November 12 editorial
Complicated immigration story stirs mixed emotions
Readers’ reactions to The Park Record story, "Bearing the brunt of economic woes," Nov. 5-7, 2008, ranged from sympathy to outrage. The article chronicled an immigrant family’s efforts to make ends meet after their father’s paychecks bounced.
Following publication, several people called The Park Record to find out how they could help the family. The employer also called to say the circumstances were more complicated than presented in the story. While admitting that his company owed the employee some money, he said he had arranged a payment plan and, in fact, this week he paid that debt in full.
In the meantime, online there has been a bitter debate between those who believe illegal immigrants don’t belong in the community at all and those who say they are victims of an unfair system and deserve better treatment.
An overwhelming majority of the anonymous online comments criticized The Record for portraying the family in a sympathetic light. Illegal immigrants, they say, strain schools and social services and drag down wages. Illegals should be deported and the employers who hire them should be punished, they said.
The intensity and volume of comments surrounding the story demonstrate how deep and troubling the issues surrounding immigration have become, across the country and here in Park City. That anger, we fear, will worsen if the national economy continues to slide as evidenced by the number of comments suggesting illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans.
Amid the name-calling and blame, however, few solutions have been offered. Several comments do call on employers to be more rigorous in verifying employees’ immigration status and we agree that employers should be held more accountable for screening job applicants. That would paint a clearer picture of local labor needs and might force the federal government to adjust work-permit and visa quotas accordingly. A more efficient work-permit system could go a long way toward encouraging immigrants and their employers to stay on the right side of the law.
The only thing on which both sides of this debate agree is that turning a blind eye on illegal immigration is a losing proposition for all involved. As long as employers adopt a don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy regarding immigration status, the wages and benefits of legal workers are in jeopardy. And as long as some workers are afraid to reveal their true status, they are at risk of being exploited.
Nevertheless, America has always prided itself on its immigrant heritage and on offering opportunity and a better quality of life to those willing to work for it. Certainly our community has the resources and compassion to help those caught in the crossfire of our country’s dysfunctional immigration policies while also helping to enact more just and humane immigration laws.
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Park City officials are preparing to take what is considered to be an important step in protecting the Treasure land from wildfires. City Hall in early June requested proposals from firms interested in the work.