Tony Dolz
Tony Dolz embraces his family, which includes his wife, Bettina; daughter Sienna, 2; and son, Dylan, 6.
msnbc.com
updated 7/9/2007 6:37:56 AM ET 2007-07-09T10:37:56

As part of our Gut Check America coverage, MSNBC.com invited a number of readers who ranked illegal immigration as the most important issue facing the United States to share their experiences and concerns. Here's what they wrote.

Legal immigrant has had enough
I am a Cuban-born Hispanic naturalized citizen. I came to America as a child, legally. When I was old enough to ask, my parents told me that we had escaped from a bloody civil war and that we were now safe in America.

Unlike my home country, in America there was peace, prosperity and justice because it was a country of laws and not of men. My dad was an attorney. His admiration for America and the rule of law made my siblings and I revere the U.S. Constitution and America’s form of government. More than four decades later, I have my own family: a Danish-born wife, a boy, 6, and a girl, 2.

As a family, we celebrate legal and sustainable immigration and strongly oppose illegal behavior like identity and tax fraud committed by foreigners illegally in the country; and the abuse of tax-paid services to which they are not entitled. The cost of direct services to illegal aliens in California is $10.5 billion annually, which makes my family’s share of this theft of our tax dollars approximately $1,200, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. This known tax burden on each California family does not include the costs of building infrastructure and cleaning up the environment caused by population growth driven by illegal aliens.

From the first day, illegal aliens need to feed themselves, so they must falsify or steal a Social Security identity (there are 11 million stolen identities annually) in order to secure work.  According to the U.S. Labor Department, 40 percent of illegal aliens and their employers commit tax fraud by not reporting income. According to the IRS, there are 9.6 million cases of Social Security “no match” numbers per year.

This lawlessness affects my family, friends and neighbors in many ways.  Santa Monica, where I live, is politically liberal and claims to be open to multiculturalism. Nevertheless, the parents that I meet at parent-teacher meetings are disheartened by the 12 percent or more non-English-speaking students that slow the pace of learning for native speakers. In 20 years, California has dropped from among the best performing high school systems in the nation to second from the bottom.

California’s growing illegal population exacerbates our water shortage and creates tension in our relations with our neighbor states over water issues.

Labor is a commodity like sugar and gasoline. The more there is of it, the cheaper it gets. Massive numbers of cheap and docile illegal workers depress wages. My nephew used to install satellite systems for a living. Little by little, illegal aliens began to do the work for a fraction of the cost and my nephew went out of business.

For my part, I want to be seen as a U.S. citizen, and judged based on my education and ability. The fact that there are 20 million illegal aliens in America, mostly Hispanics from Mexico and Central America, makes me a visible member of a class of people that many see as being disrespectful of the immigration and tax laws. Lawlessness on such a massive scale injures me by devaluing my education, abilities and contributions.

I oppose the immigration bill because it contains an amnesty component in exchange for the border security and immigration law enforcement that the government must do as a matter of law.

--Tony Dolz, Santa Monica, Calif.

Keeping illegals out in the cold only hurts us
I am member of a community that includes a large percentage of undocumented workers. It could be that the husband is undocumented, or the wife is undocumented, or both are undocumented. Maybe all the children are also undocumented, or maybe one or two are American citizens, usually the younger ones.

I have seen that in most of these cases the adults in the family are very hard-working persons who work as diesel mechanics, automotive mechanics, body and paint technicians, gardeners, field workers of many kinds who can also operate heavy machinery, roofers, carpenters, caregivers, cooks, etc.

In most of the cases, these people are not aware of what is going in the political arena, which directly concerns them. Working the way they do does not allow them to do much else.

So they do not know that they are about to become one of the fattest cash-cows ever to be milked if the U.S. government allows them to become documented workers so that they can begin paying all kinds of taxes!

Undocumented people are not afraid of paying taxes; they yearn for the opportunity to pay all the taxes related to their income because they know that by paying taxes they become more American, unlike many red-blooded Americans who look for all kinds of loopholes to avoid paying any taxes.

