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Published: Thursday, 4/7/2005

FLOC leader urges jobs, aid for undocumented workers

Velasquez Velasquez
KING / BLADE Enlarge

Americans can complain about thousands of undocumented workers crossing into the United States from Mexico, but reducing that influx is impossible and many politicians are reluctant to admit there are benefits derived from those workers, the president of the Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee said yesterday.

Baldemar Velasquez, speaking at the University of Toledo's College of Law, said many who cross the border illegally are farmers who were put out of business by trade laws.

"[Immigration authorities] are not going to stop people from crossing because these people are too desperate," Mr. Velasquez said. "They'd rather risk coming here and get shot and die rather than stay home and just starve to death."

A problem is, once those workers get here, employers and consumers are more than willing to look the other way as long as they get productivity.

Toledo, he said, is full of undocumented workers.

"Look around you," he said. "They're in the Mexican restaurants where you eat, they're in landscaping, they're on farms. Everybody knows they're undocumented, but they're also contributing $7 billion a year in Social Security from their paychecks."

Migrants are willing to do the jobs that many Americans refuse to do, he added.

What needs to happen, he told the forum sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, is for Americans to accept the situation, improve the Mexican economy, and provide workers who want to come to the United States an easy way to get a work visa, providing there is a job already waiting for them.

Also, Americans need to stop looking the other way when such workers are exploited and their rights are suppressed.

On Wednesday, FLOC is sponsoring a march in Toledo to raise money for families in Mexico whose loved ones came to the United States to find a job and either died or were injured while working in unsafe conditions.

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