Chesterfield’s Funny Illegal Alien Figures

Joining the Hispanic-bashing craze, Chesterfield County officials will hold a public hearing Nov. 14 to get public comment on “illegal immigrants” whom county officials claim cost more than $2 million annually in local services.

This expense to local taxpayers is apparently so profound that county officials are considering a variety of punitive measures to stop the barbarians at the gate. Under consideration are requiring Chesterfield business owners to certify that they do not hire illegal immigrants before they can obtain business licenses and zoning strictures to prevent illegals from living chock-a-block in houses or apartments.

The point of the hearing seems to be to provide a venue for public outcry on illegal aliens, whether informed or not, so that county supervisors can proceed with the anti-alien crusade. Chesterfield is predominately white and Republican so it may be no surprise that it is a member of the 20 city and county informal vigilante association designed to blunt to invasion of illegals. It doesn’t matter if the onslaught is real or imagined.

The basis of the Nov. 14 hearing is a report sent to the Board of Supervisors on Aug. 16 by County Administrator James J.L. Stegmaier outlining the cost estimates of the illegal alien burden and what can be done. As a Chesterfield resident and a small business owner (albeit without any employees), I take special interest in the matter. So, I studied Stegmaier’s report, found some holes, and called Don Kapel, the county’s press spokesman. “It is amorphous,” he admitted. “Nobody knows how many illegal immigrants might be here.”

He referred me to Rebecca Dixson, an assistant county administrator who played a key role in assembling the report. I called her about four times and never got called back. So, dear readers please know I tried to get a response from the county, but was unsuccessful.

Let’s get down to brass tacks:

· The report says that, based on 2006 figures, illegal immigrants cost the county about $1.3 million in direct costs plus another $737,000 in indirect costs. “Staff has estimated the potential local cost of providing selected services to those individuals deemed to be in the county illegally. These figures are estimates only, determined by each department using reasonable assumptions,” the report says. I could not get an explanation from the county about what “reasonable assumptions” are.

· The biggest single costs are health ($310,000), but the report provided no explanation of how this figure was obtained. In addition, about $409,000 in expenses supposedly came from poor illegal immigrants who used emergency room services in the county. The county contacted the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services and learned that total indigent emergency room use in the county was $629,500. Although the report admits, “data is not kept on this,” the county, nonetheless, attributed up to 70 percent of the indigent use of emergency care by illegal aliens resulting in the $409,000 figure. This is a “staff” estimate but no information was given on how it is based. Did someone check the patients’ passports and visas or were the patients simply dark-skinned and spoke Spanish?

· Illegal immigrants are apparently bad drivers who don’t pay their fines. Aliens here without documents racked up unpaid fines worth $336,840, the study says. This is based on another “staff estimate” that 31 percent of the total outstanding fines are the result of illegal immigrants. I could not learn where the 31 percent number came from and the report did not say.

· Illegal immigrants were said to be responsible for $230,000 in Local Jail expenses. No explanations were given. However, the jail does get reimbursed for illegals picked up while their documents are reviewed or for deportation by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau, which is the sole government agency that is really tasked with cracking down on illegal aliens. Since 2003, the county has received $145,000 from ICE for this. “Staff estimates that six to 10 illegal aliens are now being picked up monthly” as a result of the joint ICE program, the report says. A couple of points here: Is that a tremendous number given the county’s size of about 300,000? Also, the jail has been stuffed with as many as 400 inmates at any time. Ten aliens isn’t a lot. What’s more if presumably illegal aliens are already in jail, why do we need extra measures like having business owners certify they don’t hire illegals?

So it goes. Dear readers, do you see a major epidemic here? Or do you see a politically-charged report with a lot of squishy “staff estimates?” I tend to see the latter.

The situation reminds me of what life was like in the Communist Soviet Union where I worked as a U.S. news correspondent in the 1980s. In that police state, Soviet citizens were required to carry internal passports at all times and these had the notorious “Line Five” which listed “nationality.” Being “Jewish” or “Uzbek” was considered a nationality but having it so listed meant one was more likely to be refused work or a university position.

The Kremlin had another trick to keep the unwashed from the predominately Slavic (read “white”) and desirable cities such as Moscow or Leningrad. To live legally in those places, one had to have a “propiska” or living permit. It was nearly impossible to get one by yourself. So, there were literally millions of phony marriages set up, whereby, for a covert fee, a couple would marry. Since one of the couple had the desired “propiska,” that meant that the other partner could get one too. When they married, bingo, they divorced, but both kept their desired propiskas.

Of course, Chesterfield County isn’t the Soviet Union, at least not yet. It may be some time before the Board of Supervisors considers internal county passports and living permits. But what is sad is that a lot of emotion will be vented Nov. 14 without much factual basis. And the Chesterfield supervisors likely will proceed with measures that are throwbacks to some ugly parts of Virginia’s history when the color of one’s skin was an obsession.

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54 responses to “Chesterfield’s Funny Illegal Alien Figures”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    If Chesterfield County thought about it they would thank (or blame) the illegal immigrants for their burgeoning population and continuing economic growth. Chesterfield’s economy as of late has been built on the back of the housing market. While the price of a home in Chesterfield is more than I would like to pay, it is much less than it would be if there were no Mexicans, Guatemalans, or Salvadorians around to build the houses. I have been involved with many subdivision and road construction projects in Chesterfield and on most jobs 50% to 75% (or more) of the workers are immigrants (mostly illegal with fake documents). They work hard, harder than many of the “American” workers, they are willing to do the difficult jobs, and they show up to work on-time every day. Most construction projects would not break ground if it were not for these laborers.

    It may be illegal for them to be here but if you live in Chesterfield you have benefitted from there presence. Your house cost less, you have extra money each month to spend how you please, businesses move in to serve your pleasure, giving more people a place to work and starting the cycle all over again. Repeat this process for every house built in Chesterfield over the last 5-7 years and I would say that the economic benefit of illegal immigrants is much more than $2 million a year.

    The problem for Chesterfield is not how should we get rid of them or punish them. Instead, it should be how can we integrate them into our health care system with insurance. If a person could afford to go to a “Patient First” instead of the ER, they would.

    For the most part they already pay taxes because their employer is required to with hold the tax from their paycheck. They don’t, however, qualify for Social Security, or get tax refunds.

    The USA is THE land of immigrants. At some point in your family tree, someone got on a boat, came to American and started at the bottom (and were most likely despised by those who got here before them). If it was good enough for them, why not for others who are looking for a better life for their families.

    Immigrants are the secret ingredient to the roaring success of our country. I hope we realize it before it is too late.

    Byrd Park

  2. Anonymous Avatar

    “The point of the hearing seems to be to provide a venue for public outcry on illegal aliens, whether informed or not, so that county supervisors can proceed with the anti-alien crusade.”

    Sounds just like a zoning hearing.


  3. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Peter, Good reporting and good questions. This is exactly the kind of analysis we’re going to need if the “illegal immigration” debate is to be based on facts and not emotion. It’s exactly the kind of original content I love to see on Bacon’s Rebellion.

    Now let me pick a nit. You had me agreeing with you until the very end of your post, when you mentioned “throwbacks to some ugly parts of Virginia’s history when the color of one’s skin was an obsession.”

    The more I delve into the debate, the more I see it as a culture clash — Third World paysans rubbing up against middle-class Americans, both with very different cultures and ways of interacting with their neighbors. The latest controversy I’ve heard about — and this is taking place in Chesterfield County — is how some residents are getting riled up with the way some Hispanics paint their houses really bright colors, presumably the kinds of tropical greens and pinks and blues they’re accustomed to back in Mexico or Central America. The gripe, I guess, is that these colors are out of place in respectable American subdivisions.

    You’ve had your own run-ins with your neighborhood home owners association over a trivial infraction, have you not? You know what I’m talking about. I’m NOT defending the aesthetics-Nazi approach of homeowners associations, which I regard as excessive for the most part. Rather I’m making the point that many people are so zealous to “protect their property values” that they get over wraught when anyone, of whatever race or nationality, does something that goes against their definition of the norm.

    Is there a cultural conflict in Chesterfield? Yes. But I don’t think that you can jump to the assumption that Chesterfield residents are motivated by racial or ethnic animus. If bias against swarthy complexions were at the root of the controversy, why don’t we hear complaints about the increasing number of ethnic Indians and Pakistanis? Why don’t we hear complaints about middle-class African-Americans in the suburbs? Because, I maintain, those groups have largely assimilated to suburban, middle-class norms.

