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Stamford lawyer, Norwalk leaders: No need for local undocumented immigrants to panic

Attorney Philip Berns offers advice for undocumented immigrants Feb. 27 at the South Norwalk Community Center.
Attorney Philip Berns offers advice for undocumented immigrants Feb. 27 at the South Norwalk Community Center.

NORWALK, Conn. — There are things that undocumented immigrants should be doing, that they haven’t been doing, actions “that will help them if there are favorable laws in the future and things that might help them if they are ever put into deportation proceedings,” Attorney Philip Berns said.

That includes “the importance of knowing their 4th and 5th amendment rights and how to defend themselves if they are being approached by immigration officers, Berns said, in explaining what he said to a crowd of people attending a recent forum on immigration rights at the South Norwalk Community Center.

Immigrants come here because, “We have the pull because we have the strong economy and we have jobs that need to be filled but we are also complicit in creating the push and the conditions back in their home country that make them not have opportunities,” said Berns, a Stamford attorney, in an interview with NancyOnNorwalk after the meeting.  “I am not saying we created all of it but we assisted in part of those conditions.”

Berns spoke fluent Spanish on Feb. 27 to a full house in the community center, although he is not Hispanic.

“I have always had a social justice streak,” explained Berns, explaining that his mother was an immigrant who spoke French. “People treated her like she was a moron. She was very intelligent and spoke better English than a lot of Americans… I grew up seeing what being an immigrant is like.”

He joined the Peace Corps and went to South America, he said, adding, “I speak Haitian Creole better than I speak Spanish.”

The majority of the standing room only crowd at the center weren’t necessarily undocumented immigrants, he said.

“I have heard from people that a lot of undocumented immigrants are extremely fearful to go to public meetings so it might be very well that a lot of people were documented or even citizens, going there to get the information and share with friends, undocumented immigrants, etc.”

Every hand went up when he asked how many people present knew undocumented immigrants who are extremely fearful now, he said.

People are panicking with Donald Trump as president, Berns said; while normally 40 percent of his practice deals with immigration issues, now, “80 percent of my time is fielding immigration questions,” in a “very limited immigration practice,” doing, work permits green cards, citizenship, and immigrating people to reunite them with family here, he said.

“I don’t do deportations and I don’t do business immigration,” he said.

His clients are here, working hard and paying taxes, with probably a third to half  of them paid in cash, he said.

“My clients who are getting paid cash would be more than happy to trade 10, 15, 20 percent of their income, which is what their tax rate probably would be given their income levels, to be able to legalize their situation here,” Berns said.

Immigrants who came here before 1994 could get Social Security numbers, but now, some immigrants pay into the Social Security system with no hope of getting benefits because their illegal employers use Tax Identification numbers to make the payments, he said.

“Even the ones who are paying cash are paying property taxes directly or indirectly,” Berns said. “If they have a car, they are paying property taxes on that. If they are renting someplace, that landlord would have no money to pay property taxes if he didn’t have these tenants. They are paying sales taxes, obviously, and a higher percentage of their income goes to sales taxes than most people because their income is going to be a little bit lower because they can’t get the higher paying jobs because they are not legal.”

“A lot of these myths are just completely wrong. I think a lot of people are getting news from sources that have an agenda rather than seeking balance and presenting verifiable facts, or facts that come from studies rather than opinion,” Berns said.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) caused more undocumented immigration because Mexicans with profitable little farms were put out of business by a flood of cheap subsidized American corn, he said. They loved their country, didn’t want to be rich and they didn’t want to come here because they knew life could be tough, but sought help from relatives here because they didn’t have a choice, he said.

Decades of American foreign policy determining who would have power in many countries, such as the 1954 CIA-sponsored coup Guatemala, which prevented land reform, has “perpetrated a lot of what happens in Central America, where the rich are even richer, in comparison, relatively, than here, and poor even poorer than here, although we are getting there,” Berns said.

Undocumented immigrants are not criminals, he said.

