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United States Needs Foreign Workers, Not an Underclass

What is ironic about the opinions expressed in "Run for the Border" (May 31) is the total dissatisfaction with the Senate's new immigration plan. As the daughter of a union organizer, my primary complaint is the guest-worker program, which has been touted by the Bush administration as a panacea that will miraculously solve the illegal-immigration debacle.

But who really benefits from a ready supply of guest workers? Surely not the immigrants and not the U.S. working class. Obviously, businesses that thrive on underpaid workers would be the major benefactors, because an expanded guest-worker program would provide thousands of legal low-wage workers. They whine: "We just can't find Americans to do these jobs. We need migrant workers." There are alternatives to expanding the U.S. underclass. Businesses could pay a U.S. living wage to do these jobs or invest the technology to automate jobs. (National Public Radio recently aired a story that reported there's less innovation in farming when low-wage farm workers are readily available.)

I totally agree with Rep. Raúl Grijalva. This immigration bill would tear families apart and create "a rotating permanent underclass." Besides being exorbitantly expensive and complicated, this bill exploits immigrants' economic desperation, separates them from the emotional and financial support of their families and keeps them in a permanent migrant class--moving back and forth across the border for dirt pay.

With all of the hand-wringing about the 12 million illegal workers currently in the United States, rarely does anyone bring up the fact that the United States needs these workers and their children--now and in the future. Currently, the baby boom generation comprises a substantial portion of the U.S. workforce. In coming years, the country will face a severe shortage of workers and a dramatically increased burden of elderly who need care (Alpert and Powers, "Who Will Care for the Frail Elderly?" The American Journal of Medicine, June 2007). Who will replace the baby boomers as they retire, and who will take care of them as they age and become infirm? Minutemen, any suggestions here?

Pamela J. Powers
Managing editor, The American Journal of Medicine


Some Suggestions on How to Fix the Immigration Mess

Because of the timely nature of the immigration subject, I submit the following recommendations to improve the legislation being considered separately by the U.S. Senate and U.S. House:

1. Make the programs as self-sufficient as possible by tying the worker and migrant fees and fines, and employer fees, to a high percentage of the estimated costs of administering the programs. (Why $500, $1,500 or $5,000 as opposed to, say, $731, $1,242 or $6,026?) What are the estimated total annual costs, anyway?

2. Allow those who are subject to fines to at least partially work off those fines through carefully monitored public projects that benefit local communities, counties and states in which the immigrant lives--a win-win situation in several aspects.

3. Add a provision that reimburses, from federal funds, ranchers, farmers, other property owners and even states for damages and losses caused by illegal entrants. Property owners and states should not have to bear these costs themselves.

Pat V. Powers


Borders Are Artificial; Investments Are Not

The immigration problem can't be solved until we wake up and realize: We can make all the laws we want, and the Minutemen can build all the fences they want--but borders are just lines we draw in the sand. Our culture, politics and welfare remain inextricably linked with those of Mexico and the rest of the Third World.

Tom Danehy's anecdotes on Mexicans who don't want U.S. citizenship (May 31) support this. The corruption of the Mexican government versus the corruption of the U.S. government is a distinction without a difference. Our economies also are interlocked in ways that no reform plan, so far, addresses; the farm workers are part of an industrialized food chain that's broken in so many ways, it can't be fixed.

An article in Permaculture Activist featured a Mexican farmer on the verge of bankruptcy, his land devastated by badlands and drought, some of which was caused by overfarming. He decided he didn't want to go to the United States. He stayed and through a process, which took several years, of rewilding his land. He stabilized the soil and began farming organically.

He was able to employ enough people that a nearby village was revived, a school was started and a school bus bought ... and it just got better. How many people per dollar of investment did that plan keep from becoming border crossers?

Dennis Williams

You'll Have to Go Virtual to Find Impeachment

Jimmy Boegle, God bless his heart, said about impeachment, "This isn't a Democratic/Republican or liberal/conservative issue anymore. It's a good-of-the-country issue. When will Congress start to realize this?" ("The 'I' Word," Editor's Note, May 31).

Maybe in Second Life?

Peter Van Keuren


Dump the Dryer; Put Up a Clothesline

Thanks to Tory Foster for the Guest Commentary (May 31) encouraging Tucsonans to make small personal changes to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. A few years ago, we relocated our washing machine to a shed in our backyard next to the clothes line. Now, instead of doing wash in a claustrophobic corner of the house, I'm out grooving in the garden, watching butterflies flit through the passionflower vine and gold finches snack on the bachelor button seeds, and listening to the hypnotic call and response of the cicadas.

Using a solar dryer (a clothes line) totally transforms the laundry experience. By the way, stores like the Food Conspiracy Co-op sell laundry soap (and other products) in bulk so one can refill old containers and keep a little bit more plastic out of the waste stream.

With regard to the suggestion to switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs: I recently learned that because these light bulbs contain mercury, they can't simply be tossed in the trash when they burn out. They must be disposed of at the hazardous-waste facility. A better, but more expensive, solution is to switch to LED light bulbs.

Anne Helwig


Keys to Energy-Use Reduction: Fewer Cars, No Fabric Softener

I appreciate the Sierra Club's Cool Cities Campaign, but I do take issue with some of Tory Foster's column.

I don't agree that reversing our "culture of energy use" starts with the individual. I know lots of individuals who do an excellent job of limiting their car use, but our various transportation departments continue to pour, well, concrete--and also monumental amounts of other resources--into expanding the car infrastructure. (Mayor Bob Walkup signs the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and then supports building and widening roads in Tucson whole-hog. He even attended the groundbreaking "celebration" for adding lanes to Interstate 10.)

The use of electric dryers is crazy, especially in Tucson's climate. Using fossil-fuel-heated water to wash clothes is mostly unjustifiable as well. But Tory recommends fabric softeners? Those products contain a mind-boggling (literally?) array of dangerous petrochemicals. Synthetic fragrances are piled on to mask the smell of the chemicals, adding to the toxicity. The fumes affect the health of the wearers and of those around them. This applies equally to those obnoxious dryer sheets, with the additional factor that some of the chemicals are even more dangerous when heated.

Leo Mellon

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