It is my opinion that these 12 million undocumented workers we have learned to scorn are an untapped tax resource to our country — a resource that is being lost and will continue to be lost for as long as they are not allowed to possess a Social Security card.

You know that we have become worshipers of the almighty dollar. Those who have its blessing get to dictate to others. That is exactly what is going on. We all are ganging up on the poorest among us. They are the ones putting out an immense amount of labor to be rewarded only with enough money to meet the most minimum requirements of life.

I know for a fact that education is a human right that is denied to the children of undocumented workers. You should see the brilliant minds that are going to waste because of this "keep the undocumented ones out" philosophy many of us preach. And then, on top of all of this, we are going to squeeze just as much more as we can out of these people. Of course, many are not going to be able to pay for their ransom so they will stay undocumented, suffering in the dark and in their poverty and only living on the hope of a better day.

Our government has no right to extort so much money out of the poorest workers in the country. Even though most of us think that they get a free ride, that is not true. The only free ride they get is to the onion field. On the other hand, oil refineries are making trillions of dollars. I wonder if they pay their fair share of taxes?

--Luis Espinosa, El Paso, Texas

Stealing a place from black Americans
Illegal immigration is not a victimless crime. The black community is Ground Zero for the impact of illegal immigration on jobs, housing, schools and hospitals. The harm to the black community is staggering. Yet poor blacks are not considered victims of illegal immigration.  

Ostensibly, illegal immigration is about jobs not wanted or needed by natives. Between 2001 and 2006, 8 million U.S. workers became unemployed. None of the legal or illegal immigrants were asked to return to their native countries based upon this change. But the official unemployment rate tells only part of the story. Approximately 14 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed or so discouraged they no longer look for work. A lot of the uncounted are discouraged blacks.

Ce Cole Dillon
The greatest misery of unemployment is visited on the black community. Historically, black unemployment is at least double the unemployment rate of whites. However, newer statistics have been developed to accurately measure black unemployment. In 2003, the Community Service Center in New York created a new statistic. Employment was compared to the number of employment age workers in the population. Using this measure, nearly half of the black men between 16 and 65 in NYC were unemployed. Unemployment of young black men between 18 and 30 is estimated to be as high as 60 percent in most urban areas.  Yet more than 1 million legal and 500,000 illegal immigrants come to this country annually. 

An unintended consequence to poor blacks of illegal immigration is the requirement of identification to get a job or travel. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 required prospective employees to show documents that prove both identity and citizenship. The lack of these documents pushes poor blacks further to society’s fringe. Yet, illegal immigrants routinely provide false documents to satisfy this requirement.

State ID programs require applicants to prove identity and residence. Most poor blacks cannot meet both parts of this test. Rampant identity fraud, committed in large part by illegal immigrants, has made it difficult for citizens to get a copy of their own birth certificate. Poor blacks are caught in an identity Catch-22 that is mostly ignored in the conversation on illegal immigration. 

Another issue is re-integration after a criminal felony conviction. It is not surprising that states with high illegal immigration, including California, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Nevada, are among the states with the highest rates of black convicts. Illegal immigrants’ criminal history is unknown. But the U.S. born poor have no way of escaping their criminal records. The presence of a vast, illegal workforce makes blacks with criminal records disposable.

Before any form of comprehensive immigration reofrm is passed, the impact to poor blacks must be considered. Immigrants who steal a place in America are stealing their places from the poorest and most dispossessed Americans. It will be a shameful legacy for America, when poor blacks who have fought to be recognized as citizens for hundreds of years, to have their benefits of citizenship stolen, while elites look the other way.

--Ce Cole Dillon, Fremont, Calif.

Legal path to entry proves a nightmare
In September 2006, I, an American citizen, became engaged to Johannes, a Sri Lankan. We graduated in November from our university in England where we had met four years earlier.

We filed through an attorney for a K1 fiancé visa Oct. 19, 2006, after completing all necessary documents. We filed three separate forms and paid $470.