“It is not a crime to be here without permission, it’s a civil violation of the law,” Berns said. “A lot of people don’t distinguish between the two. It is not a crime to work here without permission.  It’s a civil violation.  It is not a crime to get a tax identification number and pay taxes with a tax ID. Of course, they are not eligible to get Social Security cards and Social Security numbers. It is a crime to cross the border; it’s one of the lowest level misdemeanors that is under federal law. It’s probably the federal equivalent of breach of peace, under state law.”

Some of the people who are “ridiculously” screaming about undocumented immigrants being criminals are probably guilty of getting drunk while in college and behaving badly in public, he said.

But, “Trump is doing a lot of screaming and yelling about what he is doing but in fact he has only deported like 700 or 800 people and Obama was deporting more than 1,000 people a day six or seven years ago,” Berns said. “Immigrants, as a result of Trump’s shouting and screaming, are scared to death when really as of now there is no reason for them to be scared to death.”

Mayor Harry Rilling and Norwalk Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik sought, at the Feb. 27 forum, to lessen the fear here.

“You are welcome here in Norwalk. Norwalk has great diversity and lots of times you may hear things, that people are coming after you. That is not going to happen here in Norwalk,” Rilling said.

“Here in Norwalk, the police department does not, does not, enforce immigration laws,” Kulhawik said.

Norwalk Police would assist the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with a criminal investigation but not immigration enforcement, and the operations are completely separate, Kulhawik said, explaining that ICE cannot use Norwalk’s jail.

Kulhawik said he couldn’t imagine ICE coming to Norwalk to pick up immigrants.

Connecticut has strict rules in governing the kind of activities that you might hear about elsewhere, Rilling said, explaining that the Trump Administrations’ talk of cracking down on sanctuary cities is a threat that may hit roadblocks.

“We are not sure that the city or the state is going to be losing any funds right now,” Rilling said. “… A lot of people are going to challenge that, that it’s unconstitutional for them to do that. So, I am not worried about that right now, I am more worried about making sure that people in this room know that they are safe here in Norwalk and we welcome you here.”

On Sunday, Rilling said in an email, “Certain information released by Federal Authorities has generated concerns and must be vetted, including the potential loss of federal funds. We need to proceed in a manner that protects our entire community. Until a final decision is agreed upon, we will continue to operate under current state statute.”

Cracking down on immigration isn’t new, Berns said to NoN, explaining that he can’t help nine of 10 people, because, “The laws have been terribly stacked against immigrants since the 1996 reforms. At that time, Congress just took a boxful of wrenches and threw it into the machinery. A whole lot of things became impossible.”

“Trump is casting a light on all these immigrants as criminals and rapists and all the rest of it has really brought out the worst in a certain percentage of the American population who feel much more free in expressing their racist attitudes to immigrants,” Berns said. “Immigrants are finding they are being treated badly by many more people in the community… It’s pretty sad that the country is going backward on things we have made progress on.”

A forum on immigration draws a crowd on Feb. 27 at the South Norwalk Community Center.
A forum on immigration draws a crowd on Feb. 27 at the South Norwalk Community Center.

Comments

35 responses to “Stamford lawyer, Norwalk leaders: No need for local undocumented immigrants to panic”

  1. Tony P

    Interesting – how about Atty. Berns offer a workshop on how to immigrate to this country legally – and then offer his legal services for free in order to help all those folks who were at this session.

  2. Donna

    SO relieved that people living and working here illegallly, whose kids attend public schools at taxpayer expense, don’t have to panic. We need a legal path to citizenship. People wouldn’t be panicking if they’d followed the allowable procedures from the start. I’m the child of immigrants who came here legally. Their first priority was to learn English, find jobs, pay taxes and otherwise assimilate. I don’t know why the importance of learning English and assimilation aren’t given their due . It’s become politically incorrect to suggest that these small measures are helpful. Also, to the extent that many undocumented residents work for cash and send most of their money back home, I’m not sure how they are benefitting the local or national economy aside from providing a valuable skilled labor resource. And I do value that resource. But let’s not kid ourselves about the degree to which workers who are here without their families and living on a shoestring budget are contributing to the regional tax base. They’re living within a cash economy that never sees sunlight. A legal path to full citizenship would help. But I’m not seeing what Mr. Berns sees regarding a uniform desire to surrender 20% of income for citizenship. I’m seeing laborers who come for 10 months and live like kings the other two back home, and who never really learn the language. Perhaps a guest worker visa could help with this, but I’m not sure how the IRS can get its share when there is so much cash changing hands.

