Anonymous correspondence usually carries about the same weight with me as the ink used in the signature at the bottom.
But I received an unsigned letter the other day that is worth sharing.
It is in response to my May 12 column that basically said the state should crack down on employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers as a way to reduce illegal immigration.
The letter, from someone purporting to be a successful restaurateur in Collier County for the past 16 years, is telling, not just in what it says about the role of migrant workers in our economy but in what it says about American society in general.
It begins, “I feel your column on illegal immigration has it wrong... Without these immigrants, the service, hospitality and construction industries in Florida would not be able to deliver.
“I would never trade my Spanish help for what the American labor market has to offer. I know from experience that if I want dependable, loyal, hard-working honest and long-term employees, I go Spanish. If I hire Americans I get drug and alcohol abuse issues, high absenteeism, high employee turnover, attitude problems and mediocre motivations.”
It goes on to describe the landscape, construction and hospitality workers we all see in Southwest Florida as we go about our business.
“How many of these people have papers? Practically none. Do you think business owners and government contractors know this? Of course they do.
“The bandwagon says we unscrupulous business owners hire these folks for cheap labor, exploiting them out of greed. Maybe some of that is true, but not much. They earn a competitive wage because they are such good workers and are in high demand. They’ll quit and go elsewhere if you don’t pay them well. My Latin cooks earn as much as an average schoolteacher.
“The employers want quality, and the illegals deliver!”
The writer argues, without citing statistics, that undocumented workers are a boon to the economy and require little in the way of government social service spending. There are studies that show illegal immigrants are a net drain on the economy and others that suggest the opposite. In Collier County, the reality is there are schools where children of undocumented parents attend in such numbers as to prevent the school from scheduling events during the day, since parents can’t attend an event during the school day without proper identification. About 22 percent of the county’s jail budget is spent housing illegal immigrants incarcerated for some other crime.
The anonymous author claims illegal immigration is a phony crisis drummed up by the George W. Bush administration to divert attention from the war in Iraq, even though I remember vigorous debate about, and not much action, on illegal immigration during the Reagan and Clinton administrations.
The letter makes a point most of us can probably agree on. “Our federal government should long ago have recognized their importance to our economy, established a work permit program and thusly regulated their numbers.”
Unfortunately, the government didn’t.
They are here today in numbers that demand our attention.
The anonymous restaurateur pleads, “Please don’t take away our illegals, give them a chance to be legal.” The letter concludes, “Sorry, I cannot give my name out of fear my business would be ruined.”
Connect with Brent Batten at naplesnews.com/staff/brent_batten