As immigration issue heats up, Tahoe faces its reliance on foreign workers |

As immigration issue heats up, Tahoe faces its reliance on foreign workers

William Ferchland

On one hand, there’s a belief South Shore’s economy could collapse if illegal immigrants were banished from the area.

On the other, California itself experiences a $10 billion annual budget deficit due to costs associated with illegal immigration.

And that’s only one side of the immigration debate.

The topic of immigration continues to gather heat as politicians and others wrangle about how to solve, or at least properly address, the immigration situation.

“I think it’s (a) really, really complicated situation,” said Delicia Spees, executive director for the Family Resource Center, an organization that often assists Latinos. “I have a lot of thoughts on it but, you know … I would like to see a bill that would be just for people.”

President George Bush as well as Republican and Democratic leaders have attempted to solve the issue with various bills, amendments and ideas but have, so far, failed.

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On Thursday, Bush said he wanted to revive attempts for immigration legislation reform with increased funding for a border fence.

According to Reuters, Bush’s intent would include a temporary worker program and a plan to legalize most of the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. It also would create a new merit-based system for future immigration, Reuters stated.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the immigration bill will be re-examined on the Senate floor after an energy bill is considered.

Assemblyman Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, hopes to first decrease the ease of access between the U.S. and Mexico with a fence – saying freeway-construction firm CC Meyers could do it efficiently – and add extra patrol. Secondly, those who arrive should go through the natural process of becoming a citizen.

“I think it’s very critical everybody who comes to this country learns the essence of America,” Gaines said.

“We’re not looking to create a nation within a country,” he added.

Gaines mentioned California is losing $10 billion a year due to immigration costs.

In South Lake Tahoe, efforts are being made to assimilate immigrants with English as a Second Language classes and citizenship classes, said Arturo Rangel, who works for Lake Tahoe Community College as an outreach technician.

Rangel is against amnesty for illegal immigrants. Some hurdles should be met, he said. Most who are illegal come to the country and overextend their visit, Rangel said.

Immigrants work in the kitchens and housekeeping and maintenance – jobs that support Tahoe’s economy, Rangel said.

“I’m sure there would be Americans doing those jobs but they would not settle for (minimum wage),” Rangel said.

And once immigrants, illegal or otherwise, get a whiff of the American dream, it’s hard for them to imagine returning to their native country.

“Once they see they can provide some kind of benefit to their families insofar as being here, they’re not going back to their countries,” Rangel said.

But is the American dream still a reality? Or is it a mirage? Scott Lukas, an anthropology and sociology teacher at Lake Tahoe Community College, said many people raised in America can’t afford to buy a house, purchase a vehicle or raise a family.

Lukas said a “perfect storm” of economic, demographic, political and cultural issues have joined together to make immigration a hot issue. Yet, with the ease to travel the globe, the United States engaging in offshore business practices, and the European Union slowly melding together, perhaps it’s how things will be as there’s a “breakdown of traditional nations,” Lukas said.

“People have to go somewhere.”