    By the way, the legal immigrants who worked on my renovation project were Trump supporters. I am not. But I understand their POV. If the Democratic Party, of which I am a member, feels secure about how this group votes, they’d better think again.

    Agree that Trump’s candidacy has emboldened vocal expressions of bias, and that is a shameful problem. There are ways to reject bias and still seek legal paths to citizenship.

  3. Fred

    WTF????? “CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS” To ILLEGAL ALIENS?????? What law school did this socialist moron “attend”…or maybe he learned this in the “peace corps”…….. Connecticut has completely collapsed into the abyss. When the total economic demise occurs, and Yes it’s coming soon, all these ILLEGAL invaders will just start Taking instead of waiting for the handouts of the Liberal Socialists. We have already seen a huge number of life long residents flee this state WITH all their EARNED $$$ to more Conservative states. Myself and many others I know are already finalizing our plans for our departure.

    1. I should have put a link in the story about the fourth and fifth amendments.

      Fourth concerns unreasonable searches:

      “The Fourth Amendment originally enforced the notion that ‘each man’s home is his castle’, secure from unreasonable searches and seizures of property by the government. It protects against arbitrary arrests, and is the basis of the law regarding search warrants, stop-and-frisk, safety inspections, wiretaps, and other forms of surveillance, as well as being central to many other criminal law topics and to privacy law.”

      https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/fourth_amendment

      The Fifth Amendment concerns due process and states that you cannot be required to incriminate yourself.

      “The Fifth Amendment creates a number of rights relevant to both criminal and civil legal proceedings. In criminal cases, the Fifth Amendment guarantees the right to a grand jury, forbids ‘double jeopardy,’ and protects against self-incrimination. It also requires that ‘due process of law’ be part of any proceeding that denies a citizen ‘life, liberty or property’ and requires the government to compensate citizens when it takes private property for public use.”

      https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/fifth_amendment

      Those definitions are from Cornell University Law School.

  4. Paul Cantor

    With respect to the impact of undocumented workers on the economy this from Alan Greenspan:

    Alan Greenspan, PhD, former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, stated in his Apr. 30, 2009 testimony before the US Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security:

    “[T]here is little doubt that unauthorized, that is, illegal, immigration has made a significant contribution to the growth of our economy. Between 2000 and 2007, for example, it accounted for more than a sixth of the increase in our total civilian labor force. The illegal part of the civilian labor force diminished last year as the economy slowed, though illegals still comprised an estimated 5% of our total civilian labor force. Unauthorized immigrants serve as a flexible component of our workforce, often a safety valve when demand is pressing and among the first to be discharged when the economy falters.

    Some evidence suggests that unskilled illegal immigrants (almost all from Latin America) marginally suppress wage levels of native-born Americans without a high school diploma, and impose significant costs on some state and local governments.

    However the estimated wage suppression and fiscal costs are relatively small, and economists generally view the overall economic benefits of this workforce as significantly outweighing the costs.”

    Apr. 30, 2009 – Alan Greenspan, PhD http://immigration.procon.org/view.answers

    And this from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine:

    When measured over a period of 10 years or more, the impact of immigration on the wages of native-born workers overall is very small. To the extent that negative impacts occur, they are most likely to be found for prior immigrants or native-born workers who have not completed high school—who are often the closest substitutes for immigrant workers with low skills.

    There is little evidence that immigration significantly affects the overall employment levels of native-born workers.

    And this from a reent National Bureau of Economic Research working paper by Ryan Edwards and Francesc Ortega

    Our results show that the economic contribution of unauthorized workers to the U.S. economy is substantial, at approximately 3% of private-sector GDP annually, which amounts to close to $5 trillion over a 10-year period.

