With scant fear of being deported, illegal immigrants at one L.A. plant see little to gain in the proposal--and much to lose.
Alan Zarembo, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 8
Here, in the basement of the U.S. economy, two women sit face to face five days a week, sometimes talking, more often surrendering conversation to the hum of their sewing machines and the Mexican ballads playing on their Walkmans.
Both clear about $200 a week at the factory on Los Angeles’ Eastside.
Both churn out the same products: dresses, shirts and pants that are shipped off into a retail world so vast that they have never seen their work in a store. Both pay taxes.
Both have the same education: sixth grade.
Juana Torres is a legal U.S. resident. Her sister-in-law, Abiud Martinez, is an illegal immigrant.
Their similarities point to a potentially serious weakness in the plan that President Bush announced last month to establish a new guest-worker program: It might not be much of a draw for many of the illegal immigrants it is designed to attract.
In making his announcement, the president said his plan would bring illegal workers, people like Martinez, “out of the shadows.”
But in interviews at the factory where Martinez works — and other Southern California businesses staffed by undocumented people — employees gave little sense of being in the shadows.
Many illegal immigrants lead lives similar to those of poor friends, neighbors and relatives who are here legally, and few said Bush’s plan offered much for them.
Before she arrived, “I thought that everybody would have to hide from the immigration police,” said Martinez, 23. After a few months here, “I realized that I didn’t have to be afraid.”
Last year the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended 905,065 people trying to enter the country from Mexico. But once the people are beyond the border, the chances of being caught and sent home are tiny.
From 8 million to 11 million illegal immigrants live in the United States, according to immigration officials. Last year 48,120 — far fewer than 1% — were deported. The majority of them had been caught, not in workplace investigations, but after being picked up on suspicion of crimes.
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