Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · The Wanderers
. . . .

The Wanderers

Anne Stanton - July 7th, 2005
he story of Father Wayne Dziekan and his transformation began eight years ago when Gladys Munoz, a feisty religion and Spanish teacher from St. Mary’s School in Lake Leelanau, talked to him about going to the Mexican border -- a mission trip -- with some senior students.
When I first phoned Father Wayne Dziekan to talk about his experience, his excitement was palpable. He went as a skeptic, but he came back changed… yet still a skeptic. He went a second time and then a third.
And it was the third trip in which his view of the world and his life changed completely.
When Gladys had first proposed the idea, she explained to him that they would travel to Tucson, Arizona, and meet up with members of a nonprofit group called BorderLinks. The group seeks to give people a very personal experience with the migrant issue and those trying to cross the U.S. border illegally. You meet the migrants and those who try to help them. You also meet the people who employ them and those who are hired to capture them.
Participants quickly learn that the illegal alien problem is not a sound bite, but mind-bendingly complex and involving mostly decent people on both sides of the border.

Dziekan admits that the first year he went to Tuscon, Arizona, he carried some negative baggage with him.
“I was prejudiced against many people -- Hispanics in particular. I had a certain mindset: we speak English here, they should too,” he said. “I grew up in Chicago hearing things, like ‘You white people are this, you black people are that’… that kind of thing.’”
Dziekan came to priesthood a little later in life than most. He first worked as a florist in the Chicago area, and decided he wanted a more spiritual life. He decided to try a year in the seminary. He was quite positive he wouldn’t like it and thought he might quit after a year. But he did like seminary school and thought he’d try it for one more year, and on and on until he found himself an ordained priest.
When he met Gladys, he was new to St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Suttons Bay and St. Gertrude’s Catholic Church in Northport. He noted there were Hispanics in the area, and decided that he had to confront his prejudice sooner than later.
When he arrived in Nogales, he saw a massive, 12-foot wall constructed out of landing strips from the first Gulf War. Connecting the two sides was a multi-lane lane road similar to what you’d see in Canada, but much more militarized, staffed by border guards carrying weapons.
In fact, all of the densely populated areas along the Mexican border are now bisected by a wall. The thinking, Dziekan explains, is to cut off the flow of people in the urban areas because people in their right mind wouldn’t risk their life crossing the desert. Unfortunately, one of the effects it had was to increase the coyote’s (smuggler’s) charge for crossing the border, which motivate organinized crime to get involved for the profits. As a result, the wall made the crossing far more dangerous.

Gladys Munoz, now the pastoral associate at St. Michael’s, had just finished teaching a religion class and was hustling out of St. Michael’s parish center to help a woman -- a legal migrant -- who had just moved up from Florida. SanJuana Robledo had run out of food and money and went to Munoz for help.
Munoz frantically called around and found a person to unlock the food pantry, which is run by a coalition of Leelanau County churches.
SanJuana, 46, was just beside herself, fretting in the oppressive heat of the day while her two-year-old granddaughter played on the steps. She said she was paying rent on an apartment here and one in Florida. She had found a job, but she wouldn’t start working until Thursday.
“I work so hard all of my life,” she said, exhaling her fatigue. “I paint houses, I take care of old people, Alzheimer’s patients, I worked five years for a daycare, I had my own licensed daycare.”
Yet she had only gone to school for just one month, she said.
“I have a seven-month-old (grandson) and he’s really sick. I waited all day in the clinic. Right now I don’t have diapers for the babies, and gas for the truck, and I feel so angry.”
A woman from the pantry met SanJuana, while Gladys went back inside for a bag of soaps and shampoos to give her. All in a day’s work.
I drove with Gladys to a small apartment building, where we met a woman, 30, and heavily pregnant. Marie (not her real name) is trying to learn English. Everything in her apartment is tagged with little yellow stick-ems with the corresponding word -- refrigerator, couch, stove, table.
Marie has a wide smile. She introduces her friend from Mexico, a pretty girl just 17 with a new little baby girl. The teen is wearing an Old Navy shirt with a USA flag. During the course of the conversation Marie’s sister called. She just had a baby too. So many babies!

Mexicans make great patients and responsible parents, said Jan McAllister, a certified midwife who contracts with the Migrant Clinic. “They’ll come out of the field and take a shower before they come in. For an appointment, the kids are always cleaned up and dressed up in their best clothes. The mothers are almost always in a committed relationship.”
And despite the larger number of children, the Mexicans do use birth control, she added.
“They raise their babies in groups. Babies are always a blessing, always appreciated even if it’s going to be a strain,” McAllister said. “They take good care of themselves, and good care of their babies. Almost no one smokes, no alcohol, no drug use. They have some diabetes and that kind of thing.”
Many of those on Medicaid are undocumented, however, and that can cause some confusion.
“The hospital will get so confused. They have a Social Security and birth date one year, but then it changes the next time.”
So this is what you learn quickly. The Mexican’s life is like one continuous family reunion. They love family. They love babies. Over the years, Marie’s entire family has moved to Leelanau County. That’s a grandma and grandpa, eight children, 27 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren -- 39 people.
Just one son is still left in Mexico and his mother wants to go back to see him. Families want to be together, but realistically they can’t go back and forth, so they all come and they mostly all stay.
A stricter U.S. immigration policy was put in place earlier than 9-11 with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act passed in 1996. The Act allowed the deportation of illegal immigrants without a hearing or judicial review and greatly expanded the definition of crimes to support immediate deportation.