  5. Norwalk parent

    Round them up and send them home

  6. Paul Cantor

    https://www.cato.org/research/immigration

    The overriding impact of immigrants is to strengthen and enrich American culture, increase the total output of the economy, and raise the standard of living of American citizens. Immigrants are advantageous to the United States for several reasons:

    (1) Since they are willing to take a chance in a new land, they are self-selected on the basis on motivation, risk taking, work ethic, and other attributes beneficial to a nation.

    (2) They tend to come to the United States during their prime working years (the average age is 28), and they contribute to the workforce and make huge net contributions to old-age entitlement programs, primarily Social Security.

    (3) Immigrants tend to fill niches in the labor market where demand is highest relative to supply, complementing rather than directly competing with American workers.

    (4) Many immigrants arrive with extremely high skill levels, and virtually all, regardless of skill level, bring a strong desire to work.

    (5) Their children tend to reach high levels of achievement in American schools and in society at large.

    Cato Experts

  7. Bob Welsh

    Donna – With respect to immigrants wanting to learn English, I understand you may have observed what you perceive as unwillingness to learn in a few cases. It’s also true that Nancy previously reported that the Norwalk Library’s English classes have a huge waiting list and a desperate need for more volunteers to teach. If you have interest in a volunteer opportunity that involves helping people who are striving to learn English, you could contact the Library.

  8. Donna

    @Paul Cantor, I don’t think anyone is anti-immigrant. But many feel that those who walk in illegally should have to comply with the same restrictions imposed on those who enter legally from across the ocean. For African, Asian and European immigrants, the path to legal status is fraught with difficulty. For those entering through our southern border, the path is a bit easier. In fact, some of the biggest obstacles for Guatemalan immigrants are encountered in Mexico. ‘

    You cite abundant research, but nothing about creating a viable legal path to citizenship that treats people from all countries equally. The current “policy” unfairly favors immigrants who don’t require ports of entry like airports and boat terminals.

  9. Donna

    Bob, I have known many immigrants, including those from my parents’ homeland, who simply have no interest in learning English, waiting lists notwithstanding. And my interest in immigrants learning English is anchored in a belief that the lack of language skills holds many immmigrants back from higher paying jobs and makes them beholden to intermediaries. They are in a disadvantaged position without language skills.

  10. Paul Cantor

    Donna,

    Of course we should provide a viable path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants from whatever country they come from.

    Norwalk Parent

    I would characterize it as shameful when rather than deal in a rational thoughtful manner with the problems we face we resort to scapegoating vulnerable minorities. That is what is going on today. So we have Make America White Again flyers distributed in Norwalk, a ban on Muslims traveling to our country, and a executive order to deport undocumented immigrants no matter how long they have lived and worked here and contributed to all of our welfare, and comments such as your “Round them up and send them home.”

  11. anna russo

    if you can’t comply, then say goodbye

  12. Claire Schoen

    I have a hard time understanding the nastiness that underlies so many attitudes towards immigrants – especially from some who are first generation or immigrants themselves. As proven over and over, immigrants are generally NOT criminals, but hard-working people who came here for a better life – often at great risk or hardship. Norwalk is a much richer community because we are so diverse. If we do ’round them up and send them home’ (in some cases to great danger) what does that say about us?

  13. Bob Welsh

    Donna, thank you for sharing your experience. I am the son of an immigrant too, and all the immigrants I know either speak passable English or are keen to learn.

    I am not in agreement with the new administration’s plan to track crime by people here illegally. The plan fans the flames of division and bigotry by categorizing immigrants as a dangerous group, an idea that has been wholly discredited by data showing that immigrants are less likely than natives to commit crimes.

    I attended the SoNoCC meeting and was moved by the thought that a significant portion of the 200-plus adults in attendance work at the most difficult, lowest paid jobs. On top of that, immigrant parents must now consider ways to ensure that, if they are deported, their native-born U.S. citizen children will wind up with a friend or relative rather than in the foster care system. I do not believe it reflects well on our country to speak of these immigrants in the way that some do.

