We need illegal immigrants

  Dear HCN, Your story on the Mexican-American border described in intimate detail the life of an illegal trying to cross, but we are not addressing the root cause of the problem (HCN, 10/9/00: The hunters and the hunted: The Arizona-Mexico border turns into the 21st century frontier).

We think the solution to this problem is to create jobs on both sides of the border that will employ non-skilled and semi-skilled workers so that they won't need to migrate here in search of jobs. The College of Engineering at New Mexico State University is interested in creating a talent pool of young engineers who will stay in the immediate vicinity to help create these jobs by creating more manufacturing facilities in the region around El Paso-Las Cruces.

One thing I see as I travel around the country consulting for various companies is the presence of illegals everywhere. Just go into any Wal-Mart and look at the customer population. I bet that even in Paonia, Colo., if you look carefully, you can find a few illegals. They tend to get across the border and find the backwater places so that they can live in peace, and will work for far less than most locals to stay here.

While I agree in part with your essayist, Corine Flores, that they may be taking some American jobs, we need these people. Here in Santa Fe, the local youth want to start working at nonskilled jobs at wages that are outrageous. A contractor told me that local people who come to him to ask to learn how to drive a backhoe want $15 to start - with no skills and no heavy-machinery experience. The contractor can hire an illegal who will start at maybe $7 per hour and learn how to use the machine and work his way up to the $15 per hour wage over a period of six months to a year.

Meanwhile, there is a whole network of people here in the states who prey upon these people. In order to go to work for some company like Wal-Mart, they have to have a green card and a social security number. These are available from unscrupulous people who will make up a fake SSN and a very good-looking but fake green card - all for a fee. The SS card costs $75.

Bottom line: There is a lot more to the story than just the interaction with the Border Patrol. You could explore how these people live once they get into the United States. It would include how they find "safe" places to live and how they avoid the police and other law-enforcement authorities and how they manage to live on a level of income that is way below the poverty line here.

Bob Skaggs
Santa Fe, New Mexico