After I graduated college, about 104 years ago, I made the best use of my degree by going to work for a construction company for a few years.
At the time, in about 1990, we were the general contractor working at the Extended Stay hotel, across Washington Avenue Extension from UAlbany, and everything was ticking along just fine until one day the equivalent of today’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE, showed up and arrested the entire sheetrock crew.
We really had no idea what was going on when about a dozen black vans pulled onto the site, but the crew of mostly Latino sheetrockers sure did because they scattered.
I saw one guy jump out a second story window. His feet hit the ground first but, thanks to a combination of momentum and gravity, his abdomen landed on a newly poured concrete curb. I really have no idea how bad he was hurt, but he didn’t struggle when the feds put him in cuffs.
A couple others had better luck and took off running. Not sure what happened to those guys.
Others just gave up and still others tried to hide. I distinctly remember one guy trying to conceal himself under a large box, that could fit a refrigerator, but his toes were sticking out of the bottom so that didn’t work out too well.
In the end, the only person who was left sheetrocking was the crew foreman, a white, middle aged guy, and safe to say he was not nearly as fast as the two dozen Latinos. Legal or illegal, those guys could sheetrock, and sheetrock in a hurry. I didn’t get to know any of them, really, as they stuck to themselves but they seemed decent enough, and they were a hard working lot.
I don’t know what happened to them. I would assume they were deported back to their country of origin, or maybe they first faced some sort of criminal charge for being in this country illegally with the punishment of being deported.
I honestly don’t know, but I remember my boss at the time being very upset with the sheetrocking company for holding up the entire works while they found a new crew. I also don’t know if that company faced any ramifications, criminal or civil, for hiring a bunch of illegals. Seems to me it should have. It wasn’t paying workers’ comp or payroll tax or unemployment or anything else. They were probably paying OK wages, but none of the costly protections workers deserve were in place.
The reason for his lookback is news of a huge raid by ICE on a Mississippi food processing plant that resulted in 680 arrests and the ongoing, very tiring, outrage at what some see as a recent enforcement of our borders — and the subsequent punishment of those who got here without following proper protocol.
It’s been going on since we had borders.
And the entire Sanctuary City debate is even more tiring.
Take what transpired over the past few months in the City of Troy, for example, and in municipalities across the state and nation.
The only voice of reason in the Troy debacle was Mayor Patrick Madden, who quickly vetoed the inane vote by the Democratic majority on the City Council to make Troy a “Sanctuary City.” As the mayor said, it carries no legal meaning and since laws, by definition, should have some legal precedent to back them up, it should not be on the books.
Being a sanctuary city doesn’t mean anything to anyone except those who are in favor of it or those opposed. I bet it does make them feel better to voice their opinions. Yes, it may mean local police can’t go out and arrest someone purely because they are an illegal immigrant but that’s a policy decision, not a local law.
On the flip side, the Republicans tried to score political points too by saying they want to take the issue to a referendum. As the mayor said, it’s not permissible under state law.
We don’t live in a true democracy. If we did we’d be voting on every item on every agenda in every township in the country. We live in a democratic republic. That means everything is, or should be, voted upon, but we elect representatives, like Town Board members or City Council members or state legislators, to cast a vote in our stead.
We can’t have our representatives bringing every item that didn’t go their way to the public with the hope of a better outcome.
Back to the issue at hand. People can scream about the number of deportations going up but that’s only because of the number of illegals are going up too. According to the Pew Research Center, from 1990 to 2007 the “unauthorized immigrant population more than tripled in size from 3.5 million to a record high of 12.2 million. By 2017, that number had declined by 1.7 million or 14 percent. There were 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2017, accounting for 3.2 percent of the nation’s population.
“The decline in the unauthorized immigrant population is due largely to a fall in the number from Mexico – the single largest group of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. Between 2007 and 2017, this group decreased by 2 million.”
And that’s without a wall., which is really a stupid dead, by the way.
Illegal immigration has been an issue in this country for decades, and different presidents of different parties have not done anything of any real substance about it — including our current president and the last president too, who also used deportation as an enforcement tool.
Is there any other option, really? Throw them in prison or send them back? To grant them citizenship for just walking across the border is not fair to the great majority of immigrants who did things the right way.
The useless, politically driven self-serving rhetoric on both sides of the issue does not help matters at all. All it does is throw gas on an already incendiary situation that has been simmering for decades.
Jim Franco has been covering the Capital District for more than two decades. He can be reached at 518-878-1000 or by email at [email protected]