    Latinos will assimilate eventually, adding their own flavors to the multi-ethnic stew as other ethnic groups have before them. In the absence of incidents in which people make explicitly racist comments, I don’t think it’s helpful for anyone to impute prejudice against skin color.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    “Immigrants are the secret ingredient to the roaring success of our country. I hope we realize it before it is too late.”

    Luckily not every jurisdiction is this stupid and realizes that xenophobia is bad for business and residents. As immigrants are what are keeping the US population from dropping, jurisdictions who close the door are sealing their fate to stagnation or contraction.

    It would be nice if the boards and councils who present these ideas actually spell out all the costs and benefits. Maybe they should mention how the cost of construction will skyrocket, how housing prices will drop, and how it will also discourage legal immigrants and other minorities from coming and doing business in the jurisdiction. We can look to Oklahoma for an example of what will happen with these policies; the first thing that happened was construction prices skyrocketed.

    As someone whose lady is an immigrant, I can assure you I would not take her to areas where I know she would be harassed and treated like a 2nd class citizen over immigration status. I can tell you as someone who has gone through it that the problem with illegal immigration isn’t the illegals, but that the legal immigration system we have is a mess that bears no resemblance to the realities of our economies needs and the speed of modern processes.


  5. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: Culture Clash

    ehhh.. isn’t that what they called it also back when the slaves were released and went looking for jobs, homes, schooling and medical care?

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim Bacon,
    Point of fact. You are referring to my shed whose biege color was not taupe enough for my homeowners association. There were no purples or tangerines involved. They didn’t like my shingles, either. I am pleased to report that my HOA and I made peace years ago.
    On a more serious matter, I do bring up racism because it IS very much a part of Virginia’s history and much of the South.
    Example: my Dad was a doctor in a small North Carolina town. Every time a black patient used the office toilet, a secretary, otherwise a fine local woman, would run in and spray the toilet down with Lysol. I got my first real journalism job on the local newspaper in that same town. White obituaries went on the front page and black ones on the back page. They even had a column dedicated to black churches, clubs and events. It was titled “Among the Colored.” This is not that ancient history — it was the summer of 1971.
    Those of us my age or so remember the sea change in racial attitudes that occured here int he South over time. You ought to read “Race Beat” a great little book on how the media covered the civil rights years. What changed attitudes about blacks was not that they becomae middle class and didn’t paint their houses tangerine — it was because a lot of brave people — especially black lawyers back in the 1940s and 1950s — had the guts to challenge authority and change attitudes.
    Today, I am truly stunned to see overt racism in the Virginia media as they try to (not very well) cover the backlash against “illegal” aliens and Hispanics. I am amazed the Hispanics haven’t risen up and announced they are not taking this crap any more. If they did, then maybe Chesterfield wouldn’t so fast anbd loose with facts.
    I agree with much of what you say, Jim, but you keep wanting to turn a blind eye to the realities of this state’s and region’s history.

    Peter Galuszka

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Chesterfield is infamous as one of the most backward, racist counties in the United States, let alone Virginia.

    I wish residents good luck in changing that, but that reputation exists for a reason.

    I personally avoid Chesterfield whenever I can.

  8. Groveton Avatar

    Excellent article and excellent posts.

    Illegal immigrants do “cost” the government money. So do legal immigrants. So do people whose relatives have lived in the United States since arriving on the Mayflower. We need to know the cost/benefit of “open throttle” immigration, not just the costs. Every methodicial analysis of this question I have ever read shows immigration to be a net economic positive. However, most of these studies also show that widespread immigration is bad for native born poor people.

    As for the belief that Virginia is a hotbed of racism – I say no. Forget the absurdly ridiculous movie Remember the Titans. That was a croc designed to sell tickets, not to tell the truth.

    I travel all over the United States. I have been to every major city in the USA. There is a lot of lingering racism – it’s just not particularly pronounced in Virginia. Boston is a disgrace. Raliegh has more than its share of inappropriate attitudes. Suburban Detriot is kind of sad in the views of its people. But Virginia? I just don’t see it or hear it. In fact, whether you like him politically or not, Doug Wilder kind of made the point, didn’t he? I know he was the first African American governor in the history of the US. Kind of a strange fact for a supposedly predjudiced state.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    You’ll get no argument from me that other places are racist, too. I went to a “semi-elite” college outside of Boston which had lots of attitude. Bacon would have a coronary but this actually was exactly the liberal plantation and mind set he so much likes to bring up. Coming up there from N. Carolina, I got the South’s “racism” shoved in my face at every turn. I was regaled with stories of lynchings and the Highway Patrol from Northern kids who had never been there other than to drive down I-95 to Florida.
    In October 1974, just after I graduated and headed back South, Boston ended up in perhaps the most extreme, racially-charged busing crisis in U.S. history. And if you ever want to see white racism at one of its most extreme levels, try “Southie” (South Boston).
    This, however, does not excuse what I see as plentiful racism in Virginia’s history. It is simply a part of the landscape that cannot be denied, however much, including some like Jim Bacon, might want to.

    Peter Galuszka

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    “We can look to Oklahoma for an example of what will happen with these policies; the first thing that happened was construction prices skyrocketed.”

    With the housing bubble bursting, I sincerely doubt that construction costs have skyrocketed, ZS, but they may well have gone up a bit. No surprise since during the biggest housing boom in US history construction wages went DOWN as a result of massive illegal immigration which causesd a surplus of cheap foreign labor. If this is a result of US construction workers finally being hired at better wages, I say great! Just as I say great to leather workers in MA and poultry workers in GA who got a raise when the ICE cracked down on illegal employers. You can slice it any way you like but the truth is that massive unskilled immigration – legal or illegal – hurts the working poor.

    As to history try this: At the end of the 19th century, Booker T Washington urged America’s industrialists to hire the freed slaves – now full citizens – for America’s labor force needs in his ‘Cast down your buckets here’ speech. The US responded by initiating the Great Wave of Immigration that helped keep African-Americans out of mainstream employment. That wave of immigration was mainly European; this one is largely Hispanic. Both have accomplished the task of harming US unskilled workers, but esecially black workers, whose EMPLOYMENT rate has sunk to 60% in areas like GA with particularly high rates of illegal immigration. Forget unemployment rates. They measure people out of a job for a limited amount of time and still looking. They don’t reflect long-term unemployment, people who have given up and are now taking odd jobs, and the under-employed. Look at employment rates. They are going down for US unskilled workers, especailly black men, since the late 90’s. And this is AFTER welfare reform that limits how long a person can remain on the public dole.

    And as for how accurate the costs of illegal immigration are, try this: Most illegal immigrants are not going to volunteer the information that they are illegal and in some cases, especially where health care and public schooling – both mandated whether people are illegal or not – are concerned, you are not allowed to ask about legality. Add to that the fact that children born to illegal immigrants in the US are declared citizens and so are counted as citizens when costs are assessed in spite of the fact that they would not be citizens if their parents hadn’t entered the US illegally. How the heck can anybody determine what the costs associted with illegal immigrants are? And that’s the whole point. You’re not suposed to. You’re supposed to drink the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” aka amnesty Koolaide as we did in 1986.

    Deena Flinchum

  11. Anonymous Avatar

    Re; Ms. Flinchum:
    While illegals might take some of the jobs from U.S. citizens, the fact is that they are working at jobs that no one else wants. And, sometimes the illegals display a much higher level of work energy and responsibility than some of the American citizens. Indeed, if any single group is destroying the intellectual basis of the welfare state, it is these people. They are not asking for welfare — just work.

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    “they are working at jobs that no one else wants”

    BS. They are working jobs that US citizens used to do and still often do but at wages that US citizens can’t afford to take and still attempt to live in a first world society. Why to you think that we see the 4 families or 20+ singles piling into a single-family home that causes so much grief in middle-class communities?

    And where do we stop? If Thai workers will live 40 to a SFH and accept half what Hispanics will, do we dump the Hispanics and ship in Thais? The race to the bottom is brutal.

    It comes down to what kind of country you want to live in. If I wanted to live in a third world country with a thin scrim of elites separated by a somewhat thicker layer of professionals over a huge mass of unskilled people living in poverty, there are a number of countries that I could attempt to move to. I don’t. I prefer a Western liberal democracy – and I mean liberal in the classic sense, not whether you support abortion and gay marriage.

