Defend the undocumented or fill potholes?


[Editor’s note: The following guest editorial is in response to our Nov. 3 story “City allocates $50,000 to assist residents facing deportation” and also to a letter to the editor we received stating that the funds would be better suited to fix city roads and parks in Tacoma.]

My life’s work since 1994 has been teaching the English language to immigrants and refugees. I have seen firsthand the conditions many of them left, which, along with our creed of equality and opportunity, explains why the USA will continue to be a destination for immigrants as it has since the founding of our nation. And I have also had the joy of seeing former students graduate college, enter and progress in their careers, become American citizens, and support their families here in their new home. Some of these students receive some government assistance during their initial transition; and initially, without English, most are only able to access the lowest wage jobs. And the lowest of the low jobs, as we all know, often go to our undocumented neighbors. The people cleaning the bank or school at one in the morning, the people picking the food we eat… Managers and farmers I have talked to don’t even see native-born applicants, and haven’t had good experiences when they hired them. But I can say with confidence, as local tech giants Google and Microsoft have asserted, that immigrants are a great asset and investment.

By and large, the immigrants I have worked with are the kind of people I want as neighbors, and the kind any employer would love to hire. Their work ethic is unsurpassed, and their desire to be part of this country sincere. This is why it has been so trying in recent years to see the flames of paranoia and a narrowly construed, Christocentric, white nationalism fanned, along with restrictive executive actions built on the fearful, xenophobic fiction that danger comes from overseas, when the evidence on U.S. terrorist attacks shows most are homegrown or radicalized on U.S. soil, and gangs like MS-13 were born in places like Los Angeles.

A recent Tacoma Weekly letter to the editor (Lovingood, Nov. 16) lamented that our fair city of Tacoma has chosen to provide a legal defense fund for people in immigration proceedings. Unlike the criminal justice system, in immigration court no lawyer is guaranteed; even children often face judges and prosecutors alone. This is an inequity that threatens families. Immigrants who are fleeing a lack of opportunity and crime-ridden, unsafe communities in Latin America may not be conferred refugee status, but their reasons for leaving are real. Some of my students were threatened at gunpoint in their hometowns. Some couldn’t afford food, or lacked running water. Life in even the poorest neighborhoods of Tacoma, doing even the lowest paid of jobs, provides more safety and opportunity than some of my students had. They did not move here for handouts or hamburgers.

The writer of that letter appears to have little compassion, but also lacks accurate information about issues like immigration and the city budget. To say that $50,000 could be better spent repairing our city streets appears based on the misconception that immigrants are “takers” in our economy; or perhaps devotion to “the rule of law.” The latter is a moot point, given the long history of illegal land grabs, treaty violations and property dispossession on the part of European Americans – the “Tacoma Method,” which prompted the construction of our Reconcilation Park along Ruston Way and the use of the State Fairgrounds in nearby Puyallup to house Japanese Americans, being only two local examples of our own historical disregard for the rule of law, when upholding those laws would have benefitted people of color. It is time that all people, globally, have rights. We can do our part to model this moral imperative right here in Tacoma.

We know that undocumented people work, pay rent, and spend almost all of their income in local businesses. Sales tax made up 21 percent, or $95 million, of the City’s revenues in the most recent budget. Assuming that Tacoma’s percentage of undocumented residents is roughly even with that of the United States at around 3.5 percent of the total population, it would mean that sales taxes collected from our undocumented neighbors contributed over $3 million to the city budget – quite a bit more than $50,000. Additionally, adding that money to the street repair budget would result in an increase of .002 percent, or two hundredths of a single percent, of the $18.8 million already committed.

If you are a Tacoma resident who is critical of immigrants, my challenge to you is to learn about their stories. Books like “Enrique’s Journey” or “What is the What?” are good starts. Any number of films also document the many reasons that lead people to undertake the often dangerous and uncertain journey to this country. And if you are a human being, I beg you in this season of sacred holidays to consider the best of whatever spirituality you possess, and know that each of the immigrants you see around you in our community is a fellow human being, with a family and a story, with their own strengths and struggles. Whatever their English ability, whatever documents they do or do not possess, they are like you – making their way in this world. How you treat them is beyond their control, but fully within yours, and ultimately reflects on you. What kind of person you choose to be affects what kind of community we all live in – and I, for one, prefer a community that values and supports all of its members. The people held in the for-profit immigration prison in our city deserve at least the opportunity to make their case – why are they here, and should they be able to stay here? If we do not even make time to listen and consider them, we disregard their very humanity.

As ICE increasingly targets families, not criminals, legal defense will be in greater demand than ever. People who wish to contribute to the legal defense of immigrants can make a year-end, tax deductible donation to the Northwest Immigrant Justice Project,; or to support unaccompanied minors in our area, direct donations to Seattle-based KIND (Kids In Need Of Defense), at

$50,000 will not be enough to keep many families intact; but every family and child counts. Our potholes will be filled in due time.

