What are all these Mexicans doing here?
The other day a friend asked me, "Where did all the Mexicans come from?"
"My guess would be Mexico," I told him.
But it was a serious question, and what he really meant was, "Why are all these Mexicans here?" He was talking about the highly visible local population of Spanish-speaking immigrants from Mexico and Latin America.
A simple answer would be, "They're here to make money." But a better one is the "Mexicans" are here because Sonoma County business likes cheap labor.
Vineyards, wineries, and what's left of what used to be "agriculture", have long thrived on cheap immigrant labor. Years ago, a government "bracero" program legally imported seasonal workers. The farmers were supposed to treat them fairly, and house and feed them properly, but many didn't.
Now Sonoma County "farmers" are European wine grandees, and rich men like Jess Jackson, and today's immigrants aren't just farmworkers. Mexicans work in manufacturing plants, hospitals, hotels and restaurants, as well as vineyards and wineries.
They make their own way here, live wherever they can, and profoundly impact Sonoma County and its cities. Santa Rosa's public school system is segregated, criminal gang members kill each other on the streets, and emergency rooms treat the sick and injured.
Meanwhile, organized labor and affordable housing advocates push their own agenda. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey will chair a panel at SRJC Saturday to review a paper, "The Limits of Prosperity: Growth, Inequality and Poverty in the North Bay".
Sponsors are a liberal labor/housing group called New Economy, Working Solutions (NEWS), which commissioned the study, and the Living Wage Coalition of Sonoma County. Martin Bennett and Michael Allen say in their foreword to the study,
"There is an alternative to the Wal-Martization of America, the race to the bottom that is taking over our economy through wage and benefit cutbacks, expansion of temporary and part-time employment, and the weakening of labor unions. We need a new social contract that will ensure a decent standard of living for all working families and enable business to compete locally and globally on the basis of efficiency, quality and innovation."
NEWS finds there's "A Latino economic underclass. Minorities are the most likely to be poor and work in the worst jobs. Latinos, in particular, earn low incomes; experience severe economic hardship; and are concentrated in the lowest-paid, most insecure jobs."
And also, "The White population decreased from 89.1% to 75.7% of the regional total between 1980 and 2000. The Latino population, by far the largest non-White group, grew the most rapidly: from 6.1% to 16.3% of the population."
The report says, "Certain service industries, Professional & Business Services, Education & Health services, and Leisure & Hospitality Services, dominated North Bay employment growth. These three sectors accounted for 52% of North Bay jobs created between 1990 and 2003."
And "Blacks, Native Americans and especially Latinos are dramatically overrepresented in occupations that are below average in skill and wage: Agricultural, Production (e.g., manufacturing assembly) and Service occupations."
True, but not news. While local business makes money from immigrants, and the taxpayers pay for their impacts, the union/housing liberals publish statistics and promote the Living Wage Ordinance.
Now would be a great time to start telling the public why all these Mexicans are here, and challenging business to help pay the bills. Now that would be NEWS!
[Go here to learn more about NEWS: http://www.neweconomynorthbay.org/index.htm ; and here to download The Limits of Prosperity (pdf): http://www.neweconomynorthbay.org/limits_of_prosperity.pdf ]