaller demonstrations or none at all. The "Day without Immigrants" was in fact about a day without illegal residents since no one has proposed any additional limits on legal residents and, with the exception of a few bigots, the immigration debate is not about legal residents.

Illegals do use more than Medicaid and education. They use court and police services, DMV, public defenders, and of course, schools. The fact that they might not qualify for a program doesn't mean they cannot or do not use it.

They don't qualify to work in the US either.

Whether or not crime is higher among illegals or any particular group than others, is easy enough to check in the Clerk of Court's records. I simply noted my impression from looking at the records a few years ago. (A Sunday's sauntering around the churches might also give the impression that church attendance is high among Latinos. Note, I am not suggesting any correlation between crime and church attendance.)

Taxes. I made no assumption about whether it was good or bad that illegals using hokey Social Security numbers will never collect the benefits, tho it would appear to be true that benefits not claimed will accrue to the system in general.

On the schools issue, Pete and Doug are quite right that property taxes are the major funding for the schools. They have been rising much faster than inflation, so those who pay them through ownership or rents have a legitimate right to wonder whether people who come to the country illegally have a right to demand Chatham's legal residents pay the costs of educating their children. The schools also receive federal funding and that comes from income taxes. Work done for cash wages often pays no state or federal tax.

The solution to the immigration conundrum is largely beyond the competence and legal abilities of Chatham's government or even state government. If the county finds a significant impact from illegal immigrants, it could join other counties in demanding the federal government help pay the bills. It could enforce laws against those who traffic in human beings. It could ask those providing county services to verify legal residency. The state could require that employers found to be using illegal workers post bonds sufficient to pay for the services they use, if and when they use them. In fact, such bonds would address the problem at the national level. Simply require that presently illegal workers register and that they, their employers, or any organization that wants to sponsor a presently illegal worker post a bond sufficient to cover any government services they use, from schools to public defenders. After all, in many cases sponsors of legal immigrants already have to provide an affidavit of support.

The other area in which Chatham could take the lead is in demonstrating methods of integrating newcomers from other countries. In fact, some Chatham businesses (capitalists all) are far ahead of Chatham government and nonprofits in providing counseling, health care, job training, and ESL services.

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Demonstrations address plight of illegal residents