  14. Donna

    All newcomers go through hazing. Every group that has immigrated to the US has gone through it. So while I’m fully supportive of a sensible approach to reform, it’s misguided on the part of more progressive minded individuals to dismiss those who oppose burgeoning immigrant population as ignorant bigots.

    Look at this this way. If you let your registration lapse on your car, you might be a little wary of the cops pulling you over, being fined, having your car impounded. But it’s not okay for people who are here without appropriate documentation to suffer the least anxiety.

    Absorbing immigrants, whether they walk across the border in search of employment and economic opportunity, or whether they are refugees seeking asylum, is a problem that is often foisted upon depressed communities to deal with. You can see this pattern repeating itself all over the country. Progressives love to champion immigrant populations almost without reservations. And those who oppose these people are most often the ones feeling the frustration of living in a neighborhood that has experience rapid cultural and socio-economic change. I hear a lot of progressives talk about easing the fears undocumented residents live with. But very few of these people are actually willing to take people into their own homes, let alone invite them en masse into their own neighborhoods and schools. It is this kind of hypocrisy that drove so many away from the Democratic Party last fall. And while I stayed the course, I’ve spent the past few months trying to understand what went wrong. If you dismiss people who do not support huge waves of immigration by calling them names (racists, bigots, haters,etc) and don’t take a minute to listen to their concerns, you will get nowhere.

    Whether we are listening to the concerns of undocumented workers or those who oppose them, it is important that we listen with compassion and a willingness to understand the problem from every angle.

  15. Dawn

    Why does Connecticut consistently vote Dem. seems to me we have some Repubs here.

  16. Michael McGuire

    As with any good debate there are pros and cons on both sides.

    Consider that the true “American Spirit” is never better reflected than the recent immigrant standing in the day laborer pool waiting to be selected and then showing that he can do a great job in hopes of getting hired tomorrow. Here is a guy willing to leave everything he knows behind, travels to a new land, and hopes of making a living to provide for his family. Does that sound familiar? That takes real balls and I admire that tenacity.

    However, clearly and undisputedly there is a real cost to the US Taxpayer to have them here which far surpasses what it used to cost the US Taxpayer to have them here. The balance is tipping.

    On the one hand they do burden our education and medical systems. But on the other hand they create a low cost labor pool that benefits most Americans in some shape or form. Which is better, the burden or the blessing? I don’t know, but I would venture to guess based on my background that the burden is more costly to US citizens than is the blessing.

    I base this on the type of work I do – commercial real estate valuation. Part of our work takes us into the valuation of low income housing in all its various forms so I see firsthand what it costs the US taxpayer – a lot. To value these properties correctly we have to understand the subsidies that go into them, the support structures needed to sustain them, and the long term impact on the neighborhoods were they are located. The costs are staggering. Looking back at LBJ’s “war on poverty” you would have to say “poverty” (as manifest in all its various forms of subsidies) is winning.

    At $20 trillion in federal debt and a State that is all but bankrupt it might be time to consider taking care of our own house so that we can better care for people later. And please don’t blame the immigrant, they are only taking advantage of what we, the US Taxpayer, make available.

  17. Tom

    Any illegal immigrant who snuck across federal borders or overstayed a visa is a criminals. They have violated federal law.

    Call them “undocumented” and any other cute name, they are criminals. Period.

  18. cc-rider

    The govt is broke and can not afford anything because it has to pay for continuous wars around the world and absurd amount of military/defense spending every year.

  19. Non partisan

    @ Paul cantor, and @ Clair shoen.

    I’d like to explain the anti illegal immigrant stance so many people have ( but only a few are willing to voice)

    When my grandparents came from Eastern Europe there were quotas and rules. The rules were pretty simple- you had to have a job waiting for you. You had to have a sponsor. There was no social safety net so you came here knowing that if you didn’t support yourself, or family did not take care of you – you went hungry. You learned English or did get your next job or move up the ladder. Back in the day it was easy to control- you came in by boat- and went to Ellis island. Let’s also not forget the anti-sedition laws of the early 20th century.

    Today we have a very different situation. We have many who immigrate here legally- and I agree with Paul these are awesome people with great drive and stamina.

