ENR Southeast's recent editorial coverage of the discovery of six illegal workers at the VA Medical Center project in Orlando generated a flood of comments from readers, with many of them providing interesting, insightful perspectives. Both our initial news report of the incident and our follow-up blog, on the efforts to hide the illegal workers, received a high volume of comments.
And while the opinions were often passionate, most readers didn't seem to be blaming the workers who were arrested. In fact, if a reader focused on blaming someone or something, most of that seemed to be directed at the federal government, firstly, and secondly, to the industry itself. Collectively, these comments shed light on industry's own opinion of this pervasive practice, and were generally thought-provoking overall. I'd like to share some of the comments here, edited for brevity.
For those who feel that the federal government is to blame, there were these varying opinions:
"This will continue until immigration reform is undertaken. Ten million-plus illegals using our tax dollars.... How much are we spending on useless raids and incarcerations? The U.S. must get its head out of the sand and once and for all address this major problem!"
"The real problem is with our immigration service that forces needy, desperate people to wait sometimes years before they can enter 'legally.' No one can wait that long. Put yourself in their position and then try to convince others that you would patiently wait years for an incompetent government to "allow" you to enter while your family goes hungry. If our system could simply process people and make them 'legal,' then all of our cost problems would be solved.... So while we all complain about the people we think are the problem, it's time to focus on the real problems - our pitiful goverment system and the sorry American workforce that can't compete with people that simply work harder."
"Your parents were once anchor babies. From my experience, Mexicans ... are more efficient and better workers than your average fat american employee. Our productivity is going down, our prices are going up and consequently our country is going down."
"Crooked subcontractors use labor brokers to hire illegal workers. Crooked subcontractors use multiple banks to pay labor brokers. Labor brokers cash the checks and pay cash to the illegal workers. No payroll taxes, no worker's comp, no insurance, no benefits and, if it's a prevailing-wage project, they cook the books on the hours. If the IRS starts to check on them they just disappear and start over with a new false ID."
"The question here is, Why are illegals necessary? Corporate America exports for low wage earners and the construction industry imports low wage earners. Is profit that hard to come by? If so, the construction industry should hasten to eliminate its waste and inefficiencies, and there are many."
Others more expressly sided with the workers. For example, there was this comment to our blog, which addressed the efforts to hide the workers:
"The person hiding them was not purposely trying to emperil their lives. He, or she, was trying to help their fellow undocumented workers from the forces of evil: the American government. Undocumented workers are here in the United States striving to make it and they deserve better. I work in the construction industry and I know how hard working they are."
And this reader pointed out the overall situation for these workers, due to their status.
"Sometimes I go to Mexican grocery stores, and (often) when I go to the counter to pay there is a cardboard box that has a picture of a young man who was killed. They are asking for donations to send the body back to his country. They can't go to the police and report the murder, and a lot of these people have no family in the states. That's the other aspect that mass media completely misses. All we hear about is how illegals are bad for the economy. How about putting a face to these people? They are doing exactly what you and I would be doing if we were in their shoes."
Then there was this:
"My family has owned a masonry contracting business for over 30 years. We are going out of business because we cannot compete using American workers. If we wanted to stay in business, we would have to use illegal immigrants and we are not going to do that. It is sad to see our policymakers and the puppet masters that control their strings ignore this problem in order to line their pockets. We have substituted honesty, integrity and principles for the not-so-almighty dollar."
So, what do you think about that? If you have further opinions, voice them here.