Gordon Smith's business hires illegal immigrants

Willamette Week is reporting on an extensive investigation into hiring practices at Smith Frozen Foods - the business owned by Senator Gordon Smith.

The investigation makes one thing very clear: Smith has a long history of hiring illegal immigrants to work at his plant - and doesn't screen its workers using the government's instant "E-verify" system.

The full story is here. A few key paragraphs:

It’s a revelation that may not be newsworthy around Weston, where most people this reporter interviewed knew, or assumed, that the agricultural processing plant hired illegal immigrants. ...

At its peak, when seasonal workers supplement its year-round workforce, Smith Frozen Foods employs nearly 500 men and women at its Weston plant. According to the workers themselves, roughly 85 percent of them are Latino. They’re from Michoacán, Sinaloa, Guanajuato and the Federal District in Mexico, as well as several other Mexican states, Guatemala and El Salvador. ..

There is ample evidence to suggest that the hiring of illegal workers is a regular fact of life at Smith’s operation.

Is anyone in Weston willing to put their name to these allegations? You bet:

Some of Smith’s own employees acknowledge that the workforce includes illegal immigrants. Liduvina Ibarra, who is lawfully permitted to work in the United States and was employed by Smith for four seasons, estimated that 50 percent of Smith’s workers were illegal, though she offered no proof. Others at the plant put the figure much lower, under one-third.

Frank Herrera runs a tax preparation service in nearby Walla Walla that serves Spanish-speaking residents. Herrera says in the past year he has helped more than five Smith employees who didn’t have Social Security numbers file their tax returns. Because they were illegal immigrants, they filed their taxes with what are called Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, which are available only to people ineligible for Social Security numbers.

“That’s just a fact of life,” Herrera says of Smith’s hiring undocumented workers. “There’s no question.” ...

Gail Siemers, a lawyer in Walla Walla, says she represents workers from Smith Frozen Foods arrested on criminal charges outside of work. When they’re booked in jail, prison officials check their immigration status, and in that way Siemers often learns her clients are undocumented workers. One illegal immigrant, Antonio Mendez Jr., who worked at Smith for several seasons, was in the Walla Walla County Jail on Monday on harassment charges and awaiting possible deportation. “When it’s going full bore, over 70 percent of the workers on the line [at Smith] are undocumented,” Siemers estimated.

A key element: Smith Frozen Foods fails to utilize the systems in place to help employers screen out illegal immigrants.

An 11-year-old federal program called E-verify allows companies to check instantly whether Social Security numbers match prospective employees’ names and whether other immigration documents granting them the right to work are valid.

Smith Frozen Foods chooses not to use this program. “We tried it in the past, and we were not very happy with it,” Brown says of E-verify, which is used by 80,000 companies in the United States. “It doesn’t work very well.”

A spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement defended the free, voluntary program. “If an employer uses E-verify and they encounter errors, there are steps in place to address that,” says ICE spokeswoman Lorie Dankers. A representative for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services added that E-verify results in errors less than 1 percent of the time.

Discuss.

Comments

  • Brittanicus (unverified)
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    Only elect hard-line anti-illegal immigrant politicians. Illegal Immigration is lowering wages and stealing jobs from legal Americans. This major issue is costing taxpayers too much. Higher property taxes, free health care, education and a multitude of government welfare programs Just take a look at 'Sanctuary City' California's financial demise. $ 11. billion dollars is attributed to the illegal immigrant welfare, who have drained the states funds.

    If we enact the Federal SAVE ACT (H.R.4088) enforcement only law. Millions of illegal aliens will leave by self-deportation. ATTRITION! No job, they will leave of their own accord. Only anti-American groups and Liberal-Democrat-Socialists are stopping this law. ASK THEM WHY?

    www.numbersusa.com have the uncensored truth? IT'S YOUR FAMILIES FUTURE. DEPORTATION OR OVERPOPULATION. IF WE DON'T STOP IT NOW, THEY WILL KEEP COMING..

    JOIN 756.000 other American patriots at www.numbersusa.com , to stop the travesty of our immigration laws. Learn about Immigration governmental corruption at www.judicialwatch.org

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    Well, I don't know about that... but I do know this: it's the height of hypocrisy for Gordon Smith to say that "We need to support legal immigration and not incentivize illegal immigration" - all the while hiring illegal immigrants himself.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    The only way to stop illegals is to eliminate the jobs. If Smith is in fact knowingly hiring illegals, then throw him in jail.

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    . . . it's the height of hypocrisy for Gordon Smith to say that "We need to support legal immigration and not incentivize illegal immigration" - all the while hiring illegal immigrants himself.

    No, it's not. It would be the height of hypocrisy if Gordon Smith were a Lars Larson-style immigrant-basher and then was found to have hired illegal aliens. As a long-time supporter of establishing a means for legal immigrants or guest workers to meet the legitimate need for workers in the U.S., Gordon Smith has been consistent on this issue--and he has paid a heavy price with his Republican base because of it.

    Kari, your discomfort in being joined by the immigrant-basher who posted ahead of you is understandable, but it is also exactly what you ask for when you jump on this sleazy issue.

  • LiberalIncarnate (unverified)
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    This is certainly the height of hypocrisy. However, is it enough to derail Smith? I doubt it. Unfortunately, he has the initiative against Merkley. I am not too hopeful that Smith will not be re-elected. Most Oregonians simply do not care.

  • (Show?)

    Jack, he's breaking the law. Are you saying that's OK as long as you're not some firebreathing immigrant-basher?

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    It shows how much immigration is actually a wedge issue on the right far more than it is on the left. Pro-business Republicans like Smith need illegal immigrants to keep their costs down. They also recognize the economic implications of shutting it down--food prices would jump sharply up (currently we have the cheapest food in the world--just 10% of our income is spent on it). But the culture wars rage on the other side of the issue, and there is a strong streak of nativism within a party that wants to keep "them" out.