    There is also a percentage that come in from Europe as young adults via multinational companies who will work for much less than our children. They are here only because the multi national companies can get away with hiring cheaper foreign labor and screwing over our children. Its a fact. I know dozens of companies that do this and scores of associates from around the world living in NYC on buisiness visas.

    Over the years our social safety net encompasses more and more of the population. There are also more than a few who come here and take advantage of the progressive right’s largess. They have anchor babies so they can have food stamps, not be worried about deportation ( until now) and collect Varios social and medical services for their children.

    There are those that come here, live in substandard housing to send as much money as they can home- so they can retire back in their home country and live the good life.

    There are those that come illegally as children- they are a strain on our education system for ESL, and special ed. Get the real numbers from the BOE on total costs to educate the illegal immigrant population- they won’t give it to you because the number is that large.

    Yes Paul- I do believe your quotes from Alan Greenspan are correct- 8 Years ago- and in a very Macro level and over a very long period of time. Greenspan was also coy and lumped illegal immigrant in with keagal- so this skews the numbers. But This also requires an investment. An investment of millions of dollars every year paid for by the taxpayers of progressive cities like Norwalk- that I will never live to see the fruits.

    Sales tax revenues don’t pay for education. Social security taxes paid againstTIN don’t pay for education.

    Drive around Norwalk- the number of illegal apartments house a large portion of the immigrant population- and guess what- since the apartment is illegal- it’s not paying the real estate taxes as being a multi family home. So they are not paying real estate taxes either.

    I have an acquaintance who bought a buisiness in Norwalk – and he confided in me that his new employees told him they can’t work more than 30 hours or they will loose their benefits. To put icing on the cake- they told him that the prior owner would buy their food stamps from them for 50 cents on the dollar- yes that’s what we have become.

    So how are these bill getting paid? They are getting paid by people who follow the rules, are here leagally, get paid
    thru a payroll, pay taxes, and live in legal residences.

    lets not even mention the recent Brien McMahon valedictorian that received a full Ivy League scholarship and then had the chutzpah to blast white priveledge. How dare she. That’s a scholarship that should have gone to someone who’s family already paid their dues.

    So- if you want to know why there is animosity…….I pay my way. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve paid my taxes. I paid for my children’s college education. And- like a great many of my friends, I have also come to realize that the local tax system of taking from those with expensive home to educate illegal immigrants is not sustainable- I’m taxed to much- and I’ll have to move when I retire. If I wasn’t paying for the magnanimous nature of the progressive left I could stay and enjoy the home I worked so hard -all my life to obtain.

  20. anna russo

    @ Non Partisan —
    Here! Here!!

    Spot on

  21. Claire Schoen

    @Non-Partisan – I understand your frustration and don’t know what the answer is — I’m just really tired of all the finger pointing and nastiness (not just on this topic, but overall.) And I still believe that in general, those who have the strength to pick themselves up and try for a better life in a new land are generally hard-working and innovative.

  22. Donna

    Darien , New Canaan and Westport, where Mr. Bern lives I believe, are not absorbing this population. And they can better afford to do so than Norwalk. This is where the animosity comes from. Nine times out of ten, those who call for unfiltered tolerance and who decry bigotry are not living with the economic consequences of educating the children’s and providing social services for the families.

  23. Non partisan

    @claire
    Thank you, and I do agree with you in sentiment. I am just tired of being taken advantage of by the few who ruin it for the many hardworking who come here legally, and are not looking for my direct or indirect financial support for them to achieve their dreams.

