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Predators target immigrants

PR

"Ay, ay, ay! What can we do, where can we go?"

So begins Silvia Leavitt’s most recent column in The Park Record about an epidemic of financial scams aimed at local Latino immigrants.

Leavitt’s lament is especially anguishing for those familiar with her usual wide smile and perennial optimism. If Leavitt is discouraged, the situation must be especially dire.

In the past, some undocumented immigrants have been targeted by unscrupulous employers who assume their victims — because of their illegal status — will be afraid to report that they were cheated or mistreated. According to Leavitt, though, shortchanging workers is just one of many traps awaiting unsuspecting immigrants in and around Park City.

From bogus credit schemes to flimflam agents selling supposedly legal documents, Leavitt goes on to say, "I could fill pages and pages of stories about scams done to Latinos." Sadly, she admits, the stories that make her maddest are those that involve Latinos cheating other Latinos.

Part of the immigrants’ vulnerability may be attributed to the language barrier, and part to differences in cultures. But the real reason these schemes are rampant in our community — and others that rely on large immigrant workforces — is that the United States government has failed to reform national immigration policies.

The policies are, at best, contradictory and, at worst, discriminatory with enforcement often random, arbitrary or corrupt. Under the table, immigrants are welcomed into the workforce, but when they attempt to obtain benefits offered to other employees, they are shunned.

The state’s schizophrenic attitude about immigrants is further evidenced by the changing political winds. Four years ago, documented immigrants were eligible to obtain drivers licenses. This year that opportunity was revoked, as was a program that offered in-state tuition breaks to children of immigrants who graduated from Utah high schools.

Unfortunately, those disappointing legislative decisions only widen the gap between Park City’s English- and Spanish-speaking residents.

However, on Thursday, Sept. 21, a group of citizens will meet at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at 7 p.m. to tackle some of these difficult issues. Hopefully they will also heed Leavitt’s plea for help in curbing some of the fraud being perpetrated on those caught up in the country’s flawed immigration system.

America’s outdated immigration policies have fostered the growth of a subculture that must operate outside of the legal system and that puts both those inside and outside at risk. Anyone who is willing to work toward a better system is invited to attend Thursday’ meeting.


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