    Smith is caught between the forces of his own party. True to form, he hasn't been a bold leader on the issue. While apparently using undocumented workers, WW quotes him from a pandering letter he sent out last year:

    “[W]e cannot continue to absorb the flow of illegal immigrants, many of whom benefit from government services that American citizens and companies provide,” Smith wrote in a letter to constituents dated Jan. 31, 2007. “Reform is necessary, and our borders must be tightened. Anyone who wants to come to live or work in the United States must abide by our laws while paying taxes and learning the English language.”

    Worse, if the allegations are true (and WW does a pretty decent job compiling circumstantial evidence), he's been lying about it for years, too.

    In June 2007, Lars Larson asked Smith on his radio program if he ran his business without employing any illegal immigrants. “Yes,” Smith responded. “Well, as I’ve told you, we go the extra mile to make sure we do.”

    Reading this fine story, my thoughts were not about whether using undocumented workers makes Smith unfit for office. Rather, it's that he's played both sides for his own benefit--using illegal workers while simultaneously pandering to the nativist wing of the party. Definitely not change we can believe in.

  • Marshall Collins (unverified)
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    Smith Frozen Foods chooses not to use this program. “We tried it in the past, and we were not very happy with it,” Brown says of E-verify, which is used by 80,000 companies in the United States. “It doesn’t work very well.”

    That is for sure an out and out lie. It works just fine. And if you don't like the online program it takes only about 10 minutes to review about 20 SS#'s over the phone. I have done both and while it adds an extra step to the HR person's day its not hard or anything.

    Also, no matter how much a person spends on fake documents and how good they are they still do not have the technology to reproduce an exact SS card or other documentation. If you take 10 minutes to look up online or ask and experienced HR person what they are you would see that it isn't rocket science. And by law to fill out an I9 form a person has to produce the original ID and documents.

    Any company that has issues with hiring undocumented workers is being negligently lazy at best.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    "It would be the height of hypocrisy if Gordon Smith were a Lars Larson-style immigrant-basher"

    "...your discomfort in being joined by the immigrant-basher who posted ahead of you is understandable,"

    Now I remember why I left the Dems and registered Independent.

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)
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    All Republicans are in an uncomfortable position on this issue. One the one hand, their true constituency, the super-rich, depend heavily on illegal immigrants to expand their wealth. They know very well what would happen if all illegal immigrants suddenly left the country. On the other hand, the people whose votes the Republicans need to actually get elected see these immigrants as one of the primary objects of their hatred, which the Rove types have been trying to manipulate. It's a tricky tightrope act.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    Having spent the past four years living in Phoenix Arizona, I was shocked at just how bad the situation had become there with illegals. The new hiring law that went into effect in January, coupled with the current economic situation, has shown quite clearly that eliminating jobs will eliminate the illegals.

    I only hope that Oregon will "see the light" before they sink to the depths that Arizona reached and act now.

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    I don't know, Marshall, the Smith system seems pretty airtight to me. I mean, it's not like you can just get a fake birth certificate online, or anything.

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    MP -- Not sure if you know this, but the person you quoted -- Jack Roberts -- is a Republican. In fact, he was the state's labor commissioner for quite a while.

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    I think my favorite quote in all this is from Smith: "we go the extra mile to make sure we do [run the business without illegal immigrants]" --- when he can't even bothered to go the non-extra mile.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    A person can be in the US illegally, but kindly refrain from calling people "illegals". Until such time as someone shows me regular examples of the several million undocumented aliens not from Latin America being referred to as "illegals", I'm going to insist that this term is simply code for "poor brown people". We don't need this sort of code any more than we need more moronic GOP congressmen and moronic GOP candidates referring to Barack Obama and other African-Americans as "uppity".

  • joel dan walls (unverified)
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    Sorry, here's hopefully corrected HTML for my link to the article about non-Latino undocumented aliens in the United States.

  • meg (unverified)
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    "illegals". Joel, As a Poor Brown women, that is what they are. My kids can not find work because of this wave of Illegals.

  • Buckman Res (unverified)
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    ...it's the height of hypocrisy for Gordon Smith to say that "We need to support legal immigration and not incentivize illegal immigration" - all the while hiring illegal immigrants himself.

    Sounds like Smith’s mistake was in not hiring his employees out of the Day Labor Center in Portland. Then he’d at least have the blessing of Portland’s compassionate, progressive, political establishment who turn a blind eye to businesses that hire illegals.

    There’s plenty of hypocrisy associated with this issue to go around.

  • Bill R. (unverified)
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    I think this shows that Gordon Smith is a hypocrite and a corporate Republican who puts profit before the law. The Republican Party caters to the immigrant haters, and their message of fear, but has no intention of drying up the cheap labor for their factories.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)
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    "Smith Frozen Foods chooses not to use this program. “We tried it in the past, and we were not very happy with it,” Brown says of E-verify, which is used by 80,000 companies in the United States. “It doesn’t work very well.”"

    Of course they weren't happy with it, it didn't give them the answer they wanted.

    Can't you all see that in this situation, we have the very core and essence of the current philosophy of the Republicants - they will not rest until they get the answer they want, not the answer demanded by reality.

    -- Want to attack Iraq? Keep asking for "intelligence" until someone gives you the answer you want/expect.

    -- The economy? Don't listen to any experts, wait until you hear someone say what you'd like to hear, then quote them.

    -- Education? Don't listen to all the reports about how the current practices and policies are destroying the American education system, just wait until someone has a good report about some aspect of education, and then quote them.

    -- Jobs? When the employment statistic goes up, write a press release. When it goes down, ignore it.