    We’ve seen recently that traditional marriage is becoming less common among lower middle and working class people. I suspect that a lot of this is that these people , especially the men, are seeing that their ability to support a family is diminishing. So why marry and try to do the impossible or at least the unlikely?

    I live in SW VA. I probably pay more for my yard work than a number of my friends in NoVA. That’s great by me. My lawn care company keeps its employees for years and they employ guys from SW VA insread of importing cheap foreign labor. I have seen several of these young men move up the ladder from the lowest rungs to hirer paying jobs and in one case to management. Good for them and good for our community!

    This matters to me. I don’t want to profit at the expense of seeing guys willing to give an honest day’s labor for an honest day’s pay get screwed. I want to see these young men be able to start families, buy homes, and live decent middle class lives. And I’m willing to pay more to see this happen. What’s wrong with this? It’s a hell of a better investment than a second home at the beach IMHO.

    Deena Flinchum

  13. Anonymous Avatar

    Ms. Flinchum,
    You have eloquently described the free trade system that both Republicans and Democrats have given us. Yes, jobs go to the people willing to work for the least. Yes, there will be dislocations in older communities. Yes, it is crude, unrelenting and unfeeling.
    But read economist Ricardo. He believed that all boats rise in such circumstances. Bill Clinton believes this, since he pushed NAFTA on us. So does Bush “W” and his Cheney crew. The U.S. establishment believes it. Thanks to you, at least someone is questionning it.

    PS: It is no BS that the new illegals are taking jobs no one wants. They are: from crab picking or turkey plucking.

  14. Anonymous Avatar

    That comment about construction prices skyrocketing in Oklahoma, I listened to recently on a news report. I can’t source it, but it would make economic sense as you would essentially be shifting the supply curve up on a supply/demand curve.

    In SW VA as in a number of other lower cost rural areas you can get away with hiring natives rather than immigrants, but there is no way you could do that around NoVa. In NoVA you are talking $30/hr and up for basic non-immigrant labor and the numbers go way up for specializations. Add in the fact there is not a limitless supply of native-born blue collar workers in the area and you would see construction prices skyrocket plus a huge shortage of available contractors.

    “We’ve seen recently that traditional marriage is becoming less common among lower middle and working class people. I suspect that a lot of this is that these people , especially the men, are seeing that their ability to support a family is diminishing. So why marry and try to do the impossible or at least the unlikely?”

    This has largely been due to the increase in schooling and employment opportunities of women rather than men being unable to support them. Something like 60% of college students now are women which is more due to choice rather than being unable to accomplish their desire to be a housewife. This type of behavior is common in societies as they become richer. There are some great books and articles detailing how much quality of life in the US has improved in the past few generations.

    “Why to you think that we see the 4 families or 20+ singles piling into a single-family home that causes so much grief in middle-class communities?”

    I think this has been pretty well spelled out as more being a problem of zoning and land-use policies rather than the immigrants personal desires. By not zoning housing for poorer residents except through housing lotteries, this is the result; people adapt.
    To me, SFH on a lot are a desire by the middle class to be sheltered from real life like the rich already are. Basically they want the cheap products and services, but don’t want to see how they get there.


  15. Anonymous Avatar

    ZS – I suspect that you are correct about labor costs. But why do we want to force local taxpayers to subsidize cheap labor for certain industries? That’s what is happening.

    I could support a guest labor program that: 1) requires an applicant to be processed outside the U.S. (in other words, an alien guest worker receives credentials before he or she crosses the border – an alien who arrives in the US without credentials would be subject to criminal prosecution); 2) employers of guest workers are required to pay a payroll tax to state and local government sufficient to recover the full costs of added services required because of the presence of the guest workers and their families (I believe I suggested $100 per day previously); 3) guest workers must receive full protection of all U.S. labor laws; 4) all U.S. taxes are withheld from guest workers; and 5) any employer who knowingly violates any of these provisions, including the hiring of illegals (those without resident or guest worker status), are fined and jailed. The fines would need to go beyond the cost of doing business and be a true threat to the continued operation of the offending business.

    The law could also provide that the guest worker’s share of Social Security taxes would be sent to accounts in the worker’s home nation. The employer’s share of SS taxes could be left in the fund as a benefit to other U.S. workers.

    I seriously doubt that the open borders crowd would support any reasonable program, such as this.


  16. Anonymous Avatar

    “PS: It is no BS that the new illegals are taking jobs no one wants. They are: from crab picking or turkey plucking.”

    And at WHAT PRICE? People are sick of having to clean up the mess left behind when people willing to do these jobs for peanuts come into a community and expect the average Joe & Jane to subsidize their kids’ schooling, the whole family’s health care and endure the deterioration of their own kids’ schooling and their community environment with overcrowded housing, informal day labor sites, etc. Why should they do this? They shouldn’t!! And if you think I’m excepting the Clintons, I’m not. It’s Dems and Reps, Liberals and Conservatives, etc. Crappy jobs should command better wages. Hello?!

    “In NoVA you are talking $30/hr and up for basic non-immigrant labor and the numbers go way up for specializations”

    Hey, that would certainly slow down the over-development, now wouldn’t it???!!!

    “largely been due to the increase in schooling and employment opportunities of women rather than men being unable to support them. “

    I am not talking about professional women. I was one and I did just fine. I’m talking about lower middle class and working class families. Try supporting such a family without a male bread-winner.

    So, finally, it comes down to this: What kind of country do you want to live in? I’m waiting…..

    Deena Flinchum

  17. Anonymous Avatar

    Deena Flinchum,
    I am afraid you are missing the point. Exactly what you describe is the NEW GLOBAL ECONOMY. Dems and Reps love it. The elites of this nation love it. Read Foreign Affairs of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Wall STreet loves it.
    They do not give a damn about you or your people in Sw Va. They sure as hell didn’t give a damn abhout the 6,000 testile workers in Kannapolis, N.C. who all lost their jobs in just one afternoon.

    Get with the program or stay mad!

  18. Groveton Avatar

    Mr. Galuszka:

    I make no apologies for Virginia’s history. It was racist and should be a source of shame to all right thinking people. However, I believe that the recent past (last 35 years?) has been a whole lot better.

    Ms. Flinchum:

    There is little doubt that widespread immigration (legal and illegal) hurts native born poor people. Of course, economic stagnation, such as that demonstrated in SW Virginia, disproportionately hurts the poor too.

    There should also be little doubt that the native born birth rate in the US is insufficient to continue the economic growth required to pay for the US military, pay for the US debt, etc. We are between a rock and a hard place here. Simply banning immigration or drastically limiting immigration would only make everything worse.

    I would also be very careful about tossing around the “over development” term. Rural Virginia is basically an economic basket case. The “over developed” areas are paying for your schools, your courts, your police and a whole lot of other things.

    I know that many in SW Virginia can’t admit that their economic performance is an abject failure. Instead, they continue to see many of the citizens live in poverty while complaining about “over development”, federal jobs and immigration. The biggest enemy of the poor in Virginia isn’t immigration it’s the antiquated and self-defeating economic policies of those who live in the past.

    TMT’s approach to controlled immigration makes a lot of sense to me.

  19. Anonymous Avatar

    I guess that I should add that my proposal does NOT include any amnesty or other short-cuts for any illegal aliens who are here now. Our border must be controlled now and our local budgets protected before we can consider immigration reform. Attrition can and will work. For those of you who might see your business fold in the interim because its built on dirt cheap labor, sorry, but you had your free ride.

    I can, however, see a proper role for guest laborers if conditions are met. But first, we need to enforce existing laws aggressively. Businesses that flout these laws should feel as if they were hit with Sherman’s March to the Sea.


  20. Anonymous Avatar

    Anon 7:59,

    I read both FA and the WSJ, which I receive every day, as well as a host of other magazines, newspapers and books. Where do you think I get my information? I suspect that as to the facts of the issue I am better informed on immigration than most people. I just do not believe that what’s good for the elites of this country, whatever their political persuasion, is necessarily good for the working people. And there are a lot more working people than elites. And they seem to finally be waking up.


    I am not saying halt all immigration. I am willing to accept immigration and guest workers; but not until and unless we start enforcing the laws against hiring illegal aliens and get control of our borders. How do we even know how many workers we need to allow into the US under the current circumstances? I am totally unwilling to have an amnesty with the promise of enforcement, followed by failure to enforce the laws and secure the border, followed by yet another amnesty etc every 20 years, with the number of estimated illegal aliens increasing by a factor of 10 (1.2 million estimated in 1986, 12 million estimated now) I doubt that a soul fewer than 20 million would come forward if we are stupid enough to offer another blanket amnesty – and that’s before family reunification.

