A Georgia Republican on Friday applauded the assistance Mexico has provided the United States in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but rejected an offer by Mexican President Vicente Fox that Mexican nationals be allowed to participate in the rebuilding of the area.
“Rebuilding our Gulf Coast with labor from Mexico would divert a large part of the estimated $200 billion cost to rebuild — paid for by American taxpayers — out of our economy and into ‘foreign remittances,’ the monies sent back to Mexico from the U.S. by illegal immigrants,” Rep. Charlie Norwood said.
“While we appreciate the disaster aid assistance Mexico is providing by sending a military convoy across our southern border, we cannot afford to pay them back with the jobs of our hurricane victims,” Mr. Norwood said.
His comments were in response to remarks last week by Mr. Fox, who said the reconstruction of the hurricane-damaged regions of New Orleans and Mississippi was going to require a lot of labor, “and if there is anything Mexicans are good at, it is construction.”
Mr. Norwood said at least half a million Americans from the affected areas have permanently lost their jobs, suggesting that it “makes perfect sense” that as many of them ought to be employed as possible in the rebuilding efforts — “for their personal good and the good of the country.”
Earlier this month, President Bush approved a temporary waiver of Davis-Bacon labor rules for the reconstruction of New Orleans and the Gulf states, to allow many of those persons affected by the hurricane to participate in federally funded reconstruction projects as general labor helpers.
“We need to follow that up with providing whatever vocational training is necessary to allow displaced workers to gain the skills necessary to fully participate in those reconstruction efforts,” Mr. Norwood said.
He said the “foreign remittances” Mexican construction laborers would be expected to send back to their home country would be significant, noting that current remittance totals from Mexicans now working in the United States “have now surpassed oil revenues as the number one source of income for Mexico — drawn directly out of our economy.”
Immigration analysts have said Mexican nationals in the United States — both legally and illegally — send home about $11 billion a year.
“We should not allow our national tragedy to become Mexico’s gain. The time for talk is over. The time for pleas for the administration to simply enforce the law is over,” Mr. Norwood said. “Hardship has a way of bringing families together.
“If there is anything positive that can come from such an incomprehensible disaster as Hurricane Katrina, it could likely be in forcing us to come back together to help defend each other, instead of letting potential taxpayer-funded jobs for storm victims to be looted by illegal immigrant labor cheered on by Mexican President Vicente Fox.”