Johannes’ student visa expired Nov. 28. He went to Sri Lanka to collect his visa. I went home to the U.S. It was a difficult period for us as we had not been away from each other since becoming a couple years earlier.

Finally, on Jan. 11, we got confirmation that our case was approved and it was a matter of going to the embassy and an interview to get the visa. We made plans to get married on April 14. A few weeks later, Johannes received a letter from the U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka with an appointment in two weeks and a list of documents he needed to gather for it. Among these was a police clearance from the U.K. The standard waiting period for this was three weeks, and he had to fill out two more forms and an affidavit of support from my parents, a medical report and other supporting documents.

Johannes and Amy Jayasuriya
He got the police report the third week of March and rushed to the embassy to get his visa, but there was a delay as they were waiting for a police clearance for him from Sri Lanka.

Our wedding day was looming and Johannes was not even in the country. Johannes’ mother, sister and 2-year-old niece applied for visit visas, which cost $300. Johannes got a call to say that his visa was ready and to come to collect it. When he went to the counter, they told him there was a system error and to come back the following day. Later that day, his family’s visas were rejected. We were furious and wanted to speak to the ambassador and later found out that there was no one higher than the visa officer. Good-bye, democracy; hello, autocracy. His family was told to pay another $300 and reapply.

Johannes got his visa and arrived here March 29. We were ecstatic to see each other after five months.

After a long fight, we got Johannes’ family here and the wedding went beautifully. After the wedding, we found out that Johannes could not work or go out of the country without further paperwork being approved. We paid another $700 and filled out three more forms. We handed over the documents in April and we’re still waiting for a reply. Johannes cannot work yet nor leave the country. Our lives have been at a standstill since we graduated in November.   

With all the talk of letting illegal immigrants into our country and allowing them to bypass the nightmare we have had to encounter, it is disgusting they do not have to go through what we have and be treated as we have been.

--Amy Jayasuriya, Lima, Ohio

Illegal influx is hammering hospitals
I am very concerned about the lack of information in the media about how serious a financial impact illegal immigration has had on the medical field. As an operations manager for a large medical center in a metropolitan area, I have seen the large increase in cases of non-English speaking patients on public aid seeking treatment at our hospital. It is quite alarming.

We are required by law to provide and pay for interpreters for each and every one of these patients at each visit. Although it is an assumption on my part that many of these patients are illegal immigrants, I base my assumption on the fact that  illegal immigrants are obtaining Social Security numbers through fraudulent documentation, thus enabling them to obtain public aid. Many times they are assisted in this fraud through the companies who are hiring them. 

Not only are hospitals all over this country getting paid next to nothing per visit, but we must now pay for interpreters and in many cases the visit ends up costing us money.  We are paying for the “privilege” of providing health care to illegal immigrants, the same care that is denied to citizens of this country.

So many citizens have lost their health care due to loss of jobs that have gone to the millions of illegal immigrants who are willing to do the same work at Third World wages. America is taking so many steps backwards. 

In one case, an illegal immigrant presented to an emergency room and remained hospitalized for over one year. There was no place for him to be transferred. The hospital had no recourse but to charter a private jet and fly him to Mexico. This is financially devastating for any medical institution. If situations such as these are allowed to continue, many hospitals will be forced to shut their doors.

At the current time, illegal immigrants are demanding that we give them citizenship and access to our Social Programs to which they have never contributed.  It will be the financial downfall of Social Security and public aid. How hypocritical is it for this Congress to send so many young men and women to fight “terrorists” abroad, while at the same time giving away the store to those who are conducting a “campaign of terror” in our work places and on our streets. Granting citizenship would only give them the “right” to steal your jobs! There are 37 million citizens of this country who go to bed hungry each night, yet Congress wants to make “poverty” our latest foreign import.

America is the greatest country on Earth because the good of the “whole” was always more important than the good of the “individual.” Our government is involved in a dangerous campaign by catering to millions of people who are here illegally rather than focusing on upholding our laws. Citizenship in this country is not an “entitlement” earned through the mere fact that you crossed its borders!