    TMT offers some perfectly viable suggestions. I could live with his guest worker plan AFTER I see that the government is willing and capable of delivering on the enforcement it promises. Would it surprise you to learn that the H-2A visa is similar to what TMT suggests and that it is unlimited in number? Guess what: The AgBiz interests don’t like it. They prefer to hire people they can exploit and then send a nice piece of the cost to the community at large. And why not? It’s more profit for them. In another posting TMT pointed out that if we legalize all of those illegal workers, the companies now exploiting them will merely bring in the next wave of illegal workers. I think the H-2A visa situation supports his view.

    I also am well aware of the economic problems in SW VA. Today I will drive down to Pulaski VA, where I am a volunteer at the New River Valley Agency on Aging. I help seniors and disabled people navigate the wonders of Medicare, especially Part D. As I drive into Pulaski, I will pass a number of furniture plants, all idle. Much of the South has been hit hard by the loss of decent paying manufacturing jobs. This didn’t occur because the workers and their communities are against development. It occurred because it is cheaper to make furniture in China, etc and making a fast buck is more important to these companies than the economic health of the US and its citizens. And don’t give me a free trade lecture. How can you have free trade with countries that practice what amounts to slave labor? Massive immigration is merely the flip side of off-shoring, a way to drive down wages in jobs that can’t actually be shipped abroad. This includes a lot of white collar professional jobs as well.

    We would LOVE to have more development down here. I should have been a bit clearer in my comment about over-development: If the only way you can afford your $700,000 McMansion is by exploiting Hispanic workers and driving down the wages of your fellow citizens while simultaneously passing much of the costs and chaos on to them, then maybe, just maybe, you can’t afford a $700K McMansion and should settle for a far more modest dwelling, like a condo.

    As for subsidies, as I have pointed out here before, it’s hard to tell who is subsidizing whom. Mortgage interest on those McMansions are fully tax deductable, which is a nice little subsidy in itself.I suspect that the top 10% of the US gets more in housing subsidies than the bottom 10%.

    But what is the point in “fighting” poverty while importing it wholesale from the third world? If we legalized these illegal workers tomorrow, most of them would still require substantial social services and would, in fact, then be entitled to more of them than they are now. This is hardly surprising. Most US citizens with less than a high school education are in the same boat.

    Deena Flinchum

  21. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “Massive immigration is merely the flip side of off-shoring, a way to drive down wages in jobs that can’t actually be shipped abroad.”

    I agree.

    Why go through all the trouble of having to be an expatriate to stretch your dollars when you can bring the benefits of being an expatriate here?

    This is all about exploiting the vulnerable for profit and the folks doing this are the same types that have done this throughout history with any humans they could prey on regardless of their color or culture.

    Is the illegal immigrant “problem” actually modern-day slavery-lite in disguise?

    Go after the employers and this problem will disappear – at least from this country.

    Any politician who is opposed to going after the employers, in my mind, is self-declaring his/her allegiance with respect to elites who prey on people or ordinary people trying to make a living.

    I THINK … in the GUT for many folks that this is really what this is about but it comes out tinged with racist overtones.

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    “Go after the employers and this problem will disappear – at least from this country.”

    I agree wholeheartedly, Larry. But this situation has more in common with feudalism than slavery. As bad as slavery was, at least a slave-owner had a vested interest in his slave’s well-being. The slave was his property, just like his horse, and valuable as such. The way that employers approach these illegal workers is much more like the lords of the manor and the serfs: Use ’em; abuse ’em; when through with ’em, lose ’em; and if they ask for more, refuse ’em. And for God’s sake, don’t waste any of YOUR resources on ’em.

    Deena Flinchum

  23. Anonymous Avatar

    Let’s not forget the role of the Professional Caring Class in this debate. I agree that the first line of defense must include enforcement against employers and arresting & deporting those illegal aliens with criminal records or who are caught in new criminal acts. However, there are many people who are employed directly or indirectly in providing “social services” paid for largely by taxpayers. They have a strong interest in ensuring demand growth. E.g., Fairfax County Public Schools spends tens of millions of dollar each year addressing issues related to students who are here illegally or who are the children of illegal aliens. Those tens of millions pay many people. Many members of the Professional Caring Class are in the van of the effort to deliver amnesty and to weaken immigration law enforcement. They are aided and abetted by the MSM.


  24. Jim Bacon Avatar

    TMT, “The professional caring class” — I like that. It has become a potent special interest group indeed. It can’t bankroll elections like the industry groups can, but it can mobilize a lot of votes and generate favorable newspaper headlines almost at will.

  25. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “…at least a slave-owner had a vested interest in his slave’s well-being.”

    ugh.. I find that concept pretty odious…

    I don’t think we see Hispanics with their toes chopped off to keep them from running away… I hope…

    so the idea that slaves were “taken care of” well, let’s be honest…only in the sense that their owners were free to treat them like disposable property if they so wished and more than a few – did.

    so, I’ll go along with feudalism and/or probably indentured servants .. as perhaps a closer analogy

    but I think the important thing to realize is that the circumstances of indentured servants and “illegal” workers have parallels with respect to their “employers”
    in essence.. the same elite/monied types with a predatory mentality that has been in play for hundreds of years.

    It is the reason why coal miners and auto workers died at the hands of company-hired “deputies” – otherwise known as hired assassins and thugs while the government was paid to look the other way or even arrest those under attack.

    We have the same folks around today – they are just more sophisticated and still shielded by the government paid for in the same way.

    This is why, the government is not acting to deal with these employers… in my view – the monied interests have their ear.

    They make arguments like “we cannot afford” and “our costs will skyrocket” instead of “we need cheap labor and the government off of our backs about “benefits” and “documentation”.

    I’m not going to claim it’s mostly pachyderms but I do find it ironic that the party that espouses self-reliance and personal responsibility chooses NOT to lead the charge against what can only be characterized as the worst kind of corporate welfare – gains made as the expense of those that are vulnerable.

    Instead of “hunting down illegals”, why not “hunt down those that think that preying on others is acceptable behavior?

    end of rant….

  26. Groveton Avatar

    First, we need an immigration policy that makes sense. What level of immigration should we want?

    By region, by state by country.

    The anti-immigration crowd manages to ignore Arlington County. Long a haven for immigrants, Arlington has a good quality of life (by suburban standards anyway), economic growth and the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia. If widespread immigration is really such a fiasco – how does Arlington do it?

    Interesting note: Arlington is probably the most liberal, Democratic county in Virginia.


    Once we have a policy – we need to set laws that work. This most certainly would include jail time for employers who repeatedly offend. And deportation. And more aggressive border partol. And denial of services to those in the country illegally.

    Our present immigration policies seem very ineffective. Our present immigration laws aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. The feds won’t enforce and the states and localities, by and large, can’t enforce. You must provide schooling, you must provide medical care, blah, blah, blah.

    So, what should the US immigration policy be? How many immigrants per year, from what countries, with what skills under what conditions?

    Until these questions are answered all else is posturing – by both sides (IMHO).

  27. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’d settle for the rest as a compromise position as long as the employer sanctions are a reality and not some cynical promise.

    Note the candidates running for office. Note what they say they are going to do (and not, by omission).

    this issue demonstrates just how toothless voters are.. when it comes to something this important.

    Voters are virtually powerless to have any meaningful impact on what happens.

    The “free speech” money – wins every time.

  28. Anonymous Avatar

    “Professional Caring Class” – TMT

    I second Jim’s approval and add let’s not forget the churches. At least the Catholic and Lutheran churches have programs in which they “sponsor” immigrants, particularly refugees, accept tons of government money to “resettle” them, and then after a month or two dump them on the local community and high-tail it off to sponsor still more with still more government money. Many of these immigrants – all legal BTW – often hail from war-torn countries, have severe problems other than the language, and never integrate into the communities which bear the primary responsibility for their support in the long run.


    I think that you and I are in agreement more than our ealier posting might indicate. I am happy to consider a sane imigration policy that includes guest workers – something that some immigration restrictionists won’t – but only AFTER the federal government gives indications that it is serious about enforcement on a long-term basis. None of this voting for enforcement measures then failing to fund them.