    -- Health Care? Ignore how many don't have it, only talk about those that do.

    -- Tax payer paid ear-marks? Ignore that Gov. Palin was really, really, really good at getting them, and only listen to her claim she'll take them on in Washington DC.

    -- Balanced Budgets? Ignore that Bush 1 had the largest budget deficits in history until his son, Bush 2, beat him at that game. Ignore that Sarah Palin left her little town of under 10,000 people with a debt of over $20 million. Just go ahead and call the Democrats the "tax and spend" Party.

    Life is really easy as a Republicant, just ignore those things you don't want to hear, those things that don't fit with your philosophy, and only listen to what you want to.

  • Marshall Collins (unverified)
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    Still wouldn't work for a properly trained HR person or hiring manager. Valid i9 info has to come from the state. The commemorative birth certificate that hospitals use are not part of the accepted forms of ID. If a person does use a birth certificate is must be the original or a certified copy from the state (or county depending on what state you were born in) that has both the county or state employees signature, date stamp and seal as well as the record or file number.

  • Stephen Manning (unverified)
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    The real issue raised in the WWeek article is that Smith voted against comprehensive immigration reform for purely cynical reasons while at the same time exploiting our dysfunctional immigration system.

    For the past twenty years, this country has been steadily increasing immigration enforcement at the border and in the interior, and the effort has not only failed, but backfired.

    The E-Verify program is not “the extra-mile” – it is, in fact, a poorly conceived and badly executed program. Whatever Smith’s Frozen Foods reasons may be for shunning it, E-Verify deserves to be shunned.

    To be done effectively, E-Verify would require an expensive national ID system which would greatly impinge upon the privacy of American citizens. E-Verify makes applying for jobs a hassle for all American citizens and it would effectively deny law-abiding individuals the ability to work. It converts the process: rather than proving an individual’s right to work, under E-Verify all individuals (citizen and non-citizen) must essentially seek permission from the immigration service to work. That is a difficult concept to swallow. A study by the SSA Inspector General revealed an error rate of 4.1 percent in the data used to administer the Basic Pilot program, now renamed E-Verify. At that rate, 1 in every 25 new legitimate hires would receive a could be denied permission to work from the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security. E-Verify is not a power to entrust to the Bush Administration.

    Smith picked the wrong side when he voted against comprehensive immigration reform. The WWeek article exposes the disconnect in the Republican Party’s platform on immigration. The system needs to be rebuilt from the bottom-up so that individuals who are working hard, paying taxes, and learning English have a legitimate pathway to work; employers have a legitimate system for hiring, and legality becomes the norm.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    joel

    Can you provide some documentation showing your official designation as an enforcer of language. Thank you very much.

  • Estoban (unverified)
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    Smith appears to be just one more example of Americans having the best elected officials that money can buy. If he's guilty of hiring illegal aliens he should do time in Hotel Greybars. Many elected Democrats want the votes while many Republicans want the cheap labor. As a result the American worker loses. Vote for the SAVE Act and eliminate the problem.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    "He’s an illegal Canadian. A Canuck. An iceback. A frostback. A canalien." http://wweek.com/editorial/3415/10425/

    Canadians: The Other Illegal Immigrants http://jonswift.blogspot.com/2006/01/canadians-other-illegal-immigrants.html

    There are an estimated 50,000 Irish illegal immigrants in the U.S.; 30,000 of them are thought to live in New York City. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-op-rodriguez8apr08,0,7661039.column

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    Kari

    Since when did people actually use their real names on blogs. That's quite confusing don't you think

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    I'm a little worried that we are using the Smith issue of hiring "illegal" workers as a wedge issue. I am not focused on the right and wrong of it, but the overall use of migrants workers as fodder in politics. These humans want to work and want to feed their families and they are gambling with their lives to make that happen. Their own country, or countries, can't sustain their own people, yet our leaders aren't doing anything to aid in that problem either. I wonder also how Smith is paying his workers and if he is treating them fairly. I want our party to be concerned about that as well.

  • joeldanwalls (unverified)
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    mp, were you trying to provide counterexamples? You didn't. And your last link re: Irish nationals essentially duplicates the link I provided.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    Joel

    I is so sad youz didn't like mine examples. Uz brown skin hating racist bigots iz slowz in thez head. Wez needz yourz help understanding such complex issuez.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Jack Roberts confuses a simple issue. People who make laws, like US senators, should adhere to laws. To not do so is hypocritical. It's no less hypocritical for Senator Smith to hire undocumented workers while he supports change to immigration law than it would be for Senator Smith to snort cocaine while he supports decriminalization of the drug.

  • (Show?)

    What Karol said. Thanks Karol.

  • (Show?)

    As distasteful or hypocritical you may find this line of argumentation to be, it's entirely appropriate to bring up this kind of Dog Whistle stuff in this senate campaign.

    It is Smith's base and not Kari Chisolm acolytes, that find Smith's behavior to be objectionable and as a political op. it would be suicidal to ignore a Very Big Stick like this one.

    Empirically, does anyone here think that the workers in question would reap less benefits or tender regard from a Senator Merkley than from a Senator Smith?

  • helys (unverified)
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    Meg, I don't think your kids are out of work because poor people from the south will work for less. Maybe your kids are out of work because: They didn't get a decent education? training? They are discouraged? Jobs are disappearing the work world is changing? They need new skills? I'm looking for work myself and not making enough to support my kid but this country has always had free borders and a generous spirit. The law is wrong, let's move on.

  • (Show?)

    Actually Pat, you're mistaken if you think this issue splits only Smith's base and not the Democratic base and swing voters as well. The Governor's race wasn't that long ago - and we saw what happened when Kulongoski, along with some here at BlueOregon, used a very similar issue to attack Ron Saxton, while also trying to portray K. as tougher on immigration than Saxton. Yeah, Kulongoski was re-elected, but he also then acted on the driver’s license issue in ways that caused real harm to undocumented workers.

