As a Canyon County commissioner in rural Idaho, I live every day with the consequences of our hypocritical immigration policy. Federal officials say it is our policy to block illegal immigration, but our southern border is so open that millions of people manage to come through, overcoming the desert’s hazards of killing heat and rapacious "coyotes" who lead them to this country for outrageous sums of money.
What we have established is a cruel gantlet for young Mexicans and other migrants from central and South America desperate for work. While that may be cheap labor for many farmers in my part of Idaho, the downside is a culture that has become lawless. I say all this as a Mexican-American myself, the grandson of a Mexican immigrant.
I have sounded the klaxon horn about the hazards of this flood of illegal aliens for nearly 15 years, long before I entered public service and at a time when it was even less popular to do so. I have been called a racist, a bigot, a hate-monger and a turncoat.
But there is nothing racial in my analysis. The only color involved in this issue is green – the color of money. I continue to protest this onslaught of illegal aliens because I believe in America and the priceless value of U.S. citizenship, because as an American citizen I have an obligation to my fellow citizens to warn of any danger to our nation’s security and sovereignty.
There are estimates that 11 million or more illegal aliens live in the United States, and though we spend billions of dollars on border enforcement, nothing stems the tide. The result: America is flooded with illegal aliens intent on taking American jobs. They are willing to work for rock-bottom pay, driving down wages for other workers — many of whom are minorities.
Illegal aliens export U.S. dollars to Mexico, contribute to the bankruptcy of our health care system, siphon off limited resources from our social service programs, force American schools to accommodate the presence of children whose parents are not committed to the community, and they relieve the political pressure on Mexican President Vicente Fox for much needed reforms.
Because I believe that employers should be held accountable for knowingly hiring illegal aliens and taking jobs away from Americans, I have spearheaded a lawsuit, joined by my fellow county commissioners, against four major agricultural companies and the nonprofit Migrant Council. We charge them of conspiring to hire and aid undocumented workers in violation of the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Better know as RICO, the law was designed to target the Mafia, but I think it is appropriate here.
Meanwhile, others do nothing, proposing and debating various weak bills in Congress, while here in Canyon County, population 151,000, the sheriff’s office has uncovered two methamphetamine distribution rings fueled by illegal immigrants.
The first group was broken up in 2004, after an investigation of a murder in nearby Gem County. There had been a struggle for power in the drug ring, which had been operating in Canyon County for over a decade.
The second group, broken up in April 2005, consisted of 12 people, 11 of whom were illegal aliens from Mexico. They were distributing cocaine and marijuana.
A major problem in my county this year resulted from the arrest of an illegal alien who suffered from an active case of tuberculosis. A quarantine had to be issued after the man exposed several jail officers to the disease. Canyon County contributes $680,893 to the Southwest District Health Department, but what we paid because of that one person who came here illegally was a disproportionate draw on our resources.
I have tried repeatedly to call attention to these problems, even attempting to have Canyon County declared a disaster area. I have also sent a bill for more than $2 million to the Mexican government for the county’s cost of serving Mexicans who live here illegally.
Though the Idaho Statesman recently called my politics "hate speech," many people I talk to in Idaho tell me I am one of the few elected officials willing openly to address the problems of what feels like an invasion.
Robert Vasquez is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado (hcn.org). He is a Canyon County Commissioner in Idaho who is running for Congress in the state’s 1st congressional district.
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