    As to why “If widespread immigration is really such a fiasco – how does Arlington do it?” isn’t all that complicated. Arlington has had a sizable immigrant community – largely legal and a large amount East Asian – for decades. There are a number of communities in Arlington that are largely Vietnamese, Korean, etc with one dominant ethnic group. Many of these ethnic groups stressed good education for their children to a degree that was legendary, and stories abounded of 6-year-olds who arrived in the US unable to speak English and who gradauted 12 years later at the top of their classes and were accepted at Cal Tech or MIT. Many of these groups have been here long enough to have 3 generations in the US.

    Many of the illegal immigrants that NoVA is now contending with did not come from such a culture. This doesn’t mean that the parents don’t want what’s best for their children but it often means that their children move from school to school and the drop-out rate is quite high (close to 50%). A friend of mine in Manassas once told me that the Manassas school system had trouble planning for exactly how many students to expect in the fall because their immigrant student base (largely illegal) was so mobile, including after school started.

    Then take a look at

    This gives a demographic look at a number of VA counties and cities. Check out Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax. Massive domestic outflow from 1990 on, increasing from 2000 on in Arlington and Fairfax. Arlington’s growth from foreign immigration was higher than births over deaths over the 1990-2006 era. Note the analysis here:
    The 2000 census recorded 52,693 foreign-born residents in Arlington County. That was a 27.8 percent share of the overall population, which was much higher than for the state (8.1%). The 2000 data showed an increase of 44.1 percent in the immigrant population since 1990, which compared with a 1.8 percent increase in the native-born population (which includes children born to immigrants) over the same period. That meant that immigration accounted directly for 86.9 percent of the overall population increase for the County over that period.

    And this trend continued into the next 6 years. What this indicates to me is that the “native” population probably tends to be older or childless so no kids in public school, etc.

    Now take a look at Loudoun and PWC. HUGE increase in domestic in-migration for the 1990-2006 period. Some foreign migration, lots of births over deaths increase. What this suggests to me is that a lot of younger people moved in here from other parts of the US, including NoVA and likely Arlington, Alexandria and FFC, and had a bunch of kids. A look at the whole picture suggests to me that a lot of the domestic in-migration here was likely

    (1) Young folks not able to live in the most desirable school districts in Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria and eager to get good public schools for their (possibly) future kids and

    (2) people who didn’t like the changes they saw in the inner counties/city and so left, moving farther out.

    Both groups could be folks already living in the NoVA area or folks who moved there for jobs. IMHO this could easily explain why Loudoun and PWC passed laws cracking down on illegal immigration while Arlington, Alexandria, and for a while anyway – don’t think it will last – Fairfax County didn’t. It would be quite interesting to see the percentage of people in the last 3 jurisdictions who have children in the public schools.

    Deena Flinchum

  29. Anonymous Avatar

    I resent Deena Flinchum’s comment that the Catholic and Lutheran churches help immigrants only to ‘Dump” them back on the local communities. Does she have any evidence? Or is this something a “friend” told her? Such churches try to nurture such families as long as they stay in the parish. It is a long-term thing.

    And what else is her message? Asians are OK but Latinos are not? Let the profiling begin!

  30. Anonymous Avatar

    anon 6:52

    I should have distinguished between local churches, which are certainly part of the local community, and the resettlement organizations of the churches: Lutheran Immigraton and Refugee Service and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services. Certainly many churches and other organizations provide services to these refugees, many for years, but all are voluntary and extend only as long as they choose. Any obligations that the resettlement groups have toward their charges end in, I believe, 90 days. The local communities then find themselves responsible via taxes, which aren’t voluntary. The web site below discusses, among other things, this situation. Anybody who doesn’t want to wade through the whole article can read “A Lucrative Profession”.

    Also my response that you seem to consider profiling was addressing why Arlington with its high immigrant population wasn’t experiencing PWC’s problems. My point is that legal immigrants with a strong bias toward high educational achievement will tend to assimilate into a similar community more smoothly than a population that starts out with the many problems associated with being illegal. You may call this profiling but I consider it stating the obvious.

    Deena Flinchum

  31. Good discussion here.

    Something to think about … almost every community in which the “illegal immigration” issue is “hot” right now is a jurisdiction/community/neighborhoodexperiencing significant demographic change in terms of socio-economic class, age, ethnicity, and struggling with uncontrolled growth and the consequences thereof.

    For example, “all white, Republican Chesterfield County” had the following characteristics in 2005:
    1) 74.8% white, 20.8% African American, 2.8% Asian, 4.6% Hispanic
    2) living in same house in 1995 and 2000, 54.8%
    3) Foreign born 5.2% (2000)
    4) Language other than English spoken at home 7.8% (2000)

    Chesterfield County’s Demographic and Economic Profile states that the population grew 24% in the ten years between 1990-2000 and that the minority population of the County grew by 70% during the same period. The black population grew by 70% between 1990-2000, the Asian population grew by 68% and the Hispanic population grew by 203% while the white non-Hispanic population of the County grew only by 13%.

    Is it possible that fear of change is more perceptible, easier to inflame, when that change can be “seen” more easily when the change is “identifiable” by race or ethnicity?

    And, is it possible that inflaming that fear is a preferred strategy by those political leaders who might otherwise be the focus of the anger/emotion change often evokes because of their failure to act responsibly to manage County growth and ensure adequate public facilities before authorizing new development?

  32. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Claire, You ask, “Is it possible that fear of change is more perceptible, easier to inflame, when that change can be “seen” more easily when the change is ‘identifiable’ by race or ethnicity?” Once again, what you’re doing here is insinuating that the basis for concern about illegal immigration stems from irrational racial or ethnic prejudice, thus stigmatizing and delegitimizing it, and shutting down the dialogue.

    Here’s the question you have to answer: If racial/ethnic bias is the root of the backlash against illegal immigration, why don’t we see a backlash against Asians in the suburbs? Why don’t we see a backlash against African-Americans moving to the suburbs?

    I would suggest to you that the reason is that Asians and African-Americans have readily assimilated to the norms of middle-class suburban culture. So have many Hispanics, especially those who are better educated. But many newcomers from the villages and barrios of Latin America bring a different set of cultural norms with them, especially in the way in which they interact with their neighbors. The behaviors they display undoubtedly are perfectly normal to them. But they clash with the way people live their lives in the American suburbs.

    That’s not racism. That’s a conflict of cultures — a very different animal. If you don’t understand that, you will mischaracterize the entire debate.

  33. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim Bacon,
    When you talk of a “clash of cultures” and the unwillingness to assimilate among Hispanics, what, then are you referring to? Perhaps Samuel P. Huntington, a Harvard professor, can help. He wrote in a 2004 book that many Hispanics simply do not find the dominant Anglo-Protestant culture in the U.S., as defined by Huntington, that appealing. Hispanics certainly seem to find the economic opporunities in the U.S. appealing but where is it written in stone that any new group of immigrants must conform to this Anglo-Protestant ideal? You could argue that it has been the dominant culture, but then it is also a bit phony — something Walt Disney or Norman Rockwell might have created.

    It could be that Hispanics see the Anglo Protestant culture as anti-family because it typically involves a lot of divorces and broken homes and also unhealthy because it results in lots of heart disease.

    Huntington sees newer immigrants as more prone to retaining their subcultures. You cite the Asians as being more likely to assimilate but it could be they are simply more quiet about it all as they they jealously secure their centuries-old family traditions.
    Why, then, must immigrants be supplicant to this Anglo-Protestant culture? Typically cultures blend after a generation or two, but there is a lot in the Anglo-Protestant culture that really is not all that appealing. This could be why some northern and Mid-Western cities are a bit more interesting culturally than mono or bi-chromatic spots like Richmond or Roanoke.

    Please tell me why it has to be that Hispanics must pay homage to this Anglo-Protestant ideal just so they can avoid ugly discrimination?

    Peter Galuszka

  34. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Peter, I’m not saying that Hispanics should “pay hommage” to Anglo culture. You’re missing my entire point.

    A number of observers have suggested that the backlash against illegal immigration is rooted in racial or ethnic prejudice. I’m saying that I haven’t seen any evidence of that. Such evidence may exist, but I haven’t seen it, and no one on this blog has submitted any evidence of it.

    What I *have* seen is evidence of cultures in conflict. I’m not saying that middle-class suburban culture is the “right” culture or that the Hispanic village/barrio culture (or cultures, for there is no uniform Hispanic culture) is “wrong”. I’m merely making the case that what we’re witnessing is not racism or ethnic prejudice.

