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Dear Editor:
Chucky, I see where you're coming from, but I don't think you realize how much the country depends on illegal immigrants slipping through the cracks. Imagine if you can a week during which all the illegal immigant labor would go on strike, and ask yourself what your life, as a law-abiding American would be like. How much are you willing to pay, Chucky, for the lettuce in the supermarket if it is picked by Americans or legalized foreign workers who will demand a decent salary, working conditions and benefits - if you can even get any at all? How much are you willing to pay for that burger or that donut; how long are you willing to stand in line to buy it when the fast food chains are hard-pressed to find legal workers to cook and serve it? Who is going to clean your office building when the maintenance company has to pay workers a liveable wage, with paid vacation, sick days and benefits? Who will bus the tables and wash the dishes at your favorite neighborhood bar and grille? Who will take care of the children of the rich, or their elderly parents who are in need of live-in home attendants? Who will empty the bed pans in the nursing homes where our elderly parents may be forced to spend the last years of their lives? Many of these workers begin their employment with no papers and are later legalized through programs such as 245(i). It may not be ideal, but it is real, and to bury our heads in the sand and wish it wasn't so will not change anything. In fact, ponder this. Many businesses, when faced with what they consider exhorbitantly high labor costs, will opt to go offshore rather than pay up. That's right - they will take their factories across the border, or across the ocean and set up shop in a country where workers don't have all the rights that Americans have worked so hard to safeguard. Perhaps your beef should be with them. I'd like to suggest that a better way for you to look at it is to figure out how our society as a whole benefits by the hiring of key strategic foreign workers. Sometimes these may be software engineers, scientists and multinational executives; sometimes they may be the busboys, janitors and cooks. In either case, they grease the wheels of progress and enable our society and our economy as a whole to move forward, which in turn benefits us all. Where would we be if the Chinese had not built the railroads? Remember that "playing by the rules" is a function of the rules themselves. We can change those rules by legislation and allow workers in certain categories to come in legally from the get go once we recognize the critical shortages in those occupations. Have you heard about some of the midwestern farming communities which are so depopulated that they are actually recruiting immigrants to revitalize their towns? Unfortunately, I fear that some companies may be wedded to the status quo because as long as the government turns a blind eye to the hiring of illegal labor, they can continue to offer those people substandard wages and working conditions. Hopefully, a reasonable compromise can be struck, but it will not be easy.

SJD



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