- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Wages and immigration

There is no disputing that our nation’s immigration system is in serious need of repair. However, in his Monday Commentary column, “Immigrants and wages,” Alan Tonelson would have us believe that waiving a magic wand and raising minimum wage rates would fix the broken immigration system. Wrong. What we really must focus on is the fundamental problem at hand, which is only going to grow in the years to come: a shortage of workers.

Mr. Tonelson uses numbers convenient to his case to suggest that immigration has caused wage stagnation in certain industries. I say “convenient” because he offers the five-year time frame from 2000 to 2005. It should not be surprising that wages took a hit from the boom year of 2000 through the recession and the post-September 11 shock — particularly to the travel and tourism sector, to the recovery we are enjoying today. Add to that the annual increases in health insurance costs that have pushed health-care reform to the top of thebusinesslegislative agenda, and you get a fairer picture of labor costs. National Restaurant Association research has shown that restaurant operators have faced double-digit annual increases in health insurance costs during the past five years.

The fact is, we are facing a tight labor market — today’s 4.7 percent unemployment rate is under the 5.0 percent rate traditionally considered to be the mark of a full-employment economy — and the future labor supply will only get tighter. The National Restaurant Association, the nation’s largest private-sector employer, with 12.5 million employees, projects that the number of jobs in the industry will grow 15 percent by the year 2016. The Department of Labor projects that within that time frame, the overall labor force will grow just 10 percent. The 16-to 24-year-old age group, which makes up 50 percent of our industry’s work force, is not expected to increase.

The restaurant industry is outperforming the overall economy in terms of wage growth, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the 12 months ending March 2006, real wages at food services and drinking-place establishments increased at a 1.8 percent rate, while private-sector establishment rates remained flat.

Mr. Tonelson’s employer, the U.S. Business and Industry Council (USBIC), is a collection of U.S. manufacturing companies that usually focuses on keeping products from abroad out of the United States. It appears that now it wishes to keep people from abroad out of the United States.

Mr. Tonelson’s advice to the labor-intensive service sector to “invest in developing new labor-saving technologies” is not surprising, but perhaps it should be redirected to manufacturers. Will developing machines really decrease the amount of labor needed to bus tables and clean hotel rooms, let alone care for our children and the elderly?

Immigration reform has no simple solution. We must focus on fixing the problem through common-sense, comprehensive reform instead of quick fixes that could compromise both our nation’s security and economy.

STEVEN ANDERSON

President and CEO

National Restaurant Association

Washington

No excuses for cockfighting

The Washington Times reported on the persistence of cockfighting in an area of Texas near the border with Mexico (“Putting up a fight,” Culture, et cetera, Tuesday). There is no doubt that some people defend cockfighting as a cultural tradition, but that’s a flimsy excuse, and there’s no legitimate defense for the practice of instigating deadly fights between animals in order to get a thrill from the bloodletting and to engage in illegal wagering.

The practice is banned in 48 states. In the two states where it is legal — Louisiana and New Mexico — polling reveals that more than 80 percent of voters want the practice outlawed. Every demographic group strongly opposes cockfighting.

Cockfighting is not just inhumane. It spawns other forms of criminal activity, such as narcotics traffic, illegal gambling and violence toward other people. It is also identified as a major potential pathway for the spread of bird flu.

The Humane Society of the United States and agricultural and law enforcement groups are backing federal legislation, introduced by Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, and Rep. Mark Green, Wisconsin Republican, to make it a felony to transport animals for fighting purposes in interstate or foreign commerce.

That legislation passed the Senate unanimously and is awaiting action in the House. The House should pass it before the year ends to prevent cruelty, other criminal activity and the spread of bird flu.

WAYNE PACELLE

President and CEO

Humane Society

of the United States

Washington

Culture is no excuse for cruelty to animals, and caring people from all walks of life are opposed to cockfighting because it is so bloody and barbaric.

Roosters raised for fighting usually are tethered to overturned plastic barrels or small wire mesh cages and pumped full of stimulants. The birds often have their feathers plucked and their waddles and/or combs hacked off so other roosters can’t do it in the ring. Because roosters do not have sweat glands, the loss of these body parts deprives them of the ability to cool themselves. Many cockfighters slice off the birds’ natural spurs so that more deadly weapons can be strapped to their legs. The birds must duel to the death, and if the fight wanes, handlers often will pick up the birds and torment them to reignite the fighting frenzy. The surviving birds suffer broken wings and legs, punctured lungs, severed spinal cords, and/or gouged-out eyes.

People also have been injured or killed during disputes at cockfights. Law-enforcementofficialshavedocumented a connection between cockfighting and the distribution of illegal drugs. The National Chicken Council also has spoken out against cockfighting, saying it causes a “continuing hazard for the dissemination of animal diseases.”

Cockfighting belongs buried in the past — like slavery, segregation, child labor and other shameful practices of yesteryear. In today’s world, when there are so many ways to entertain ourselves, there is no excuse for such abuse.

HEATHER MOORE

Senior writer

People for the Ethical

Treatment of Animals

Norfolk

Stopping the invasion

The story “Anti-sanctuary law sets off consular tiff” (Nation, Sunday) is yet another emotional appeal by Mexican Consul General Juan Marcos Gutierrez to justify criminal behavior. He fails to understand that immigration is not about emotions, but about honoring the rule of law. Mr. Gutierrez should be condemned for violating the code of conduct that prohibits foreign consuls and consulates from meddling in the affairs of the host country.

It is irresponsible for local governments to designate their cities as “sanctuary” cities for illegal aliens, which merely reinforces the widespread flouting of U.S. immigration law. By signing the anti-sanctuary bill, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, will significantly decrease the number of illegal aliens entering his state. Many states are faced with mass hospital closings and overwhelmed school systems because they are unable to handle the burden of illegal aliens invading their state. Applause to Mr. Owens and Colorado for taking the correct first step in eliminating the illegal invasion of their state.

BOB ALLAN

Rochester Hills, Mich.

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