    I have been highly critical of much of suburban culture, especially the segregation of subdivisions by age, family status (kids/no kids) and income. To my mind, that creates a sterile society. But the mono-culture of suburbia is deeply rooted, and a lot of it has to do with middle-class Americans zealously protecting their number one financial asset, the value of their home. My counter-hypothesis to the characterization of suburbanites-as-bigots is that middle-class suburbanites see Hispanics, some of whom are here illegally, entering their neighborhoods and bringing a different set of social norms. these norms disturb suburban “tranquility” and threaten suburban property values. You can say that they should not react that way, which would make an interesting debate. But such behavior does not constitute racism.

    Indeed, I would further hypothesize that most of the people objecting to illegal boarding houses, and excessive numbers of cars, and loud music at night, etc. etc. (fill in the entire litany of complaints) would totally deny having any ethnic prejudice. As I noted in a previous blog post, some of these people in Northern Virginia are self-described liberals.

    While I believe that Hispanics should be entitled to practice their own culture as long as they want — speak their own language, eat their own foods, attend their own churches, practice their own brand of familial and sexual morality, etc. — they are not entitled to their own set of laws. They do not have a right to exempt themselves, on the basis of their ethnicity, from the rules and ordinances applying to all other Virginians.

  35. Anonymous Avatar

    Claire and Peter: I think that you are both missing a major part of the equation. There is a huge disconnection between those who receive benefits from the presence of illegal aliens — chiefly those who want dirt-cheap labor and workers fearful of rocking the boat and the “professional caring class,” who get jobs providing additional public services to illegals and their families on the one hand, and those who are paying many of the costs associated with the presence of the illegal aliens, on the other hand. Lower wages, more crime, diversion of resources from other services and higher local taxes. People have a legitimate right to be angry about these situations. It’s not racist per se or in practice.

    For example, Fairfax County Public Schools spends the bulk of its NCLB money because of children who are either here illegally or born here from illegal aliens. If there were fewer of these children in Fairfax County, the NCLB costs would be reduced. If the average cost could be reduced in half, there would be more than enough money to move the high school start time back. Illegal immigration imposes real costs on the average person, be she black, white, Asian, Hispanic or Arabic, who is in Fairfax County legally. Being angry about this is not racism.

    It’s a lot like over-development in NoVA. A few make huge profits from developing their properties, while others pay the price in terms of more traffic, crowded schools and parks, more pollution, higher taxes, etc.

    There is also a form of subtle racism among those who argue for accommodation that truly irritates people. I would agree that assimilation does not occur over night. It didn’t in the past. People continued to speak Polish, Mandarin or Creole. But there was generally no demand for accommodation in the past. There was no “press 1″ for English,” “press 2 for “Italian.” Insisting that society accommodate other languages and the culture of those who are here illegally, while countless numbers of our ancestors accommodated English and the dominant culture seems racist to me. Why did my ancestors required to adapt to the English language and American culture, but those who arrive illegally need not? I suspect that the needs of the professional caring class are part of the answer. In any event, I sense that this issue bothers quite a few people and not just because the accommodated language is Spanish.

    People can and do oppose illegal immigration who are not racist. They believe correctly that they are unfairly paying the price for this situation. It will be the biggest issue in the 2008 national elections.


  36. Anonymous Avatar

    And, of course, the “laws” they presumably are breaking are ones involving highly technical and highly changeable documentation by ICE? Outside of perhaps traffic moving violations, Hispanics don’t seem to be breaking that many other laws. It could be that they simply don’t follow lockstep with the Anglo-Protestant cultural ideal. If you have evidence to the contrary regarding breaking “rules and ordinances applying to all other Virgnians” please so state.
    A last point, you may not see the racism here, but I certainly do.

    Peter Galuszka

  37. Anonymous Avatar

    And, regarding TMT’s comments, it is silly to bring up the press 1 for English and Press 2 for Spanish. That’s a result of recent technology. Most of the Polish and Italian immigrants to this country, for example, came in the late 1800s when there was no such technology–there were barely telephones. If there were, you might be pushing two extra buttons.
    But, there were plenty of outher outlets, including indigenous language nespapers and banks and businesses catering to the immigrants. After all, the oldest, continuously running Russian language newspaper in the world today is Noviye Russkiya Slova (New Russian Word) printed in New York.
    As far as losing house value, that’s a bogus, arrogant argument that goes back ages. It’s exactly what poeople said when Irish, or Italians, or Greeks or Koreans, or Blacks moved in and the nativists started sqwaking. And it is racist.(Take note, Jim Bacon)

    Another sad analogy is that when civil rights challenged views in the 1950s, “White Citizen Councils” were set up to avoid integration across the South. There were plenty of ’em in Virginia and they all saw themselves as perfectly decent white Protestant patriots. We’re now seeing the same thing with city and county governments in Virginia banding together in new councils to try to discuss and resolve the “Immigration” problem.

    Peter Galuszka

  38. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Peter, You have articulated one hypothesis: Hostility to illegal immigration stems mainly from racial/ethnic prejudice against Hispanics. Perhaps you are right. I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t at least a few people motivated by ethnic animus. But you go beyond that. You believe — and please clarify your argument if I mis-state it in any way — that ethnic prejudice is rampant among the anti-illegal crowd. Maybe not universal, but pervasive.

    I would invite you to collect any documentation in support of your hypothesis and present it in Bacon’s Rebellion. You don’t have to do it all at once. Just post stuff as you come across it. If there is pervasive racism, I want to know about it — and I don’t want to be associated with it. If people are appealing to anti-Hispanic prejudices based on their race or ethnicity, then they need to be called to account. I will support you in that endeavor.

    I have articulated a different hypothesis: that the wellspring of agitation about illegal immigrants is a clash of cultures: Poor Hispanic immigrants vs. middle-class American suburbanites (of whatever race or ethnicity). Any anthropologist would acknowledge that both cultures (insofar as it is possible to speak of an “American” culture or a “Hispanic” culture) have different norms of behavior. In the context of suburban America, those different traditions often come into conflict. For purposes of this discussion, I’m not saying one group is right or wrong, I am simply positing that the underlying source of friction is different from what you say it is. When I come across evidence to support my thesis, I will present it.

    I would modify my hypothesis to say that there is one other source of friction, and that is the perceived fiscal strain that illegals place upon communities to provide schooling and medical care. This is an area where it should be possible to establish factually the extent to which the perceived problem is based on fact or not. Some people may have exaggerrated the fiscal burden imposed by illegals; others may have minimized it. I don’t pretend to know which is correct. I trust that you and I, as journalists, share a desire to get to the facts, wherever they might lead us.

    Even though you and I disagree, we know each other well enough that we can have a respectful exchange of views. I hope that others will participate, adding their own evidence, either from published sources or based on their own personal experience. I will vow not to assail the motives of those who disagree with me — no more talk of “elite white liberals” or “liberal plantations.” I hope that others can agree not accuse me of ethnic/racial prejudice simply because I’m an upper-middle-class white male. If I make biased statements, fine, call me to account. But don’t please don’t stereotype me as a bigot just because I’m white.

    As for other people who are alarmed by illegal immigration, well, we’ll find out more about them, won’t we?

  39. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Have the folks in this discussion seen some direct interactions with Hispanics these days?

    They look down. They have fear in their eyes. White folks try to avoid them. And these are Hispanics that could be even citizens.

    They are all tarred by the “illegal” broad brush.

    You have kids… asking their parents if that guy over there is one of those “illegals”…

    Maybe it’s not racism.. but it’s not pure cultural clash either IMHO.

    and JB.. is’t not that blacks are lazy and Hispanics are not… racists find WHATEVER they want to attribute to those that are different from themselves to make clear that not only are they “different” .. but they are “inferior”.

    Was there a time when we DID mistreat Asians for being “different”? Think back to who help expand the rails to the west and how they were treated.

    Was THAT racism or was it a culture clash?

    I don’t know the answer here but I am troubled by some of the aspects that my conscience signals something in not quite right.

  40. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim Bacon,
    Public apology time. You obviously are no racist and if anyone on this blog says otherwise I will be glad to meet him or her in the parking lot of choice.

    What I am saying is that a lot of the energy around this illegal alien issue is loaded as hell. Racism is the name. And a lot of demons from the past are being conjured up. Unfortunately, I am just old enough to remember a past time. And I would rather we all did not go down that path.