    So - playing into the Lou Dobbs style of fear mongering by using immigrant workers in very tactically driven campaign attacks is, in the longer term, counterproductive to the important goal of enacting humane and comprehensive immigration reform.

  • (Show?)

    Jack, he's breaking the law. Are you saying that's OK as long as you're not some firebreathing immigrant-basher?

    Actually, there is no allegation in the article that Smith is breaking the law. In fact, it states that he's never even been cited for hiring illegal immigrants.

    It is not a violation of the law to unknowlingly hire an illegal immigrant. It is against the law to fail to acquire the required documentation from an employee supporting that person's legal residency. So far as I can tell, no one has accused Smith of failing to follow the law.

    Jack Roberts confuses a simple issue. People who make laws, like US senators, should adhere to laws. To not do so is hypocritical. It's no less hypocritical for Senator Smith to hire undocumented workers while he supports change to immigration law than it would be for Senator Smith to snort cocaine while he supports decriminalization of the drug.

    Gordon Smith has adhered to the law. He also understands that the law needs to be changed, and he has approached this issue in a responsible manner, i.e., he has not engaged in the kind of knee-jerk anti-immigrant reaction that some people posting on this thread seem to support.

    At the risk of returning to one of my favorite themes on Blue Oregon, if you want to prove that Democrats are out of touch with rural Oregon, and particularly with folks in agricultural, just start blasting anyone who has ever hired an illegal immigrant.

    Keep it up and you just might help us start making inroads with Latino/Hispanic voters again, too (although our Republican anti-immigrant zealots have done a terrific job of driving them out of our party so far).

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    I third what Karol said.

  • ColumbiaDuck (unverified)
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    Jack Roberts - let's be clear. Smith hasn't been fined. That doesn't mean he's not guilty. In fact, most employers with illegal workers are never fined. A lot of businesses get away with it - Smith's is apparently one of them.

    And ignorance may be a defense, but it's hardly an excuse. I expect more from my elected leaders.

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    At the risk of returning to one of my favorite themes on Blue Oregon, if you want to prove that Democrats are out of touch with rural Oregon, and particularly with folks in agricultural, just start blasting anyone who has ever hired an illegal immigrant.

    Well, Jack, it's patently obvious that it has been the Republican strategists who have elevatated this debate to wedge issue status. If Kari Chisolm decides to take a turn on the Dog Whistle to the benefit of a progressive candidate, them's the breaks.

    If we can agree that Smith's got an IQ higher than....say arrugula.......then he knows damned well that he has a bunch of employees who are not in compliance with extant immigration laws. Regardless of his pro business solicitude toward his workers, the tool was forged by his own party.

    The fact is that publicizing this sort of scofflaw behavior, works against him and may be instrumental in electing a person whos entire resume points toward better times for Smith's empolyees, is just poetic justice.

    The folks who vote on this issue (other than the designated drivers of The Wedge) will be unlikely to internalize the idea that Dems are "anti-immigrant" while the Republicans are their defenders.

    Just ain't gonna happen.

  • Buzzm1 (unverified)
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    Where's I.C.E.???

    Senator Smith owning a company that hires illegal immigrants presents a conflict of interest. He cannot represent the people if he is representing his own interests.

    Sue him!!!

    THERE WILL BE NO AMNESTY!!!

    OUR ACCEPTABLE IMMIGRATION REFORM

    <h1>1. Secure the Border!!!</h1> <h1>2. Mandate E-Verify for ALL Employees!!!</h1> <h1>3. Mandate E-Verify for ANY Benefit!!!</h1> <h1>4. Stop the Underground Economy!!!</h1> <h1>5. End Birthright Citizenship for Illegals!!!</h1>

    ......and make it retroactive!!!

    <h1>6. End Chain Migration!!!</h1> <h1>7. Make English our Official Language!!!</h1> <h1>8. Cut Off Federal Funds to Sanctuary Cities!!</h1>

    NOTHING MORE!!! NOTHING LESS!!!

  • (Show?)

    Jack Roberts,

    One of the major reasons we are in the crappy position we are as a country when it comes to the immigration issue is that many businesses like Smiths wink at the highering of illegals but support politicians like Smith who use it as a whipping tool for the right wing. The managers at Smiths know they hire illegals. Yes they cover their tracks with documentation to show that they "follow the law", but they also know this is a charade. It is the same approach as gays in the military; "don't ask, don't tell". It wouldn't take anyone more than a day working on the line to start finding out who wasn't legal.

    My question now that WW has gone public with this is, will the immigration cops actually pursue the lead that was given to them or is their one law for the Senator and another law for eveyone else?

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    What Karol noted is relevant--and all the more reason to find SMith's behavior contemptible. If you read the full article, you heard stories about how workers at the Smith plant are treated. This isn't an issue of immigration, it's a civil rights and labor issue.

    This is an issue which excites liberals way less than conservatives--when I wrote about immigration earlier this year, I got about half as many comments as there are on this thread already.

    I am personally VERY interested in the issue, and to me there are three elements that are particularly potent: - Our current system uses undocumented workers to keep prices cheap, but in doing so, it puts those workers and their families at great risk--they have no legal protections, what to speak of labor rights. - The current system devalues work, driving down wages for other workers, particularly in certain sectors (ask Chuck Butcher) - The US hasn't come to terms with the economic benefit we derive from this abusive system, which keeps food prices low and abets industrial agriculture.

    The revelations about Smith's practices are relevant precisely because they touch on the human element--he has pandered to the wing of his party that wants to criminalize behavorior our system is designed to encourage while simultaneously taking advantage of that system. The losers are the workers, and progressives can be outraged at that alone. I think this is exactly the reason we should be concerned about this issue.