Angela (not her real name), the 17-year-old, said she paid a coyote (smuggler) $2,200 to get her across the border in December. She crossed a river with 17 people, all ages, when she was four months pregnant. She and her husband didn’t have the money to pay the coyote upfront, so now they make payments.
“After we crossed, we were all wet. Someone took us to a hotel. Then we were put on buses and we came here,” she explains with Munoz interpreting.
“They must trust the coyote and the coyote must trust them,” Munoz said.
“Sometimes they become an indentured servant. There’s a big company in Georgia. They need laborers, so the foreman hires a coyote who goes to the border. The foreman has already paid the coyote to get the people, and now the people have to pay the foreman too. If the foreman is good, they can pay and that’s it. If he’s not, they pay forever and ever.”
I go to another migrant camp, and there are more babies and toddlers.
I later find that Michigan is an attractive place for migrants because Medicaid pays all the bills for a pregnancy, unlike Florida where it’s much harder to get coverage.

With Medicaid footing the bill for all these pregnancies, how much exactly undocumented workers cost us? They don’t receive food stamps or welfare, but they do receive care at the migrant school, migrant clinics, the county health department, subsidized food at daycares, and they receive Medicaid.
The Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act of 1996 made even legal immigrants who were not citizens ineligible for federal public assistance programs such as food stamps and Supplemental Social Security. As a result, applications for citizenship skyrocketed in 1997.
Dziekan counters that undocumented workers pay taxes that they never get back. For example, undocumented workers pay Social Security and Medicare taxes and will never receive the benefits because their Social Security numbers are fake.
The estimated 7,000,000 illegal migrants in the United States pay as much as $7 billion into the Social Security system each year and $1.5 billion in Medicare, according to an April 5, 2005 New York Times article. Illegal immigration is the “fastest way to shore up the long-term finances of Social Security,” said Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, co-director of immigration studies at New York University in the article.

How cheap is cheap labor?
Contrary to the perception that Mexicans work for wages that Americans wouldn’t consider, many migrants here actually earn quite a good hourly wage at least on the farms, from $7.50 to $20 an hour plus free housing and electricity during the picking season, said Julius Kolarik, who hires the same migrant families year after year.
“In some years, if you take the husband and wife’s earnings together, they can do very good,” he said.
Some farmers use only migrants, tolerating the language barrier, while others like Jeff Send employ mostly local people, including teens, retirees and teachers.
Do migrants take jobs away from Americans?
Kolarik said, yes, they probably do when jobs are scarce, but most adults with families won’t work for just one month here and then wait a few weeks with no work until the next crop comes in. Nor would they tolerate the unpredictable wages you get with the weather or moving around the country with the crops. Teens will work in the summer, but then they have to go back to college and the farmer is left empty handed, he said.
Nita Send doesn’t think migrants are siphoning jobs. She said she usually can’t find enough teens to work, except for this year when they had more calls for jobs than they could fill.
“Young people are not eager for physical labor. Most young people do not want these jobs,” she said.
Nevertheless, Jeff Send makes a point of hiring local teens as a way of making a difference. Of giving them a work ethic.
“If I can give them a piece of it they can grab it and take it for life. I can teach them something their parents can’t. Work ethic. And I’m trying to teach them common sense. I know that’s not taught in school.
“Most Americans are lazy. Period. That’s why I hope to make a difference. The older ones are harder to turn. A couple of kids live with me, and they’re serious. They’ve had some rough times at home, but they want to work. They’ll turn out fine.

Mexicans earn a good wage, in part, because they are hard workers and their skills are far superior to the locals when it comes to hand-picking crops, but many have a tougher time working with machinery, Send said.
“They can make a lot in a month and take it down south and live on it. Quite honestly, I have no problem with that,” he said.
The sheer numbers of foreign born workers nationwide is staggering.
Here’s a statistic from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in December 2003:
“The pace of recent U.S. economic growth would have been impossible without immigration... In the 1990s, the labor force grew by 16.7 million workers, 6.4 million -- or 38 percent of them -- foreign-born. The majority of foreign-born workers (4.2 million) came during the boom of 1996-2000 when their share of job growth shot up 44 percent. In essence, immigrants filled four of every 10 job openings at a time when the unemployment rate hit record lows.”
Yet they’re certainly not getting rich. The migrants live simply. Some camps are very basic, where they have to carry water and squeeze several families into a one-bedroom apartment. Others, like Maria’s apartment, are basic but comfortable and clean.
“I think they’re necessary here,” said Nita Send. “Somebody like Gary Bardenhagen’s strawberry farm couldn’t operate without them. They’d be done. Even picking. I love to go and pick a couple of lugs. But to do it everyday, all day. That’s hard.”

Part II: Next week in Northern Express: A 16-year-old migrant copes with living in two worlds.

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