Sunday, December 28, 2003

We're so damn diverse

S. Lynne Walker at the Copley News Service is trying hard for the "Welcome the new neighbors" award - Black-market IDs a fact of life for many:
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part three of a four-part Copley series reflecting on a changing America. The series highlights the changes in Beardstown, Ill., where the closing of a factory precipitated a cultural change as a new factory brought in many immigrant workers and turned the all-white town into a culturally diverse community.
They misspelled "illegal alien".
BEARDSTOWN, Ill. — As Beardstown residents struggled to find common ground with their new neighbors, one issue kept them apart: Many of the Hispanics working at Excel Corp.’s slaughterhouse were living illegally in the United States.
They actually said it!

Hit the link for the details, but it's the usual sordid tale. The company winks at the illegal aliens, helped by the fact that many have illegal IDs. But there's a new problem - "illegal alien cabin fever"!
Other Hispanics, who were working at Excel without legitimate documents, could never let their guard down. Fearful of being deported, they spent most of their off-work hours at home.

“I feel trapped,” sighed a 49-year-old woman who left Acapulco in 1999 and crossed the border illegally.

“Every day I’m here, here, here,” she said, sweeping her arm in the direction of the two-story home she and her husband bought. “We almost never go out. I feel very lonely.”

As she remembered her home in Mexico’s famous beach resort, she sighed again.

“Right now, our mango tree would be full of fruit. I miss the coconuts, the breeze from the sea,” she said. “I tell my husband, ‘Let’s go back.’
Sounds like a plan.

And saving the best for last - after explaining how the illegal IDs are obtained and that the best ones are those of real people:
The dual identities filled the town’s school records, health records, police records and voter registration lists with inaccuracies.

Excel employees working with false identities didn’t want to use their real names — or their children’s real names — on official documents. School officials repeatedly assured parents their records wouldn’t be turned over the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

“We are not the INS. We do not plan to be the INS,” said school Superintendent Jim Lewis. “Our mission is not to turn people in, but to help the families.”

Pregnant mothers were urged to give their real names when they arrived at local hospitals to deliver their babies. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to prove they were the children’s real mothers.

At the Cass County Clerk’s office, irregularities cropped up on voter registration lists. A single social security number was sometimes used by as many as four registered “voters.”

Few voted, however. In Beardstown’s April 2001 mayoral election, fewer than 20 of the town’s 120 registered Hispanics cast ballots.
Er, nice theory, if true; but how do they know? Since election fraud is a felony, I don't think they are going to get too many of the "new neighbors" owning up to it. And looking for Hispanic surnames on the registration lists obviously isn't going to cut it.