Monday, November 29, 2004

The Wave Hits Long Island

Today's New York Times [registration required] carries an interesting article examining the upswing of anger among residents of Long Island who find themselves increasingly innundated by illegal, mostly Hispanic, immigrants.

"Public opinion has changed," said Sue Grant, one of several Farmingville residents who rise each morning to stand on street corners and demonstrate against the day laborers in their community. "More and more people are coming forward and saying, 'I'm sick of this.' They don't want this anymore."

It is the latest knot in Long Island's wrenching struggle to digest the thousands of Hispanic immigrants - many of them day laborers - who have arrived in the past decade and at a record pace in the last three years, drawn by jobs in construction and landscaping and other blue-collar work. One result is a commensurate strain on public services like schools, garbage collection and sewer systems in an area where residents pay some of the highest taxes in the country.

Local, municipal and state governments are paying a stiff price for Washington's refusal to defend the U.S.-Mexico border and American law. Taxpayers, who must bear the brunt of the increased public costs caused by the presence of so many illegals, are increasingly enraged as they see their streets soiled, the public services collapsing under the strain, and the landscape of their communities changed. The Times, naturally, subtly casts this dissonance as the product of white racism, noting that Long Island has been composed of traditionally white towns and hamlets. But there is no issues that the Times will not attempt to frame thusly.

But laborers and advocacy groups say the new policies and aggressive rhetoric are coded attempts to drive Latino immigrants underground or off Long Island. They see parallels between policies denying black families homes in Levittown after World War II and a proposed law in Suffolk County asking federal officials to enforce immigration laws.

The difference between the horrible manner in which black families were discriminated against in Levittown and current efforts to reduce the number of illegal immigrants besieging Long Island towns is that the black families who were denied housing were law-abiding U.S. citizens. The illegal immigrants who have raised the ire of Long Islanders have broken U.S. law. They have no right to be in the U.S. They have shown contempt for American law and sovereignty. The examples are not comparable. Of course, the "advocates" know this, but they rely on stoking liberal white guilt with that magic wand of an argument - racism.

Fortunately, the extent of the illegal immigrant problem has grown so great, and so blatant, that even the usual leftist tried-and-true rhetorical means of shutting down dissent is failing:

The Town of Brookhaven has set up an informal task force to investigate code violations and complaints about homes crowded with day laborers. A town councilwoman, Geraldine Esposito, said she was searching for ways to tighten the town's Neighborhood Preservation Act, further limiting the number of people in a home. "We're trying to solve a problem that's almost unsolvable for the town," she said. "Where are these men going to go? They should go back home to where their home is. There is no pot of gold here unless they can do it legally."
Contrary to the racist patina with which the Times would like to paint the issue, the underlying tension is economic:
Long Island's Hispanic population grew by about 70 percent in a decade, according to the 2000 census. Between 2000 and 2003, it grew even faster, with the number of Hispanic residents of Suffolk jumping by 20 percent. That translates into an average of 10,387 people per year, compared with about 6,500 people per year during the 1990's.Many newcomers are here illegally or on temporary visas, but there is no definitive data on their numbers.

Immigrants arrived in droves in relatively small communities, making it impossible for residents to ignore their new neighbors. Some 80 percent of Long Islanders own their homes, and there are few rental apartments, so laborers are often crammed into single-family homes.And thanks to the island's relatively weak labor unions, they can find work by standing on street corners, [Paul] Tonna said.
Most of the problems bubbled up in heavily white, blue-collar communities - places where new immigrants, many of them upwardly mobile, could barely get a foothold. In wealthy East Hampton, the quarrels over immigration and code violations are not centered in the wealthy beachfront enclaves but in Springs, a middle-class neighborhood.
An influx of non-skilled workers to traditionally blue collar working class areas can have only one effect: to drive down wages. The sudden increase in the pool of potential workers means that employers no longer have to compete to attract new workers (by raising wages, or increasing benefits), but undercuts the standing of workers, who must now compete with each other for work. The number of jobs does not significantly increase, only the number of people seeking employement. Thus, wages fall. Living standards tumble. The reaction from the working class population already in residence cannot be anything other than hostile, since the influx of illegal immigrants directly threatens their livelihoods. The failure of the liberal elite at the Times (and within the Democrat Party) to realize this fundamental fact demonstrates the fact that protecting the interests of the working class no longer ranks among their priorities. It also goes a long way to explain why the Democrats can no longer win national elections. The working class knows that the party of FDR no longer has its interests at heart.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home