Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Re-Raising the Gate

"When all the houses were finally torn down or fixed, to no one's surprise a new gate went up."
Sean Smith, who is among the few real news reporters left at the Pensacola News Journal after the recent staff cuts, notes in today's PNJ:
Escambia and Santa Rosa counties have seen a huge swell in the Hispanic community since [Hurricane] Ivan.

Grace McCaffery, who organized The Language Bank and owns Latino Media Gulf Coast, estimates that about 20,000 Hispanics now live in the two-county area, an increase of about 400 percent since before Ivan struck in 2004.

In Ivan's wake, hundreds of workers braved scorching rooftops to repair homes, clear rubble and debris, and build new homes in the area. Many stayed, hoping to find work in construction projects and other labor-intensive jobs. The 2005 hurricane season brought even more workers to the Gulf Coast.
400 percent! That's probably pretty close. It's certainly a fact that no one was much interested in checking for green cards after September 16, 2004. Not the police, not the building inspectors, and certainly not homeowners or businesses who were desperate for day laborers.

One small Tiger Point golf course neighborhood could be a parable for the immigration dilemma facing the U.S. The Sound-side area was notable for years before Hurricane Ivan for a locked gate that stretched completely across the main entrance street, presumably to keep out undesirables. The hurricane tore it away.

Within a week or two, hispanic workers inside this (formerly) gated community were hard at work tearing down ruined houses, installing blue roofs, hauling away debris, re-roofing structures that still stood, and re-framing where they could. On a tour of the devasted area one hot Spring day last year, we counted over a dozen dusky-skinned workers. Spanish filled the air.

One jaded observer with us said, "It's probably the first time anyone with dark skin has been allowed down this street since it was built."

When at last all the houses were finally torn down or fixed up, to no one's surprise a new gate went up.

You can't help wondering how the residents of that neighborhood will react after the next storm if the new bill Jeff Miller (R-Chumuckla) voted for becomes law. It would impose a fine up to $25,000 on every homeowner for every undocumented immigrant laborer he hires, and sentences against every alien for anywhere from six months to 20 years in prison.

Not to worry, though. We aren't going to have any more hurricanes, right? And now that everything's nearly restored to its pre-storm condition, let's send those immigrants back where they came from.

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