--Eileen McGarr, Chicago, Ill.

We simply can't afford to be so generous

Carol Joy Nelson
The immigration situation in America will likely take up much of the next decade, just as it did in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.  We didn’t find workable answers then and no one has a good handle on it now.  But there’s a very big difference between then and now, and that difference is the sheer numbers of immigrants we’re dealing with in this decade.

Americans like to think of ourselves as open, generous people who help those in need and are the first to offer a hand to each other, too. Immigration is how all of us got here, after all, whether it was 300 years ago or 300 days. So we apply our instincts for truth, justice and the American way to immigration, and historically it hasn’t really done us any harm. 

Until now. And therein lies the difference and the problem. When people do not have to cross oceans and pass through immigration offices at borders; when people have support networks in place, the results are exponential. We must rein it in, though, because if we don’t, there will be no wonderful, golden promised land left to dream about.

And that’s the difference between “then” and “now” with the immigration problem. The numbers now are simply unsustainable. This is not a “racial” thing. This is economics. As big a country as we are, as generous and embracing as our people like to see themselves, we simply cannot support it financially. How do I know?

Because I live in North Carolina and for years those Hispanic “migrants” shuffling across that porous southern border were piling into big old Chevies and Fords and driving straight to North Carolina. To work in the fields? Certainly, at the beginning. That’s why they started to come here, but they started coming by the thousands for a different reason – because, prior to 9/11, it was very easy for illegals to get driver’s licenses in North Carolina.

That fact made us the fifth fastest growing Hispanic community in America. We have between 300,000 and 500,000 illegal aliens in a state with a population of 8 million (according to the Pew Hispanic Center study).

You say, “So what? You need the cheap labor.”

But is it really cheap? Consider this: according to the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC, it now costs North Carolinians $210 million annually to educate the children of illegal immigrants. Twelve years ago, it was less than $10 million. In Wake County (Raleigh), county commissioners estimate that 55 percent of the 8,000 new students this year are Hispanic.  Wake County just adopted a $1 billion bond issue to build schools for those students. This year, $45 million of the state’s $6 billion education budget went to serving English as a Second Language programs.

The health costs for Hispanics, legal or not, amount to $300 million. North Carolina is also “sponsoring” 3,000 to 4,000 births a year. Who pays for those births?  We do, to the tune of $1.4 billion in 2005 in North Carolina, according to Families USA.

Numbers are why it’s different this time with immigration. Big, big numbers and members of the American middle class are going to be the biggest losers. 

--Carol Joy Nelson, Raleigh, N.C.

Environmental disaster on the border
To understand what is happening to Arizona due to illegal migration you must first re-examine your preconceived ideas of what Arizona is. Most Americans only experience the tourist areas of Arizona, and they come away from that experience thinking Arizona is one big desert, with a huge population of retirees and strip malls, a place where everyone lives in their swimming pool.

Instead, Arizona is tremendously diverse state and has huge mountain ranges, miles of grasslands, lakes, forests and riparian areas. We are far from a huge wasteland of sand and rock.

In my 35 years of leading hikes in the West, I have two favorite areas that I return to over and over: the back country of Yellowstone National Park, and the magical sky island area of southeast Arizona.

The sky islands are a series of varied mountain ranges found in southeastern Arizona. These mountains are remarkable in that you can be in a high desert or grassland and then in 30 minutes you can be surrounded by aspen, fir and pine. You do this by going up in elevation.

Because of that diversity, you can be observing a Gila monster in the high desert at 9 a.m., and later that same morning you can be looking at a black bear in a mountain meadow or riparian habitat. The variety of wildlife in those riparian habitats is truly amazing.

John Pachuta in his beloved Arizona back country.
This beautiful, unique and biologically important area is rapidly being destroyed. Thousands upon thousands of illegal migrants are using these ranges and their riparian habitats as corridors to cross into the United States. Highly organized and ruthless drug cartels are using other canyon systems in these areas to run drugs to the north.