  • Pedro (unverified)
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    Great article in WW. So good in fact that Gordy came out of hiding and managed to be interviewed by KGW TV where he issued an angry denial. Must have struck a nerve!

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    At the risk of returning to one of my favorite themes on Blue Oregon, if you want to prove that Democrats are out of touch with rural Oregon, and particularly with folks in agricultural, just start blasting anyone who has ever hired an illegal immigrant.

    Jack, this comment perfectly captures the confused and contractory motivations of the GOP on immigration. Half the party wants to exploit (double entendre intended) that resource because it keeps prices low. Farmers, particularly small farmers, are in a bind because they can't compete with big companies if they don't have cheap labor. But that's exactly what the other half of your party wants--to cut off that cheap labor.

    As I mentioned in my comment above, there are a number of serious issues for progressives related to immigration, but we neither want to demonize those employers who have to exist in a system they've inherited nor punish a labor force that has been playing by de facto rules for decades. The Democratic party is willing to look at serious immigration reform--it's the GOP that balked killed it last year.

    So who exactly is out of touch with rural Oregon?

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    I must admit that I am somewhat confused by the debate here. Isn't Smith doing exactly what you want, hiring illegals so they can put food on the table. I mean, that's what you say those "day labor" centers are for. What's the problem here?

  • Blake (unverified)
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    Dey tuk yer jab!!!!!

  • Greg D. (unverified)
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    Lifelong Dem here. I am surprised to see Blue Oregon take a position against hard working folks who are filling a need in Oregon agriculture. I know Lars would like to erect concentration camps and night trains to ship workers south, but I would not have guessed that the progressive community in Oregon would join his bandwagon.

  • Portland Progressive (unverified)
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    This issue of Senator Smith's company and illegal workers will not matter to Oregon voters. The issue of Merkley and the office furniture will be more of a factor with people's votes. In addition, I know a lot of gay voters who are supporting Senator Smith because of his favorable rating with a national gay political organization. Smith will win in Oregon and McCain will win the country.

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    Greg D., thank you.

    As for most of the rest of you, this is really scary. I've been ignoring many of the conservative blogs for years because of hateful, ignorant nonsense like this, but when the so-called progressive community embraces these views as well, I shudder for the future of our country.

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    The Democratic Party is willing to look at serious immigration reform--it's the GOP that balked killed it last year.

    I'm sorry, Jeff, but that's just too simplistic a formulation - and you yourself point to different factions and splits within the Republican Party. In fact, there were roughly as many Democrats who voted no on the cloture votes that killed the bill as there were Republicans who voted yes.

    The fact is that the cynical use of this issue to mobilize voters has thankfully been held to a minimum in the Presidential campaign this year because neither party or candidate saw it as in their interest to whip things up to a frenzy. And in fact, as a new report from Progressive States Network shows, most of the state-level anti-immigrant bills went down to defeat in the last sessions, contrary to public perception.

    Unfortunately, Oregon has been an exception, both in the legislature and now in pending ballot measures at the state level and in Columbia County. So - especially with ICE raids already having wreaked havoc right here in Portland and elsewhere, let's stop using the lives of "the least of our brothers and sisters" as political pawns and focus instead on working to make their lives and working conditions better.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Jack, what was your opinion of the Saxtonville posts 2 years ago?

    This may not be a big issue, but given the "Merkley may have bitten off more than he can chew" ad, the furniture ads, the times we were told not to care about waste discharges from Smith Frozen foods, the lack of Gordon Smith talking in public (not just in ads), etc. etc. I don't have much sympathy for Gordon at the moment!

    Jack, there was a line (in McCain's acceptance speech?) about a Latina daughter of immigrants being just as much an American as anyone else. What did you think of that?

    I KNOW much of the economy would be in trouble without illegal aliens.

    I've been very unhappy with some of the expose' work done by WW.

    How to tell if workers are illegal is a problem and the system is quite possibly broken enough to need complete overhaul. But it seems the employers should be held responsible for hiring---like the large Iowa packing plant found to have been hiring underage kids to work around dangerous machinery.

    If this prompts a more intelligent view of immigration (in the past Hispanics born in this country were assumed by some to be illegal until proven otherwise) and less sloganeering, that would be a good thing.

  • Brienne (unverified)
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    The argument is not whether or not Dems support illegal immigrants working in the U.S., instead this situation with Smith is simply another bullet point on the list of hypocrasies he's guilty of.

    On a side note, based on Frank Herrera's interview in the news piece, I'm happy to see that illegal immigrants are going out of their way to do tax returns. I'm not so up-to-date with the illegal immigration debate, but I do often hear people complain that illegals don't pay taxes. According to Herrera, at least five are honest. That's cool, I guess.

  • LT (unverified)
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    Jeff Mapes has an interesting writeup of Lars vs Gordon.

    http://blog.oregonlive.com/mapesonpolitics/

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    Greg D wrote... I am surprised to see Blue Oregon take a position against hard working folks who are filling a need in Oregon agriculture.

    Greg, BlueOregon hasn't taken a position on this or any other issue. BlueOregon doesn't take positions. As we've said from the beginning, BlueOregon doesn't go out for donuts, much less take positions on issues. Now, our contributors take positions on all kinds of issues. I daresay that, based on the above comments, we could have a VERY lively debate between two of our contributors - Karol Collymore and Pat Ryan.

    When Willamette Week has a cover story that details potentially illegal activities undertaken by our U.S. Senator, well, it's gonna get covered here. Rather that discussing what BlueOregon "thinks" (as if a bunch of bytes on a server could think), let's talk about the issue.

