Kathleen Parker

As we've been told hundreds of times, these people do the work Americans won't do, which is both true and not true. It is true that Americans don't want to work for the low wages that illegal workers gratefully earn, but not necessarily true that no American would do those jobs under any circumstances.

Steven Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies (cis.org), says that unemployment figures tell the truer story of how native workers are being crowded out of the market by cheap labor: 11 percent of American construction workers are unemployed, as are 9 percent of workers in food processing and 11 percent in cleaning and maintenance.

"The least educated Americans are getting hurt," he says.

Standing around a Washington, D.C., Metro station the other day, I watched a Latino sweeping the tiled floor. He was one of those people you barely notice - an invisible soul, dignified, unobtrusive - but plainly attentive to his job. I don't know if he's here legally, but I do know the floor was spotless. I tried to imagine any other American doing the same job. A college student? Another minority? Is there really an involuntarily unemployed American citizen keeping warm on a street grate because this small brown man is sweeping the floor of an underground tunnel?

Before I bleed to death or start writing poetry, let me balance this romantic view of the illegal immigrant with another nugget: About 27 percent of all inmates in the federal prison system are criminal aliens, according to government figures. Then again, millions of illegals who are otherwise law-abiding people have lived here for 10-20 years, buying houses, attending parent-teacher meetings and giving birth to native-born Americans.

Although there seems no simple solution to such a complex issue, two nagging thoughts persist: (1) The right to protest was a gift from America's Founding Fathers to the nation's citizens, ergo, non-citizens should protest in their own countries; and (2) the purpose of the legislative branch of government is to pass laws that serve the best interests of the nation's citizens.

Which may mean, No se puede.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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