The illegal traffic has resulted in hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash being left on formally pristine creeks, mountains, grasslands and uplands. The impact is staggering. Many formally unspoiled areas now look like trash dumps. Human waste, urine, clothing, bottles, food, plastics, wrappers, tampons, pills and daypacks litter these riparian habitats. In some areas, the garbage can be feet deep.

The environmental degradation isn’t just cosmetic, however. In these mountains and in the surrounding uplands and deserts, there are hundreds of new trails made to run illegals and drugs. Many of these trails are causing rapid erosion of hillsides.

Illegal roads are a serious issue in this area. These roads, as well as the illegal trails, are mostly traveled at night, which has a devastating impact on our nocturnal wildlife.

It is my opinion that this unique area of several million acres is at a crisis point. I am not a politician, and I do not have any easy answers or slogans to simplify the problem or the solution. I do know that a “wall” will not work in many areas of this region.

We are a great country and people. We can solve these problems.  All I am wanting is that we bestow this beautiful country to our children and grandchildren as part of our legacy. We need to cherish and protect it. -

-John M. Pachuta, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Tenants play a bait-and-switch game
I own rental properties throughout Utah, Nevada, Indiana and Illinois. In all four states, immigration has played a part in how I manage my rentals.

In Las Vegas, about 50 percent of the phone calls received on properties will be by people that speak little to no English. In Ogden, Utah, I will also receive about a 50/50 mix of calls in English and Spanish.

However, in Ogden, I deal with another type of problem. I will usually have a nice couple in their twenties or thirties look at a property and turn in an application to rent. I will run their credit and criminal. Usually it will come back pretty normal; credit might be rather limited or they might have a few outstanding debts.

I will then go forward and sign a lease agreement and collect initial deposit and rent and even take a photocopy of the tenant’s driver’s license before I turn over keys. A week later, however, when I come back to check on my one-bedroom apartment, I will see that a family of five has moved into it.

To make matters worse, in some instances, the people who are on the lease are not the ones living there. A cousin or brother might have been the one I showed it to and after we signed the lease agreement he turned the unit over to his family member and their family who might not have paperwork.

At this point, I have two options. I can try to force the family out. If so, what usually results in the original person on the lease calling and verifying with me that he does live there and his family members just come over during the day and that the kids are just there visiting as well.

My other choice is that I let it slide and just continue collecting rent and allowing my newfound tenants to stay. If I bring the issue to the city, they are usually not much of a help due to there not being occupancy requirements on units other than non-related people per unit. They are related, so this does not apply.

On a plus side, I have never had to evict either an illegal or a legal immigrant.

I have also had to take steps in my rentals that I never thought I would have to take. For instance, putting carbon monoxide detectors in every unit. I realized the need for this when I started picking up the rent on the first Friday of the month during winter and I saw some of my tenants using the gas stove to heat the apartment, thinking it would be cheaper then using the furnace.

I do not know the answer to illegal immigration.  America has always become stronger by letting people in and truly becoming the melting pot of the world.  My biggest fear from what I see, however, is that many of the illegal and even legal immigrants coming from Latin America do not look at America as their country but simply as a way for them to better their lives and the lives of their families.

--Eric U., Ogden, Utah

Credit woes for legal immigrants
I am a bilingual loan officer in North Carolina. Every week I talk with hard-working, taxpaying Hispanics who are denied access to equal credit opportunities. These people are “stuck” in high interest rate mortgages, and despite their perfect payment histories, I cannot obtain any better financing for them.

Basically, there are three categories of Hispanics in the United States. First, there are between 10 and 20 million illegals, or to be politically correct, “undocumented workers.”

Then, there are approximately 5 million Hispanic citizens, or those eligible for citizenship, who have been issued a Social Security number.

But the majority of Hispanics in America are in a third category, that of legal immigrants who have been issued a nine-digit ITIN, also referred to as a “green card” or “work permit.” There are approximately 30 million Hispanics working in the United States with ITINs.

