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Immigration, coming and going

September 30, 2007

Re "Enforcement works," Opinion, Sept. 24

How interesting that, once illegal immigrants are taken out of the picture, businesses that thrived by abusing these people suddenly decide to raise wages and provide housing and shuttles to attract American workers. Is this a victory for immigration control or a revelation of the widespread abuse of workers who lacked the political standing to demand fair treatment?

I tend not to believe Mark Krikorian's anti-immigrant propaganda. It is easy to blame outsiders for the problems of our unequal, unfair society, which would fall apart if not for the array of services provided by underpaid workers from across the border. It is delusional to state that illegal immigrants are taking jobs that Americans want. It is a distortion to suggest that qualified Americans are losing admittance to colleges because illegal immigrants are taking their places.

Michael Gastaldo

Los Angeles

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Krikorian writes that getting serious about enforcing our laws is causing some illegal immigrants to self-deport, a welcome development. But massive legal immigration has the same negative effect as illegal immigration, and, unfortunately, we're not tackling that. The flood of immigrants drives wages and living conditions in our central cities toward Third World levels. The influx brings sprawl and gridlock to metro areas. Immigrant families needing services overwhelm schools, hospitals and other public agencies. Those receiving services don't assimilate and, instead, expect to be served in their native languages. American civic culture frays as each ethnic group demands preferences. America is full. For a livable future, we need to shrink legal immigration.

Paul Nachman

Bozeman, Mont.

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Despite Krikorian's accounting of a few anecdotal stories from across the country, California is facing major, well-documented labor shortages in many sectors, including the agricultural and building industries. When immigrant workers are not there to pick strawberries, the fruit rots; contractors can't complete projects without the pool of immigrant workers they rely on. Krikorian loves to pit workers against each other, but labor shortages in some industries are a reality.

Californians agree that our immigration system needs fixing. The great majority also agrees that there should be a path to legalization for those immigrants here who work hard, pay taxes and learn English.

We need to move to an immigration system that is orderly, workable and consistent with our values. Krikorian should be looking forward, not backward, for a real solution that Californians can support.

Reshma Shamasunder

Director, California

Immigrant Policy Center

Los Angeles

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