    If I have offended, I am sorry.
    Peter Galuszka

  41. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Larry, I had an interesting encounter on Sunday. A Brazilian national, whose first name is Alvaro, used to clean my house. He had a darned good cleaning business, worked hard and cleared about $100K a year! He sold his business to some other Brazilians, then went back to his country to look after his father, who is dying of cancer. Long story short, he flew back into the States via New York. Even though he is totally legal (believe me, I *know* he’s legal, because I heard about all of his problems with red tape and legal fees every step of the way), he was stopped, questioned and sequestered for a couple of hours. Fortunately, all of his papers were in order, and Immigration let him through.

    (I wouldn’t say that Alvaro is the kind of person to walk around with fear in his eyes, though. He’s a pretty confident guy.)

    According to Alvaro — and I’m surprised this hasn’t been reported more widely — the feds are seriously cracking down on illegals coming into the country. This isn’t occurring just at the Mexican border, but at cities where people fly into the country.

    I didn’t expect to see Alvaro again because he’d said he was going to head to sunny Florida after returning from Brazil. But it turns out that Florida, though sunny, doesn’t pay as well as Richmond. So, he showed up at our doorstep, telling us of his adventures and explaining how he was starting up a new business, this time a commercial cleaning enterprise. I told him I would put him in contact with some people I know in commercial real estate.

    Right now, the business is just Alvaro and his brother. If anyone has a business in Richmond that needs a janitorial service, let me know! I’ve got the guy for you — he works hard, he’s got a green card, and he’s studying for his citizenship.

  42. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Peter, no need for an apology. You did not offend. You’re right, the illegal immigration issue *is* haunted by demons from the past. Hopefully, people of good will can work through these issues and approach some facsimile of the truth.

  43. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I would ditto Peter’s invite. There would be two of us waiting in the parking lot.

    JB, thanks for the personal story. I think it’s a tough time for folks who look “foreign” party the immigration issue and party the fear of terrorism (that I think has also been unscrupulously hyped).

    When one puts a “face” on Alvaro – the perspective changes.

    I had my roof done last year. I got bids. The guy I wanted to do it said that he could not come close to the low bid and there was something in his voice that bothered me a bit.

    Well.. sure enough… 6 Latinos show up… and I go up on the roof to talk to them about a skylight I was concerned about and immediately the entire crew alerted and smoke quickly to each other in Spanish. Then I started talking to one and he responded “no English” and clearly all of them were uncomfortable.

    So he pointed me to the crew leader whose English was marginal at best. We talked about the skylight using a combination of hand gestures and short English.

    Once he smiled, they all smiled and look relieved.

    I don’t know what their status was but I suspect – and I realized that if one of them fell or hurt himself that he basically would be _hit out of luck as far as medical care and sick leave and I was embarrassed to realize how my roof job got cheap.

  44. Anonymous Avatar

    An excellent commentary on the effects of massive immigration, especially illegal, on wages is Roy Beck’s testimoney before Congress.

    “Fast Food Nation” also has some good info on the collapse of the meatpacking industry as decent paying jobs.

    Deena Flinchum

  45. Anonymous Avatar

    Deena Flinchum,

    I may be as sick about the loss of traditional American jobs as you are, but it is the global economny and there is no stopping it. It cuts both ways — more foreign born workers here and more U.S. jobs move offshore.

    What would you do other than crack down on undocumented foreign workers? The U.S. steel industry tried for years to protect their hidebound ways through high import fees and tariffs. True, for a while, a lot of the skilled, blue collar steel workers kept their well-paying jobs. But it was unsustainable. The industry did not innovate its way to a new future, it bought short-term protection from Congress.

    And guess what? There might be one or two fully integrated (ore to steel) mills left in this country as the industry has been taken over by rolling mills that don’t need many workers. All the integrated mills are in other countries.

    Peter Galuszka

  46. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    jobs that require manual manipulation.. like put this bolt on and turn the widget around for the next work station are NOT going to India; they are going to robots.

    unskilled labor might temporarily go offshore but ultimately if skill is not involved then the human gets out of the process.

    Spend some time watching these “How assembly lines work” shows.

    Plants that used to have 300 people now have 15… and most are monitoring computers.. and know how to “adjust” the robots.

    someone who knows how to cut out a pair of pants or make a dowel for a piece of furntiture is SOL (_hit out of luck).

    People are frustrated and want someone to blame… in my view.

    all of this should tell us.. that the two kids that belong to that out-of-work factor worker in Martinsville – have no future if they don’t get a decent education.

    They will spend their lives working at McD’s or at the Dollar General hoping to snag the assistant manger slot.

    Places like Martinsville are in danger of ending up like those small empty farming towns that folks might see as they hit an interchange for gasoline in Iowa.

    Farms that used to have families working 1000 acres are gone. Corporates work in 5 and 10,000 acre chunks with as much mechination as they can employ.

    Machines are cheaper than people; don’t require health care or pensions.

    We have arrived at that brave new world that the futurists told us about way back when.

    If someone wants a job now days – they need to be able to “really” read and write – and to understand technology. If you are a kid who did not learn to do these 3 things – you are SOL.

    all this stuff about “illegals” is going to become a “blip” in the bigger scheme of things in my view.

  47. Anonymous Avatar


    Education will not save you. White collar science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs are being outsourced or “in-sourced” (or as I like to phrase it, colonized) via H-1B’s just as manufacturing jobs have been. The blue collar jobs have just been affected longer. In fact, a number of college educated folks I know who were quite willing to state during NAFTA that “those people” just had to go back to school, blah, blah, blah are now a bit nervous themselves. “Those people” were blue collar workers with HS or less who were losing their jobs right and left to off-shoring. I worked in IT for over 35 years and I don’t know a single IT professional who has encouraged their children to pursue a career in IT.


    You talk about the effects of globalization as if they were as as inevitable as gravity. They’re not. Did you ever notice that the high end jobs in the US like CEO, hedge-fund manager, partner in a top law firm, etc never seem to be off-shored or filled by cheaper H-1B’s from India? I mean, if it’s “worth it” to drive down blue collar and science/tech wages in the name of globalization, why not drive down the wages of the REALLY big paying jobs by importing cheaper foreign labor? If CEO’s and hedge-fund managers were paid less wouldn’t that mean more profits just the same as if machinists and systems analysts are paid less? And it would affect a LOT fewer people. Do you really think that there aren’t any other people in the world who could and would do these jobs for less?

    Deena Flinchum

  48. Anonymous Avatar

    Deena F.
    Not to belabor the point, but lots of hedge fund jobs ARE being outsourced to places like Mumbai although no one’s getting the super returns as they did a few years ago. And you are going to see CEO jobs going to non-U.S. people. Look at MIttal which is actually picking up a lot of the U.S.steel firms.
    Already stock markets in the U.S. and elsewhere are starting cross ownership deals and the SEC is about to give U.S. companies a choice if they want to use U.S. accounting standards or international ones.
    So, yes, I’d say that globalization is about as inevitable as gravity. Nice choice of phrase on your part. Sum it up nicely.
    Peter Galuszka

  49. Jim:
    Once again, whenever anyone asks that you assign some validity to their experience of ethnic or racial stereotyping or treatment or asks you to acknowledge that Virginia may not be the ethnic utopia you envision, you do the rhetorical equivalent of putting your hands over your ears and repeating “la la la la la” loudly.

    This is not a new response. Here’s something you wrote in 2005 on another topic where some of us (me and Conaway Haskins among others) tried to offer our experiences in response to your tenaciously held belief that there is no significant evidence that racism continues to exist in Virginia or that it is not an everyday fact of life for African Americans and other people of color and language minorities in Virginia:

    “Once again, I come back to my argument that in certain quarters, there is a holier-than-thou presumption of racism. I know Claire Guthrie Gastanaga has had negative experiences, so I’m not so naive as to say it’s non-existent. But I personally have never seen it on display, and I dispute the idea that anti-Hispanic prejudice is widespread in Virginia. What is prevalent is the idea that a significant number of whites are unrepentant racists.”

    Given this, why should anyone accept your invitation to submit “evidence” that prejudice remains a common experience when it is clear that you will reject the information offered out of hand. In your world, if you haven’t experienced or seen this first hand it doesn’t exist. Of course, it seems unlikely given your own life circumstances that you would share this common experience; Gregory Peck’s character in Gentleman’s Agreement had to “become a Jew” to experience Jewish exclusion laws and anti-semitism first hand.