According to the three major credit bureaus, these 30 million people do not exist! ITINs are not recognized by Equifax, nor by Trans Union, and there is only the beginnings of a program to score their credit with Experian. Yet, in contrast to the credit bureaus’ response to ITINs, many banks in North Carolina recognize the creditworthiness of these immigrants, and will open a checking account, as well as issue a credit card to these individuals.

Loan officer Bob Kushner believes the 30 million legal Hispanic residents in the United States who are not citizens could become a potent political force.
And there are at least six banks nationwide that will finance a mortgage for these individuals. But because these people do not have a credit score, no matter their excellent payment history, they can only gain financing at high interest rates. In other words, they only qualify for mortgages in sub-prime programs, sometimes at double-digit interest rates.

I see two major problems with this situation. The first issue is that of scoring credit for these individuals. If an immigrant is here legally, is working and is paying taxes, I believe this person should have equal access to credit.

The second dilemma regards the future. Thirty million people! Thirty million legal immigrants! Thirty million people who have felt discrimination! Thirty million people who are gaining more political power every day! Thirty million reasons to deal with this issue now!

--Bob Kushner, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Undercut in Southern California
My husband is in the construction business, rough framing. He and his partner got out of building houses about 14 years ago, because of the recessions we went through. They focused on commercial framing only. 

But we are now unable to get work, even though we are one of the top framers in Southern California, because the house framers are underbidding all of the jobs by 40 percent or more. They pay all cash. No federal, state, worker’s comp insurance or unemployment.

Robyn Baker
The big general contractors knowingly hire them because of greed. Seems greed is good in the corporate world; it’s all about the bottom line. This is not only illegal, it is a sin! How can people who play by the rules stay in business, and make an honest living?

I have contacted the newspapers, the State Board of Contractors Licensing, and local news outlets, but no one has ever answered me!

Things are tough in Southern California now. We may lose everything we have worked for 38 years for. Our crew may lose their homes. They drive hundreds of miles a week for work, and gas is killing them. They work hard, and now we can't get any work, because the house framers, (all Hispanics) are getting all the work, and it’s because of paying all cash.

It is so frustrating to know that no one gives a damn. Why doesn't anyone talk about this?  Why isn't anyone interested? How can we stop this from going on, and on? It has been this way for as long as we can remember, and it seems it will never stop. My husband is 58 years old, and it is pretty disheartening to see what is happening and feel like your hands are tied behind your back.

This illegal immigration thing is a joke, and so are our borders. They are not secure. We feel like we are living in a foreign country here in San Diego County. When is this country going to take care of its own? Charity begins at home.

Health insurance is a sham. There millions without any insurance. Everything goes up, except wages. Who can live on less than $25 to $35 an hour?  Not everyone has been or can go to college. Where is this government when it comes to reality?

And now Bush wants to let in the same people we are fighting with? He has to be the worst president in history. All of it disgusting to a whole lot of Americans who are too busy to protest.  All they can do is work to stay afloat, and they are tired.

-- Robyn Baker, Oceanside, Calif.

Why do we cater to law-breakers?
Illegal immigration has brought me many things, good and bad. I have met and worked with illegal immigrants who are Hispanic that I think very much of and respect more than people I have known for years.  I have made friendships that I hope will last a lifetime with people who have my same values and my same goals. People with families, loved ones, who only want to achieve or do the best for themselves.

But I have also seen the other side of illegal immigration and what it’s doing to my community. The Hispanic population in the area has increased from nothing to more than 20 percent in the last two decades. This has tremendously increased the drug trade, and along with this is gang-related violence. Our social services system and local government cannot adjust to this. The system is bogged down, especially law enforcement and social services.

Most illegals know our system of entitlements very well and do not hesitate to take full advantage of it. Along with Medicaid, most get subsidy checks, food stamps, etc.

On the work side of things, I see Hispanics taking over our labor force, at least in the construction, farming and industrial areas. Most of our legal American farm labor has moved to the projects.  They were not provided comparable labor rates or accommodations as Hispanics. In construction, they have taken jobs in every position in every aspect of work there is. They undercut prices and work cheap, at least to start.

