Thursday, May 26


The "New York Times" (registration required) runs a feature story today by Anthony DePalma entitled: "Class Matters -- 15 Years On The Bottom Rung." The story compares and contrasts the fortunes of two immigrants to America: one who came here legally, a Greek, John Zannikos; one who came here illegally, a Mexican, Juan Manuel Paralta.

Mr. Zannikos has assimilated well here in the United States and is now one of three owners of a New York, high-end, coffee shop catering to the well-to-do; Senior Paralta has not done anywhere near as well, however, and works for Mr. Zannikos as a cook and menial kitchen helper.

Mr. DePalma writes:

Political scientists are divided over whether the 25 million people of Mexican ancestry in the United States represent an exception to the classic immigrant success story. Some, like John H. Mollenkopf at the City University of New York, are convinced that Mexicans will eventually do as well as the Greeks, Italians and other Europeans of the last century who were usually well assimilated after two or three generations. Others, including Mexican-Americans like Rodolfo O. de la Garza, a professor at Columbia, have done studies showing that Mexican-Americans face so many obstacles that even the fourth generation trails other Americans in education, home ownership and household income.

The situation is even worse for the millions more who have illegally entered the United States since 1990. Spread out in scores of cities far beyond the Southwest, they find jobs plentiful but advancement difficult. President Vicente Fox of Mexico was forced to apologize this month for declaring publicly what many Mexicans say they feel, that the illegal immigrants "are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States." Resentment and race subtly stand in their way, as does a lingering attachment to Mexico, which is so close that many immigrants do not put down deep roots here. They say they plan to stay only long enough to make some money and then go back home. Few ever do.

But the biggest obstacle is their illegal status. With few routes open to become legal, they remain, like Mr. Peralta, without rights, without security and without a clear path to a better future.

"It's worrisome," said Richard Alba, a sociologist at the State University of New York, Albany, who studies the assimilation and class mobility of contemporary immigrants, "and I don't see much reason to believe this will change."

What's worrisome for me, however, is the fact that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents of the Department of Homeland Security will likely not arrest John Zannikos for knowingly employing an illegal alien and Juan Manuel Paralta for entering this country illegally. Both have broken the law, but the "NYT" reporter did not feel compelled to protect their identities, because he knows no arrests will follow publication of his story.

Instead, we'll get a sociological diatribe on the barriers to upward mobility for illegals and Liberal hand-wringing over Senior Paralta's plight. You get this sort of thing on the West Coast from the "Los Angeles Times" and on the East Coast from the "New York Times."

And therein is the problem in dramatic relief. No respect for the law. We're supposed to be a nation of laws.

Mr. Peralta was 19 when he boarded a smoky bus that carried him through the deserted hills of Guerrero and kept going until it reached the edge of Mexico. With eight other Mexicans he did not know, he crawled through a sewer tunnel that started in Tijuana and ended on the other side of the border, in what Mexicans call el Norte.

He had carried no documents, no photographs and no money, except what his father gave him to pay his shifty guide and to buy an airline ticket to New York. Deep in a pocket was the address of an uncle in the same section of Queens where Mr. Zannikos had gotten his start. By 1990, the area had gone from largely Greek to mostly Latino.

In 1990, Mr. Peralta was in the vanguard of Mexican immigrants who bypassed the traditional barrios in border states to work in far-flung cities like Denver and New York. The 2000 census counted 186,872 Mexicans in New York, triple the 1990 figure, and there are undoubtedly many more today. The Mexican consulate, which serves the metropolitan region, has issued more than 500,000 ID cards just since 2001.

Fifty years ago, illegal immigration was a minor problem. Now it is a divisive national issue, pitting those who welcome cheap labor against those with concerns about border security and the cost of providing social services. Though newly arrived Mexicans often work in industries that rely on cheap labor, like restaurants and construction, they rarely organize. Most are desperate to stay out of sight.

This is one American who is concerned about border security, the cost of providing taxpayer-funded social services to millions of illegals, and a Washington D.C. crowd, including the President of the United States, who, respectively, put laws on the books and do not faithfully enforce them.

President Bush does not want judges who legislate from the bench, and rightfully so. But he legislates immigration policy unabashedly from the Oval Office in making Senior Paralta, a Mexican national here in this country illegally, a de facto citizen of the United States of America.

Both men in this feature story in the "New York Times" are patent law-breakers. Their impact on our society and the costs each has generated for its taxpayers easily surpasses that of the Runaway Bride. But, Zannikos will continue to live in middle class comfort and take in his $130,000 a year. Paralta will continue to subsist at the poverty level and rely on public services for a safety net. And Jennifer Wilbanks, who concocted a cock-and-bull story of abduction will get tons of negative press, a grand jury indictment, and enough ignominy to last her a lifetime.

Where's the justice in that?

FOLLOW-UP: Jim at "Stones Cry Out" has a thoughtful post on the Jennifer Wilbanks fiasco and similarly disagrees with what D.A. Danny Porter is up to. Of course, the blogger who has been consistent from the onset in viewing this whole tawdry affair as a ridiculous overstep by the District Attorney is Frank Laughter of "Common Sense Junction."