    To say that someone may be conscious of the ethnicity of someone else and may “see” a difference between them, e.g., a class distinction, that might otherwise be “invisible” (“poor Hispanics” “middle class white suburbanites”) is not to say that the person is an “unrepentant racist.”

    It is to say that a person may more easily perceive another person as representing change and fear it more easily because they “see” an obvious difference between them with which they may not be entirely comfortable.

    It is striking that most of the class/culture arguments you offer as alternative theories for what’s happening in our suburbs as Latinos move into primarily white working class neighborhoods are the same arguments that were offered in the 60’s when African Americans first moved into these same neighborhoods: “they play loud music”, “they stand around in front of their houses,” “they have too many cars”,”they come from a different culture,” “they don’t keep up their property,” etc.

    This is not a defense of the landlords who are exploiting the opportunities to set up boarding houses in neighborhoods with older/cheaper housing stock. Gerry Connally has it right … step up code enforcement and get this problem gone.

    It is to say that, like it or not, America remains largely segregated and racially/ethnically stratified, at home, at church, at school, and, in Richmond, even at the grocery store. This is in part because there remains too strong a link between race and class. But, it is also a reflection of personal choice (see, e.g., Annandale, VA, where I graduated from high school which is now majority Korean with stores on which there are signs only in Korean … so much for your argument that Asian American immigrants have assimilated, why aren’t Hispanics? argument).

    The effect of this social segregation is a continued suspicion founded in lack of familiarity of those visibly different from us because of race or ethnicity. Here’s an interesting study of what it took to overcome this in neighborhoods in North Carolina. Not suprisingly improvements in interactions depended on both sides working together on shared community problems and frequent and meaningful interaction that resulted in the breaking down of stereotypes (on both sides).

    Regarding assimilation, there is no evidence to suggest that the current wave of immigrants will be any different from their predecessors. The first generation will cling to their language and their customs and by the third generation, the grandchildren of these same immigrants will be just as sadly unilingual as other native-born Americans are. And, between now and then, because of the relatively larger numbers of a single language immigrant group involved in this wave, we’ll have legislatures doing silly stuff like trying to ban the teaching/use of their native tongue (as did Nebraska seek to ban the teaching of German in the 20’s).

    Final note in this rambling discourse … of course, there was “backlash” against blacks moving to the suburbs … it was called block busting and led to white flight to suburbs farther out. And, there has also been some backlash and white flight associated with Asian community integration, see, e.g., this article on white flight in Cupertino in the Silicon Valley,, where whites are said to be leaving a community which is now predominantly Asian because it is too competitive.

    According to an article by Kevin Drum in Washington Monthly, March 14, 2006, Kevin Kruse’s book White Flight, “argues that, in fact, suburban economic conservatism is inextricably linked with racial backlash:”

    “On the surface, the world of white suburbia looked little like the world of white supremacy. But these worlds did have much in common — from the remakably similar levels of racial, social, and political homogeneity to their shared ideologies that stressed individual rights over communal responsibilities, privatization over public welfare, and “free enterprise” above everything else. By withdrawing to the suburbs and recreating its world there, the politics of massive resistance continued to thrive for decades after its supposed death.”

  50. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Claire, I will admit to the theoretical possibility that I’m wrong. Present me evidence, and I’m willing to look at it and reconsider my views. If the evidence is ambiguous or reasoning faulty, I may challenge you. But I’m open to the possibility I’m wrong. I’ve been wrong about other things, I may be wrong about this. And my views have over my lifetime evolved to incorporate my new understanding.

    As proof that I’m receptive to opposing views, I have opened up Bacon’s Rebellion to both you and Peter not simply to comment but to make original posts. I think something approaching the objective truth is more likely to emerge when people you you, me, Peter, Deena, TMT, Groveton, Larry and many more reflecting diverse perspectives subject their notions to the scrutiny of others.

    Here’s all I ask from you: If you’re going to maintain that the backlash against illegal immigrants is based on racism and/or a more subtle form of prejudice, back it up with hard facts. Show me. The facts that whites in Virginia were racist 40 years ago doesn’t prove that they’re still racist today. the fact that whites were prejudiced against Asians in the 1930s/40s doesn’t prove they are prejudiced against Asians today. The fact that Texans are prejudiced against Mexicans doesn’t prove that Virginians are.

    Show me concrete examples of racist words and deeds. Put them here on the blog for all to see.

    What I think is indefensible, indeed what constitutes an offensive form of bigotry in reverse, is to argue by presumption — to presume that because someone is white, middle class and lives in the ‘burbs that he/she is a racist. That line of logic may work with others who share your view that racism is endemic in American society, and that conservatives use all sorts of code words to conceal their racist views, but it doesn’t work when you’re talking to conservatives themselves. Especially those of us who know we’re not racist.

  51. Anonymous Avatar

    Jim Bacon,
    Thanks a hell of a bunch for “opening up” BR to the likes of me and the others. I guess it really is the province of neo-cons, libertarians and right wingnuts. I guess the rest of us can have associate memberships at your country club.

    As far as racism, you seem to be setting yourself as the arbiter of what is and isn’t. That’s your privilege but why should the burden of proof be on people whose views are more moderate than yours. When a wingnut like James Atticus Bowden gets on his kick about gays and theocracy plus his strident, nativist views on the the white Anglo-Protestant ideal, you say nary a word.
    Well, hey, either treat us with some non-patronizing respect or we’ll find out own blog.

    Good day to you sir.

    Peter Galuszka

  52. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Peter, no, I’m not setting myself up as an arbiter of what constitutes racism. But I’m certainly not going to take it laying down when others (not you, but there have been others) insinuate that I’m a racist. What I’m suggesting is that we open up the topic for discussion. What constitutes racism? To what extent is racism the emotional impetus behind the illegal immigrant backlash? To what extent does the backlash stem from the clash of different cultural values of peoples living in close proximity? To what extent does the backlash reflect legitimate concerns relating to crime and fiscal stress, and to what extent are the concerns exaggerrated?

    To have an open, honest dialogue, we need to involve people from different perspectives. I welcome and value your participation (and that of Claire) even if I don’t always agree with you. That’s the whole point: To get people who don’t agree to start talking to each other.

  53. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    People who are not like us are taking our jobs.

    People who are not like us are moving into our neighborhoods and HORRORS driving cars and some commit crimes and have lots of bad habits like speaking in a non-American language that just proves that allowing more of them is a bad idea.

    If you don’t like the tone of the words above – join the club.

    Is it inherently “racist”?

    Each of us has to answer that question for ourselves but when you read the words above were you thinking of Latinos or Blacks in the 60’s?

    Then finally… do you think the folks who were around in the 60’s and cheered on the fire hosing and attack dogging of blacks and the death of MLK – are still around but all of them have completely reformed their ideas?

    I think some have but others just receded into the woodwork – to reappear during the current controversy …

    AND … in terms of Political Leadership – on an issue that we all know – has dimensions of potential racism .. what does it say about Candidates for public office stirring that POT as part of their voting-getting appeals knowing full well that there ARE folks out there who do not need further encouragement to start with?

    For me.. there are simply too many parallels and “coincidences” with the past for me to believe that the immigration issue has nothing to do with our past.

    For any of us who had direct experiences in the past… it’s very hard to give a 100% benefit of the doubt….

  54. Anonymous Avatar

    What bothers me about the name calling is that I believe that it is merely an effort to shut down debate. This applies to the right and left. I used to respond to charges that anybody opposing amnesty for illegal aliens was a racist by outlining my background: the candidates I’ve supported, the community service work I’ve done, the many causes I’ve contributed to, etc. No more. The best I ever got out of that was a grudging agreement that, well, maybe, I wasn’t a xenophobic racist but nearly everybody else who held my views on this issue WAS. None of the valid arguments that I made seemed to matter, so what’s the point?

    A number of people who support massive unskilled immigration support it because they’d prefer to deal with an immigrant – legal or illegal – who was used to a class-based society and so knew his place to a US citizen of African descent who knew his rights. Such people exist. Does that mean that all people who favor massive unskilled immigration are racists? Of course not. But neither are people who don’t favor it.

    Back during the beginnings of the civil rights era, I supported policies (like integration of the schools) that I thought would help bring blacks, especially less skilled blacks, into the mainsteam; and I was called an “N-Word Lovin’ Communist”. Now that I favor policies that will help keep them in the mainstream (less unskilled immigration), I’m called a xenophobic racist.

    The second charge has no more credibility than the first one.

    Deena Flinchum

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