Monday, April 21, 2008

How Do You Feel About Illegal Immigration?

Part One in our The Real Issues They Should Be Talking About series.

As I've stated here various times, I'm pretty much laissez-faire when it comes to illegal immigration. Generally speaking, most people who cross the border to come here are hardworking, family oriented, and above the law, despite the oh-so-obvious infraction they committed to get here in the first place. And I don't necessarily blame them to "stealing" jobs. After all, if there weren't employers so willing to exploit them for cheap labor (a far bigger problem), they probably wouldn't bother coming here. Besides, as a guy who once got four bathrooms gutted and remodeled from the floor up for just over $10,000[1], I'm complicit in this very same exploitation (albeit not knowingly)[2] myself. So, I prolly shouldn't talk.

That said, while I don't live in a neighborhood directly effected by illegal immigration's flipside, I do respect the right of those who have seen their property values adversely effected. When 10-12 people are crammed in a house, coming and going at all times of day, triple parking, playing loud music, and pissing on your front lawn, you might just get a little irritated. While some of this Lou Dobbsian anti-immigrant rhetoric sounds xenophobic, classicist, and borderline racist, I guess I can't really call it either way.

All that said, I read this article in today's Washington Post, and was perplexed. While I respect these women's desire to "take back" "their neighborhood", if you close your eyes and let your mind wander, some of the things they saying hearken back to Jim Crow.
When Chris Pannell walks down the Prince William County street she has called home for all of her 39 years, she's dismayed by what she sees -- vacant houses -- and delighted by what she says she doesn't see -- illegal immigrants.

"I will take coming down here and looking at 10 empty houses any day over what we had before," says Pannell, a title examiner, as she and her neighbor, Allison Kipp, 42, amble past lifeless houses.

This stretch of Lafayette Avenue in the Manassas area is a fairly gloomy scene. "For Sale" signs flap outside two of the 30 1960s-era red brick starter homes on the block. Eight others appear to be vacant. Few cars are parked on the street. The worn sidewalks are deserted.

But to Pannell and Kipp, it is a tableau of hope. And victory.

For much of the past decade, according to the women and other neighbors, parking was bumper-to-bumper and most of the empty houses were packed with Latino residents they believe were in the country illegally. Now Pannell and Kipp are convinced that Prince William's illegal-immigration crackdown, which both championed as first-time activists, has helped flush many of those people out of their neighborhood, West Gate.

The experiences that hardened their attitude and the relief they now feel have been voiced by many Prince William residents who bridled at the influx of immigrants, many of whom they suspected were here illegally, according to activist leaders.

Pannell and Kipp, who were strangers a year ago, scoff at the suggestion that they are racists and say most of those who left were not single families. As a light rain fell one spring afternoon, they strolled along Lafayette, smoking cigarettes and collecting the yellowed newspapers that dotted driveways. The women stopped in front of a house with a mailbox shaped like a barn. By Pannell's count (she says she zealously tracks the block's comings and goings), a family with six children and five single men lived there until vanishing nearly two months ago.

Next door was a foreclosed house that Pannell said was filled for a decade with Hispanic men who frequently spent afternoons drinking on the front stoop and in the beds of pickups. She said she witnessed several brawls and saw men urinate in the front yard at least 10 times over the years. The inhabitants disappeared more than three months ago, she said, "and that's a good thing."
You'd probably have to read the entire article for the full context, but I think the underlying question is pretty evident, so I'll pose it to you guys.

Question: What is your overall feeling about illegal immigration? Have any of this year's Presidential candidates sufficiently addresses this issue?

A New View of Vacant Houses [WashPost]

[1] Seriously, you should see the quality of work and materials used. Granite countertops, walk-in shower, two jacuzzi tubs, vessel sinks, the whole nine. Amazing.

[2] They were a reference. We didn't know who would actually be doing the work until they showed up. And I am only guessing they were undocumented. They didn't tell, and for $10k, we didn't ask.

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