  24. Paul Cantor

    Dear Non Partisan and Anna Russo:

    Perhaps this article will help you both understand that undocumented workers are not responsible for the fact that Non Partisan may have to move when she retires or any other problems you may have.

    https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2017/01/donald-trump-and-the-monty-hall-problem/

    Also to add to the quotes above (one of which is from the Cato Institute, a think tank funded by the Koch brothers– not exactly your raving radicals) this from the WSJ (not exactly an organ of the progressive left):

    “President Trump campaigned on enforcing immigration law, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly plans to deliver. On Tuesday Mr. Kelly ordered a deportation surge that will cost billions of dollars and expand the size and intrusiveness of government in ways that should make conservatives wince. In a pair of memos the Secretary fleshes out the Administration’s immigration priorities to protect public safety. By all means deport gangbangers and miscreants. But Mr. Kelly’s order is so sweeping that it could capture law-abiding immigrants whose only crime is using false documents to work. This policy may respond to the politics of the moment, but chasing down maids and meatpackers will not go down as America’s finest hour.” Wall Street Journal, February 23, 2017

    And this quote from Ronald Reagan, also not exactly a raving radical of the left:

    “I, in my own mind, have always thought of America as a place in the divine scheme of things that was set aside as a promised land. It was set here and the price of admission was very simple: the means of selection was very simple as to how this land should be populated. Any place in the world and any person from those places; any person with the courage, with the desire to tear up their roots, to strive for freedom, to attempt and dare to live in a strange and foreign place, to travel halfway across the world was welcome here.” Ronald Reagan

    In other words, whatever difficulties either of you may be having have absolutely nothing to do with undocumented immigrants or Muslims in this country. So you need to ask yourself why you think you will be better off if all undocumented immigrants are deported. Is it because they all are drug dealers and rapists?

    And just think about how lucky we are to have someone as gifted as Laura Veira-Ramirez in our country. She is an inspiration. Do you think you or we would be better off if she were deported?

  25. Non partisan

    @ Paul

    My problem is not with the undocumented immigrants. I look up to them with a certain amount of admiration that they have the fortitude to move thousands of miles for a better life. They are merely taking advantage of the progressive left’s largess with other people’s hard earned money. The scales have tipped- Ct is hemoraging highbearners for a reason. We are voting- with our feet.

    My problem is with the progressive left that created a surge of undocumented immigrants, then expanded the social safety net to include them as recipients of many entitlement benefits, and then is making the rest of us pay for them.

    My problem is with our city leaders who do not enforce our zoning laws and allow the proliferation of illegal apartments.

    My problem is with boarder babies- a policy that exists in only 2 countries in the entire world and costs us billions and billions.

    I can rant in this for some time.

    The important thing for you to know- is your plan to make Norwalk a Santuary City will not go unopposed.

  26. Donna

    @Paul Cantor, research on the economic impact of undocumented immigrants is inconclusive. It is not easy to put one’s finger on exact figures because many employers pay cash to this population. Continuing to cite research that supports broad claims of a general social and economic benefit misses the point. West Norwalk, for instance, is mostly single family residential homes. South Norwalk where I live has much more high density housing. Westport, where I came from, has almost zero high density housing. Why do I care about zoning? Because zoning is the easiest way for neighborhoods and towns to control the influx of undocumented families and to mitigate their impact. Many neighboring towns use zoning to keep out “unwanted” people, mostly people of color, low-income people, and undocumented immigrants. For all anyone on this thread knows, you too may live in a neighborhood where the direct impact of undocumented children in public schools is barely felt.

    In my experience with a needs-based scholarship organization in Westport, I learned that it was the middle and lower income white students, often second and third generation immigrants, who were the least likely to receive generous scholarship support from institutions of higher learning. In fact, for most of these students, elite private libraral arts colleges were completely out of reach. Their minority peers, by contrast, were receiving very generous scholarships to elite colleges.

    There will always be some who are anti-immigrant because they’re small-minded bigots. But many, many others are wary of blanket support of undocumented immigrants in particular because they feel the impact directly in their own schools and neighborhoods, AND significantly they believe (and they are correct in this belief) that the burden is shared unequally.

    With every wave of immigration there is an assimilation process, and it flows in both directions. The immigrants assimilate to American life and adopt American ideals. And Americans embrace the cultural richness that a new population brings with it. While these are mostly net positives, it is completely tone-deaf to continue to imply that people who oppose things like making Norwalk a sanctuary city are simply racists or Islamophobes. As I said in a previous post, the loudest champions of sanctuary cities are very often living in places that are outside the area of greatest absorption and therefore not living with the reality on a day to day basis. It’s easy to embrace waves of undocumented immigrants when the zoning in your own neighborhood locks them out.