    So far, it's been a good and interesting discussion. Let's keep it up.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    Since Joel decided that writers on this blog can no longer use the term "illegals" and no one seemed to mind, I feel it is my right to ban the use of the term "anti-immigrant" when talking about anything relating to illegal immigration.

  • Scott Jorgensen (unverified)
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    I cringed quite a bit in 2006 when Republicans started talking about the immigration issue, because I think they did it in the worst way imaginable. In fact, all the rhetoric of "We need to kick all the Mexicans out" did nothing to address the actual issues involved. I find it hard to fault poor people from another country who want to come here to live a better life. But if the underlying cause of it is the aftereffects of NAFTA and other similar "free trade" agreements, then let's repeal them and move on. Merkley has taken that position, hell, even the Constitution Party candidate Dave Brownlow has taken that position. I haven't heard Smith say anything about it, though all this may explain why.... He at least had the decency to not engage in immigrant bashing when Republicans found it fashionable to do so. Maybe he was afraid they would sabotage his operations...

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    Actually, there is no allegation in the article that Smith is breaking the law. In fact, it states that he's never even been cited for hiring illegal immigrants.

    Yeah..and OJ Simpson is "not-guilty". Whatever.

    If it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck...then....well, you get the idea.

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    I've been ignoring many of the conservative blogs for years because of hateful, ignorant nonsense like this, but when the so-called progressive community embraces these views as well, I shudder for the future of our country.

    So in your view Jack, we're not supposed to call out a U.S. Senator when he's very likely broken the law...on an issue that his own party has stirred up to use as an election wedge?

    This is another in a long line of Republican "do as I say, not as I do" politics and its bullshit. Is there no shame whatsoever in the Republican Party anymore?

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    Jack calls our concerns "hateful, ignorant nonsense". Here's the thing -- if Gordon Smith believes that these workers are critical to our economy, then he should support reasonable reforms to allow them to work here legally. If he doesn't, then he shouldn't hire them to work at his plant.

    He can't have it both ways -- and that's exactly what he's doing here.

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    Here's the thing -- if Gordon Smith believes that these workers are critical to our economy, then he should support reasonable reforms to allow them to work here legally.

    He has. I sometimes get the feeling that the only thing you guys know about Gordon Smith is what you see in Jeff Merkley ads. Gordon has been supporting ways to allow immigrants to work here legally for years--and has alienated a significant portion of his Republican base doing so.

    But just like the myth that Gordon is a Bush clone, the idea that he is a captive of the right-wing dies hard among true believers in the Democratic Party.

    The ignorance about immigration laws and the whole immigration issue represented by many of the posts here is truly depressing. As some of the more insightful posters here have noted, however, your intended target here may be Gordon, but the people you're really attacking are the workers who are trying to support themselves and their families.

  • Anonymous (unverified)
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    Typical Blue Oregon smear -- quote claims and rumors as fact ("she offered no proof"), and carefully avoid facts that get in the way (99% of all businesses don't use e-verify either). The company follows the law and gets no respect for it. Meanwhile the City of Portland uses taxpayer dollars to build a "day labor" center specifically to help businesses hire illegal immigrants -- and Blue Oregon likes that. Utter hypocrisy.

  • Ted W. (unverified)
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    "Having spent the past four years living in Phoenix Arizona, I was shocked at just how bad the situation had become there with illegals. The new hiring law that went into effect in January, coupled with the current economic situation, has shown quite clearly that eliminating jobs will eliminate the illegals.

    I only hope that Oregon will "see the light" before they sink to the depths that Arizona reached and act now."

    Don't count on it - Im sure the illegals are heading North to the Sanctuary city that is Portland.

  • Ben (unverified)
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    "Smith hasn't been fined. That doesn't mean he's not guilty."

    Well folks he's guilty when he's found guilty.

    He's not "likely guilty of anything.

    In stark contrast the democrat regime City of Portland with their tax funded day labor center is knowingly and deliberatley assiting the hiring of illegal aliens.

    Would y'all be happy if Smith ran all his new hires through Portland's day labor center for legal status validation?

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    The new hiring law [that went into effect [in Arizona] in January, coupled with the current economic situation, has shown quite clearly that eliminating jobs will eliminate the illegals.

    Yes, and is Arizona better off for it? Is their economy stronger, is the state's budget healthier, do "legal" Arizona residents enjoy a higher standard of living because of this?

    The driving force behind illegal immigration has been the demand for labor in the United States. We have a shortage of workers in this country today and, demographically, we know it is only going to get worse.

    It is estimated that we have about 12 million illegal immigrants working in the U.S. today and only about 9 million people unemployed--and many of those are functionally unemployable, unsuited for the work illegal immigrants are performing, or located in parts of the country where there are few immigrants in the first place.

    We need to change the immigration system to meet the workforce needs here legally before any of this can be solved. Neither immigrant-bashing nor employer-bashing will serve any purpose beyond the obvious political one.

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    That's the point, Mr. Roberts: WE NEED TO CHANGE THE IMMIGRATION SYSTEM.... But until we do, Gordon Smith and other employers do not have the right to break the law just because it's convenient for their business to do so.

    Actually, for me the worst part of the WW article were the stories about employeesL the lady who had worked at Smith Frozen Foods for years and then was fired because she didn't have proper documentation of an illness; the workers who must be available to work and can't take another job in case they are needed at Smith Frozen Foods - I am assuming they are not paid "stand by" wages for this availability; the $8 per hour wage for very hard work. As an employer, Smith Frozen Foods should be ashamed not only for hiring undocumented workers and not trying very hard to determine their immigration status, but also for the way it treats those employees. And then for Mr. Smith to be one of the twelfth wealthiest men in the Senate? He is an embarrassment to this state and needs to go!

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    Jack Roberts said:Yes, and is Arizona better off for it? Is their economy stronger, is the state's budget healthier, do "legal" Arizona residents enjoy a higher standard of living because of this?

