Saving our bucks on other backs |

Saving our bucks on other backs

Back in my other life I worked as a carpenter helping to build ultra-expensive spec homes in El Dorado County and on the vast subdivisions that have made Sacramento and western Placer County about as attractive ” and smoggy ” as Riverside County, where I also worked for a plumbing contractor.

On those sprawling tract home jobs ” in both Northern and Southern California ” it wasn’t unusual to be hammering away and all of sudden have a bunch of guys ” guys from Latin America, I assume ” haulin’ butt over the stucco wall dividing one tract from the next.

That exodus meant only one thing: Immigration and Naturalization Service officers had just rolled up on the job site.

I guess it could have also meant that those guys fleeing the INS were not in the country legally, were working cheaper than a legal citizen, and therefore had taken good paying jobs from U.S. citizens.

In fact, I’d say that’s exactly what happened and, although I haven’t worked in the industry in a while, it’s probably still happening given all the recent arm flapping regarding “immigration” over our southern border.

And as worked up as that scenario may get some folks out there, ponder the following. The guy who hired “those illegals” to help build the homes that have fueled California’s economy for the past 10 years, I’d be willing to bet, is probably a “legal citizen” trying to keep a few ” or more than a few ” bucks in his pocket.

And who is hiring the guys who gather at the train depot every morning in Truckee? Well, a recent UCLA study found that nationwide, the No. 1 employers of day laborers are homeowners.

Yep, you and me. Trying to save a buck and our backs.

Forty-nine percent of day labor employers are homeowners, according to 2,660 laborers interviewed for the study. Contractors were second, at 43 percent. The study also found that three quarters of day laborers were illegal immigrants and most were from Latin America.

Granted, illegal immigration strains our public health and education systems. But so has the influx of “legal” Southeast Asian, Eastern European and other groups of newcomers trying to get a toehold in this country over the last 30 years.

If it were as simple as building a wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, or arresting and deporting those who are here illegally, then it’s just as simple to crack down on the people and businesses who are hiring them.

Would any of those scenarios solve the problem? I doubt it.

Jamie Bate is the editor of the Sierra Sun. Reach him at

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