  27. Michael McGuire

    The average going rate for a day labor in our area is $20 cash per hour – well above the minimum wage and tax free. I don’t think Mr. Cantor is taking into account this “grey” market and its impact on the local jobs market, our school systems, medical systems etc.

  28. Peter Franz

    There is ONLY one thing that has caused undocumented workers to come to our or any area. Jobs.

    When I see all the businesses and individuals who hire these folks go to jail, then I’ll know it’s not a racial issue.

  29. anna russo

    In my experience with a needs-based scholarship organization in Westport, I learned that it was the middle and lower income white students, often second and third generation immigrants, who were the least likely to receive generous scholarship support from institutions of higher learning. In fact, for most of these students, elite private libraral arts colleges were completely out of reach. Their minority peers, by contrast, were receiving very generous scholarships to elite colleges.

    This is absolutely the truth and the ultimate reason why living in Norwalk where I pay some of the highest taxes but yet my children don’t benefit from anything – all the offspring of those living in south norwalk (and in Bridgeport where they illegally attend our schools stealing money and resources from us) get everything. And now THEY get the most innovative and most technologically advanced schools being built in Norwalk. Yeah, go figure why my family is out of here…

  30. Bob Welsh

    Donna,

    Thank you for sharing your views on this complex subject. We are in agreement that opposition to immigration does not make someone a heartless bigot, and that compassion and a willingness to understand other points of view are important. I would add that some progressive outrage at immigration restrictions ignores the reality that throughout most of our history there have usually been restrictions of one kind or another.

    Some see immigrants as adding great value; others see them as a drain on scarce resources. May I suggest that it’s not an “either-or”, rather the question is what level of immigration is appropriate, and once that level is decided, what level of resources should we spend on enforcement?
    If there is data showing that the current level of immigration is causing economic difficulties for significant numbers of American citizens, then maybe changes are needed. We could benefit from studying the issue and developing a pragmatic policy that’s driven by data rather than by anecdotal observations or the outright falsehoods propagated by some of our so-called leaders.

  31. Non partisan

    @ bob welsh. Well said.

    I do not think anyone commenting here is anti immigration. Many are anti illegal immigration.

    With respect to costs perhaps our city leader can tell us the real numbers-
    How many undocumented unaccompanied minors are we educating?
    What is the cost of our ESL programs
    What is the total cost of the above children, including the cost for those attending special ed to the city ( net state reimbursements)
    How many us born children of resident illegal aliens are we educating.

    These are simple questions that have a specific cost. But I’m pretty confident we will never see an answer.

    Now if we had an answer we might be able to have a real conversation and honest discussion amungst all of us. Instead we have some standing on a moral soap box telling the rest of us we are ignorant bigots.

  32. Steve

    The Trump/ICE agenda is based on racial, religious and ethnic profiling. There is no place for that in Norwalk, or in the state of Connecticut that largely voted against Trump.

  33. Donna

    @Steve, the dialogue is less about profiling than it is about sharing the burden equally with our neighbors in more affluent towns. Put another way, the profiling occurs on the town level. Norwalk has more high density housing than Westport, Darien and New Canaan. So Norwalk contributes more than its affluent neighbors for the care and education of undocumented immigrants. Perhaps if the rest of Connecticut that voted against Trump did more than just protest Trump’s executive orders, the taxpayers of Norwalk would feel less burdened.

  34. anna russo

    And just think about how lucky we are to have someone as gifted as Laura Veira-Ramirez in our country. She is an inspiration. Do you think you or we would be better off if she were deported?

    I’d be more impressed if she became a LEGAL US citizen instead of stealing from our country. As for deported, probably, then maybe a LEGAL resident or 2nd 3rd or 4th etc.. generation whose parents MADE THE EFFORT to become legal got the scholarship. Lucky to have her? Nope. Sorry, she is a prime example of why illegals should not get all the perks without the effort or the patriotic duty of giving up allegiance to their born country..just like my mother and father did when they came to this country.

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