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Monday, January 14, 2008

Fake Outrage or Real Issue?

Porcupine enjoys reading different newspapers when he is away. Since he is currently in the middle of a white-out snowstorm in Maine, he has had ample time to read two stories in the Sunday Bangor Daily News, and to consider them in light of one another.

The first is a front page story, Section A, which is part of a series called ‘Mainers in Crisis’, sub headed "Some of these stories have not been told because the victims of $100-per-barrel oil feel to embarrassed by their circumstances to reveal them." Knowing Maine, Porcupine doesn’t have any trouble believing that assertion. The story of the McAlpine family is one of a dozen stories featured.

The Cliff Notes version of the story of Bruce McAlpine and June Days is as follows – Last fall, McAlpine’s towing business burned down, forcing him to look for temporary work since unemployment doesn’t cover the self-employed. When their son, Bryce, was born in October he spent 49 days in neonatal intensive care, eating up the family’s heating oil savings with drives from Ellsworth to Bangor; Maine has a new higher gas tax, so a car costs even more to drive than in Mass. And public transportation is non-existent. When they brought the baby home at Thanksgiving, the oil tank was empty. McAlpine couldn’t find a heating oil company which would deliver fewer than 100 gallons, so he bought fuel a few gallons at a time for a while and brought it home in a jug. They have Styrofoam panels over the windows in their trailer to conserve heat, and leave the oven open after dinner is cooked. By not paying the electric bill – which can’t be turned off until April – they got together the money for oil, all the time knowing that they have a huge debt to pay in the spring unless Bruce can find regular work.

On the front page of Section B, a Bangor man whose company had a contract to clean the floors of area Hannaford Bros. supermarkets has been charged in federal court with employing illegal aliens and harboring illegal aliens at his Fruit Street residence. The investigation of Manuel Cornejo, 29, began a year ago with the arrest of one of his former employees. Cornejo is an American citizen but lived in El Salvador before moving to the United States, according to the U.S Attorney’s Office. Eight employees, working at local supermarkets, all had false Social Security numbers, and four were living at Mr. Cornejo’s house. Hannaford Supermarkets has not been charged (something Mitt Romney, who was caught in a similar situation, can take comfort from). Interestingly, the supermarket contracted with a Danvers, MA firm, Cleaning Services Group, which had hired the Bangor firm using illegal immigrants as labor. It seems odd that this Mass. firm did not notice that Mr. Cornejo wasn’t withholding any taxes or unemployment from the wages of his workers.

So – we have a lifelong Mainer, McAlpine, desperate for work in the Bangor area, and an El Salvadoran bringing worker to Maine for the jobs 'Americans won’t do'. How moved do you think Mr. McAlpine is by arguments that illegal immigrants should have tuition tax breaks? Or that El Salvador is lacking in economic opportunity and freedom?

Like Porcupine’s friend Dan Kennedy, will Bruce McAlpine regard illegal immigration as “fake outrage over a non-issue”, as Kennedy states HERE and HERE? Or will he see it as an issue to rival the Iraq War when he chooses who to vote for for President?

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Blogger Dan Kennedy said...

PP: What evidence do you have that Bruce McAlpine ever would have applied for such a job? Are are you just supposin'?

More to the point, you mischaracterize my position, which I concede I haven't been terribly clear about. The status of illegal immigrants must be clarified. Criminals should be deported. Others should be moved toward legal status so that they are making a living wage and not taking jobs away from citizens. I'm no fan of the underground economy.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Peter Porcupine said...

DK - as I said, this was a shortened version of their story, and was only one of a dozen. Mr. McAlpine made it pretty clear that he was desperate for ANY work, and Hannaford (the Stop & Shop of Maine, just with better food) is a major employer. I think I suppose aright.

Illegal immigrants are de jure criminals; the civil vs. criminal distinction doesn't impress me. If we take that attitude, why bother trying Ken Lay?

1:13 AM  

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