    Hard to tell at this time due to the general effects of a recession and the fact that Arizona was so heavily invested in housing. However, before I left last month, the Mesa SD reported that they had 2800 fewer children enrolled to start the year. I would say that for the remaining children, yes, they are better off.

    The driving force behind illegal immigration has been the demand for labor in the United States.

    Actually, the driving force has been CHEAP labor. I owned a restaurant in Chandler and had no trouble finding ample supplies of qualified workers who were able to pass E-verify. Of course, the fact that I paid above market wages might have had something to do with that. Even though I paid good wages, I was still able to make a large profit each year. I guess that goes to ones priorities.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    If you don't like the law, CHANGE IT. Until then, FOLLOW IT.

    What is so hard about that?

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    Actually, the driving force has been CHEAP labor. I owned a restaurant in Chandler and had no trouble finding ample supplies of qualified workers who were able to pass E-verify. Of course, the fact that I paid above market wages might have had something to do with that.

    The fact that most of the other restaurants probably weren't E-verifying their workers could also have had something to do with it. Since the more stringent laws have been put in place in Arizona, it is my understanding that employers are having a much harder time finding workers--and that's true even of people who were already scrupulous about not hiring illegals, since they are competing with businesses that use to hire illegals but no longer are willing to risk it.

    Reducing the total supply of available workers, and reducing the total number of local customers and consumers, hardly sounds like a recipe for a strong economy to me.

    For that matter, fewer children in schools and fewer taxpayers (people usually ignore the fact that most illegals are net tax payers, not tax recipients)is probably not a recipe for a better school system, either.

    It will be very interesting to watch what happens in Arizona over the next couple of years, provided their current experiment with strong employer penalties continues.

  • Jim Crow (unverified)
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    If you don't like the law, CHANGE IT. Until then, FOLLOW IT.

    Sounds good to me.

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    "their tax funded day labor center is knowingly and deliberatley assiting the hiring of illegal aliens. "

    Link??

    (although I agree that requisite proof is lacking on this story as regards Smith Foods).

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Jack Roberts wrote:

    It is not a violation of the law to unknowlingly hire an illegal immigrant. It is against the law to fail to acquire the required documentation from an employee supporting that person's legal residency. So far as I can tell, no one has accused Smith of failing to follow the law.

    Such moral relativism! And especially ridiculous if attorney Gail Siemers' statement "When it’s going full bore, over 70 percent of the workers on the line [at Smith] are undocumented,” is anywhere close to the truth.

    I thought Republicans abhorred that kind of reasoning. At least, they get quite exercised while accusing Democrats of it.

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    He has. I sometimes get the feeling that the only thing you guys know about Gordon Smith is what you see in Jeff Merkley ads. Gordon has been supporting ways to allow immigrants to work here legally for years--and has alienated a significant portion of his Republican base doing so.

    Please cite them, specifically.

  • Vincent (unverified)
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    But... the bumper stickers say "no human being is illegal"! I thought it was Republicans that were supposed to get all worked up about illegal immigrants.

    Ah well. All those high-falutin' ideals can wait till ol' Gordo's beat.

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    C'mon, Tom, you know that Jack R. isn't a hard right ideologue. I'd venture to guess that he'd probably agree that it's possible to believe in right & wrong and still need to engage in situational ethics from time to time.

    In some ways what's interesting about Smith's recent vote is that it is a departure from his previous record. As Jack R. correctly notes, Smith and Ron Wyden collaborated in proposals for a new bracero-type "guest worker" system going back to the 1990s I think. Immigration is not a wedge issue so much as an issue that divides both major parties, in their bases and among their elected officials. It is volatile and unpredictable and many politicians are scared, Gordon Smith apparently among them.

    However, Jack is wrong that his former position separates Smith from George Bush or John McCain, since they both supported the reform proposal that got blocked.

    Jeff, I am curious about your source for the idea that paying agricultural workers decent wages would dramatically raise food prices. More likely what it would do is increase pressures for further mechanization and further squeeze out the very few remaining family farmers (unless the recent rise in commodity prices persists).

    In addition to the direct immigration law itself, there are two other elements in terms of agricultural labor that bear looking at. One is the structure of agricultural subsidies that favor corporate and large-scale farmers over small scale farmers. The same overproduction that drives down producer prices such that Mexican peasant farmers are driven off the land by U.S. dumping presses on U.S. farmers in their competition with one another such that it is a struggle to stay afloat. Cutting labor costs enters into that picture, because it is harder to cut the costs of the hugely expensive machinery and fertilizer and pesticide and herbicide inputs needed to produce the subsidized industrial agriculture economies of scale. In theory it might be interesting to look at the current subsidy system & think about changing it so it is less stacked in favor of large operations and maybe at shifting subsidies from producers to consumers (e.g. expanding food stamps) to deal with problems that might arise from unsubsidized pricing. Or maybe there would be a way to tinker with the subsidies system to make it disadvantageous to pay exploitation wages.

    The other is the exclusion of agricultural workers from coverage under the NLRA (also excludes to domestic workers, another category of widespread employment of illegally resident immigrant workers).

    However, that may not be relevant to operations like Smith's food processing business, and it seems that increasingly illegally resident immigrants are working in various kinds of non-agricultural work.

    Brienne, a lot of illegally resident workers pay taxes; if they are "on the books" they're subject to withholding like other people. Those with false social security numbers end up paying into the SS system & will never get any benefits from those contribution. Of course, workers paid "off the books" or "under the table" often or usually don't pay taxes, regardless of their residency status. So that's going to vary a lot by type of employment. Many illegally resident people pay taxes in hopes that it may count someday toward a "path to citizenship" under some immigration reform.