Mark Floyd
A truck driver from one of my larger suppliers told me that he was the last black trucker left for that company. My area’s industrial jobs have also been consumed be illegal Hispanics. At three major meat processing plants in the area, upwards of 80 percent of the workers are Hispanic, most illegal.

While here, illegals have all the benefits of free health and dental care. My wife and I have stood behind illegal Hispanics many times only to watch them pay for services with a Medicaid card. Meanwhile, I and others who pay for them to receive these services have to pay with cash.

I feel like a foreigner in my on country. It seems so many things are bent on catering to illegal Hispanics. I make a phone call, I have to press 1 for English. I go to the store, I have to look around the Spanish to figure out where I need to go or what I am buying. My question is why do we cater to a group of people so?  I have all kinds of immigrant friends (Germans, Asians, etc.), that the country did not change its laws for, but we do for illegal Hispanics.

And to think, our forefathers fought and died this country, only for us to give it away. It is a sad day in America when illegal aliens can assemble, march in our streets, lobby Congress, and demand their rights, while at the same time run the largest organized crime ring in the nation.

--Mark Floyd, Fairmont, N.C.

Havoc in the heartland
Welcome to Waukegan, Ill., located about midway between Milwaukee and Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan. A city of just under 90,000 people, but what you don’t see is that Waukegan is under attack by illegal immigration from Mexico. 

In 1996, Waukegan tried to enforce its own laws that prevented multiple families and large groups of people from living in the same single-family residence. What happened next was a federal crime. The Clinton administration stepped in on behalf of the illegal population and won a suit that charged the city with discrimination. The city had to pay over $250,000 in damages. Since then, Waukegan has become a magnet for illegal immigration.

The demographics of the city back in 1996 were about 60 percent Caucasian, 20 percent African-American, 15 percent Hispanic and 5 percent other. In 2007, it is about 65 percent Hispanic, 15 percent Caucasian, 15 percent African-American and 5 percent other. No one has any official count, but I have heard that of the 65 percent Hispanics, fewer than half are documented.

Waukegan has ordinances and codes that it can’t or won’t enforce because of the 1996 ruling. The street I used to live on had this one house that had parties all the time. Not just weekends, all week long. My neighbors and I would call the police, but since these persons used lookouts, they would always be quiet when the police arrived. I was called a racist by these persons for calling the police because of their loud music.

What I discovered one early Sunday morning was that the parties and music were a cover for smuggling illegal persons into the city. They had, as usual, an all-day Saturday party, lining the street with 30 or 40 cars maybe 100 people in a 1,000 square-foot home. The party finally broke up around 11:30 p.m. Then, about 1:30 a.m., something woke me. I saw two Chevy Suburbans with their lights off drive into the driveway of this house. About 30 people came running out the front door and loaded into these cars. That’s when I called ICE and filed a complaint, knowing that Waukegan would do nothing.

After a couple of months, the parties started to dwindle and then they started to do mechanical repairs and auto detailing from a single-family residence. These people have no regard for their neighbors and the city allows it to happen.

It all came to a head when they were playing their music so loud I could hear from my basement that I walked out and confronted one of them. After trading expletives, I turned to go back to my house when I was pushed in the back by this individual. I called 911 to report an assault and the police took nearly 15 minutes to respond, allowing the culprit to get away. That’s when I decided to buy a shotgun and make preparations to get out of Waukegan.

--Peter Losch, Waukegan, Ill.

Jobs for Americans are dying on the vine
In 2002, after deciding to relocate to a more temperate state, I moved my landscaping company from Illinois to California. My plan was to start with landscape management because we had all those tools, and that side of the business is usually easiest to start in. My forms of advertising were fliers in high-end subdivisions and word of mouth when we got established.

I posted a flier at a small country store in Rancho Santa Fe, by many standards one of the wealthiest towns in the United States. Work was sporadic, so we started design-build landscape construction. One would think that in the wealthiest town in the U.S., landscape management would be a valued service that paid a fair wage for a fair day’s work. Such is not the case, or was not the case by what I soon learned. I know my business inside and out, and know what to charge to recover all my overhead, pay wages and turn a profit. I keep accurate records and a very sharp pencil.

The standard reply from prospective clients was, "Why do you charge so much?" Or, we would get calls telling us the dissatisfaction with the numerous "companies" they used. So, we would meet and go over the list of concerns, and I figured out what had happened. Juan Valdez had decided picking coffee was no longer profitable, so he packed up and decided to live in the United States and seek his fortune doing landscape management. He could not speak the language, but to him, making $10 an hour for every hour he worked on a property was great.

The problem with all that is, it costs a minimum of $33 an hour just to recover wages, insurance, and taxes. I'm not including housing, fuel or anything of the sort

I have no problem with anyone who wants to immigrate into the U.S. legally, and no problem with a person who wants to become an entrepreneur, so long as they know how to calculate correctly the costs involving that business.The people coming from Mexico barely have the skills in most cases to do the work correctly, let alone manage the costs involving the business.

It is not an issue of they do jobs Americans won't do, because I who am American and have been doing this job for the past 30 years of my life. The issue is cheap slave-type wages.  They are willing to work for less for a limited time, until they educate themselves on how much they should and can be charging. In the meantime, their practice destroys everything we have worked very hard to achieve.

So, I went entirely into design-build landscape construction where an untrained worker cannot do many of the tasks we do for our clients. There are some who use illegal aliens, and it shows clearly in the quality of their work. They stand at or in the parking lots of every Home Depot in Southern California, once again destroying the very premise on which our country was founded.  So, in return, I buy nothing from Home Depot because they won't step up and get the police to move them out.

-- Bill Schwab, Encinitas, Calif.

A Latino American's fears for the future
My experience with illegal immigrants is nothing new. I can honestly say that all the Mexicans that I know or come across sometime in my life were all illegal. It’s not to be taken as prejudice toward a group of people, since I’m Latino.

My concern over illegal immigration doesn’t come down to ethnicity, but mostly the workforce. The economy of today is not the strongest and soon we will all feel the financial strain the long war on Iraq has placed on all of us, as well as CEOs making more money than they can spend.

I hold a white-collar job for a Japanese company and I’ve seen through my years of employment skilled jobs outsourced overseas to subcontracting firms in places like China, and unskilled jobs outsourced to Mexico.

So I watched American blue-collar workers being laid off. Many of them are unskilled workers, and with the large influx of illegal immigrants already in the city, it makes it harder for them to find a steady job or a job that pays enough to feed their families.

But this is nothing new. Companies like GM, Ford and Dell among others have large layoffs like we did, and people move on. So we’d like to think. The 12 million illegal immigrants are making their biggest impact on the labor force today.

I’ve read online that between the years 2001 and 2006, new immigrants accounted for 86 percent of the total gain in employment across the US. Two-thirds of that was the result of unauthorized immigrant arrivals.

I can continue giving you more numbers, but it would be useless since anybody can get online and find these figures. What I’m trying to get at is, because there are such a high number of unskilled workers in the field, whether legal or illegal, wages are dropping fast, and that’s a national concern.

Economics rule that the increasing relative number of unskilled workers depresses their wages, since employers don’t have to raise wages to attract applicants for such unskilled labor. Twelve million illegals are a bad number for unskilled American citizens looking to find honest work, since the field is rapidly overcrowded.

I’ve been hearing a saying that goes “immigrants do the work that Americans won’t do.” That’s a bunch of baloney!  Any American citizen who wants to work will work! The part that these people chanting such a phrase won’t tell you is that the reason Americans won’t take these jobs is that by local standards the wages are abysmal!  Sure, it’s far from proving that immigrants have no impact on Americans, but the fact that American-born workers sometimes reject jobs that immigrants accept reinforces the claim that uncontrolled illegal immigration has depressed wages for unskilled work now more than ever!

--Julio Perez, Danville, Ky.

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