    Apparently the Portland day labor center isn't working very well at its primary aim, which was to physically relocate an activity going on anyway. It's not as if there wasn't an informal day labor center before.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Chris,

    Again, illegal immigration is NOT the issue here. The issue is a US senator flouting federal law. Jack Roberts wants to finesse the issue by suggesting that Smith didn't know he hired undocumented workers and is, therefore innocent. That is the moral relativism to which I referred. If Smith and his managers did not know, it is because they did not want to know.

  • Chuck Butcher (unverified)
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    aha, Flack Roberts reappears. It is fairly easy to be "ignorant" of doing illegal hiring and especially easy if you're fairly sure ICE won't come knocking. It's just fine because it is one of Flack's Party, it is disturbing to see it questioned on BO. It is called worker repression Flack. $8 and change to work in a factory? You know better and so does everybody here. There is exactly one way to do that and it is to use workers who cannot do anything about it.

    You play at Mr Reasonable Republican while you Flack. Look at who is leaping to the defense of exploiting workers, the Republican ex-Labor Commissioner. Some of these people still give you cred, Flack, for your past, for me - your present counts and it is flackery and shilling for a failed Party. Pah. Take the reasonable facade off Roberts' posts and see what the words mean.

  • (Show?)

    Again, illegal immigration is NOT the issue here. The issue is a US senator flouting federal law. Jack Roberts wants to finesse the issue by suggesting that Smith didn't know he hired undocumented workers and is, therefore innocent. That is the moral relativism to which I referred. If Smith and his managers did not know, it is because they did not want to know.

    Your statement, "If Smith and his managers did not know [he was hiring illegal immigrants], it is because they did not want to know" is without any substantiation on your part.

    There is no moral relativism on my part here. I don't think people should break the law, but Willamette Week never claimed Gordon Smith broke the law. Even if his company had been cited for hiring illegal aliens (and it has NOT), I don't necessarily regard that as a moral outrage any more than I would if we learned that Jeff Merkley had received a speeding ticket in the past.

    And, Chris, I agree that both Bush and McCain have been very reformist on immigration, as has Gordon. If anything, I might be to the left of all of them on this particular issue, even though I do not accept the characterization by anti-immigrant zealots of positions like mine as favoring "open borders."

    I'd like to have secure borders with a reliable ID program, but believe it must be coupled with some way to provide the U.S. economy with an adequate workforce, while at the same time providing immigrants with economic opportunity along with dignity and respect.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    I will have to give the people of this blog credit for one thing, you do know how to engage in intelligent discourse. Having spent the past 4 years debating the good folk of Arizona, I am shocked that I have yet to be called a racist, nativist, xenophopic moron just because I thing there is something wrong with illegal aliens.

    It sure is nice to be home!

  • Ben (unverified)
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    "If you don't like the law, CHANGE IT. Until then, FOLLOW IT."

    Tell that to Ted Kulongoski, the State's head illegal enabler. Among many other Demomcrats.

    It's pretty lame for you D's to be criticizing any problems with illegal immigration. Since you are the biggest obstackle to following the law and better immigration policies.

  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)
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    Jack Roberts wrote:

    I don't necessarily regard that as a moral outrage any more than I would if we learned that Jeff Merkley had received a speeding ticket in the past.

    Perhaps we shall discover how many undocumented workers Smith has hired. Would 50 undocumented hires outrage you as much as would 50 Merkley speeding tickets?

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    My God! Jeff Merkley has 50 speeding tickets!!!!

  • Jiang (unverified)
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    There is such a perception that it is wide eyed optimism not to be a little corrupt. I can find no business that does not use this illogic. Consider even the salt-of-the-earth Oregon micro brewer. Can you find an Oktoberfest this year that is more than a week into September? August? September 3? 6? This is blatantly an attempt to make sure the kids aren't back in school when they have their beer party.

    So on the "kinda corrupt-o-meter" where does staging your beer party for kids come relative to employing honest people with dishonest habits (not unlike their employers)?

    On the tickets, I doubt anyone has put him on a tachistiscope! (Hey, I know a word the spell checker doesn't!) Or are you proud that our speed limits put the same restrictions on a 70 year old with a legacy license and glacial reactions as someone that can identify a playing card in 1/100 second? Bottom line, speeding tickets aren't a good predictor. They can indicate irresponsibility, rudeness, intelligence or any combination of the above.

    You know there needs to be a new agency, I propose the acronym BEOMB for Black Economy Office of Management and Budget. Everyday we here xBillion are being lost to Y. No doubt much truth behind it all, but each acting like it were the ONLY off-book activity is totally bogus. How about the $15Billion that is quoted as coming from Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino counties alone in Marijuana sales? Or does that have nothing to do with being "Sanctuary City"? All these huge, unspoken, uncounted factors are what major fading empires use to cook the works. Check out fin de siecle Vienna for a comparison.

    Actually that comparison with the AustroHungarian alliance is pretty apt. They called themselves royal and imperial, k.u.k., which those so blessed corrupted to Kakania. The US would have to say Federal, not royal, so it would be, well, you get the idea...

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    Jeff, I am curious about your source for the idea that paying agricultural workers decent wages would dramatically raise food prices. More likely what it would do is increase pressures for further mechanization and further squeeze out the very few remaining family farmers (unless the recent rise in commodity prices persists).

    I confess ignorance, Chris. It's not an issue I'm super well-versed on; I defer to your scenario, which is probably a studied one.

    However, that the low wages offered to undocumented workers drives down salaries of all workers is, I believe, a defensible hypothesis.

  • mp97303 (unverified)
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    Re: prices for food

    There was a study done awhile back showing that labor was about 10% of the price of the produce. The remaining price was allocated to: farmer, wholesaler, retailer, transportation and product marketing group(ie. Florida oranges, California raisins, etc)

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