Lee Sledd, M. Ed. is Professor, English for Speakers of other Languages (ESL & EAP). 


  1. I have no problem with immigrants who come here legally. Sugar coat it all you want by calling it “undocumented” when in fact it is “illegal” aliens that entered the U.S. “illegally”. Only U.S. citizens have U.S. Constitutional rights so when you moan about them not being represented at deportation hearings why don’t you foot the bill instead of taxpayer dollars.

  2. Kick the dirty illegals and other foreigners out of the USA because they stink especially if they are on welfare. 99% of fake refugees placed in the USA are Muslim because the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is 80% staffed by Muslims and the Commission is a propaganda and Muslim population invasion agency of the Islamic Caliphate.

    Bibliography (mostly books) on illegal immigration, “Islamic immigration jihad / hegira,” fake refugees and the Islamic Invasion Army conquest of Europe and North America:

    — ¡Adios, America! : the left’s plan to turn our country into a third world hellhole
    — Alien nation : common sense about America’s immigration disaster
    — America alone : the end of the world as we know it
    — America and Islam after Iraq
    — American jihad : the terrorists living among us
    — Ann Coulter, who has studied the illegal immigrant problem extensively, found the number of illegal aliens in the United States to be in the neighborhood of 40 million:
    — Arab responses to fascism and Nazism : attraction and repulsion
    — Arab winter comes to America : the truth about the war we’re in
    — Between immigration and Islam : Europe rethinks itself : the refugees’ arrival in transforming the continent and creating new dynamics in the Muslim world
    — Bible: “Before your very eyes, foreigners are devouring your land— they’ve brought devastation on it, while the land is overthrown by foreigners.” Isaiah 1:7.
    — Black terror white soldiers : Islam, fascism & the new age
    — The borders of “Europe” : autonomy of migration, tactics of bordering
    — The case for Islamophobia : Jihad by the sword, America’s final warning
    — Catastrophic failure : blindfolding America in the face of jihad
    — The Catholic Church has converted to Communism (web articles and books):
    —- AA-1025 : the memoirs of an anti-apostle
    —- Disinformation : former spy chief reveals secret strategies for undermining freedom, attacking religion, and promoting terrorism (especially Liberation Theology and the Catholic Church)
    —- John Courtney Murray, Time/Life and the American proposition : how the CIA’s doctrinal warfare program changed the Catholic Church
    —- School of darkness
    — Combating jihadism American hegemony and interstate cooperation in the War on Terrorism
    — Confessions of an Islamophobe
    — A convergence of civilizations : the transformation of Muslim societies around the world
    — The crisis of multiculturalism in Europe : a history
    — Crusade and Jihad : The thousand-year war between the Muslim world and the global north
    — The Death of the West
    — Deported : immigrant policing, disposable labor, and global capitalism
    — Easy meat : inside Britain’s grooming gang scandal
    — The EU and Africa : from Eurafrique to Afro-Europa
    — Eurabia : the Euro-Arab axis
    — Eurojihad : patterns of Islamist radicalization and terrorism in Europe
    — The fight of our lives : knowing the enemy, speaking the truth & choosing to win the war against radical Islam
    — The force of reason
    — Fortress Europe? : challenges and failures of migration and asylum policies
    — France closes mosque for “encouraging radicalism” (website)
    — Global Jihad and America : the hundred-year-war beyond Iraq and Afghanistan
    — God’s terrorists : the Wahhabi cult and hidden roots of modern Jihad
    — Goodbye, Europe? Hello, chaos? : Merkel’s migrant bomb
    — The grand jihad how Islam and the left sabotage America
    — Hasta la vista Europe! : what you’re not being told about the refugee crisis and how it’s destroying Europe
    — House of war : Islam’s jihad against the world
    — In the house of war : Dutch Islam observed
    — Infiltration : how Muslim spies and subversives have penetrated Washington
    — Invasion : how America still welcomes terrorists, criminals, and other foreign menaces to our shores
    — Islam, America’s Trojan Horse! : a Christian looks at Islam
    — Islam and Nazi Germany’s war
    — Islam and terrorism
    — Islam : religion or fascism?
    — Islamic fascism
    — Islamist terrorism in Europe : a history
    — It is about Islam: exposing the truth about Isis, Al Qaeda, Iran, and the Caliphate
    — The Jewish revolutionary spirit : and its impact on world history (discusses Rothchild and Soros-type sponsorship of subversive activities against European / Christian countries throughout history)
    — Jihad and Jew-hatred : Islamism, Nazism and the roots of 9/11
    — Jihad in the west : the rise of militant salafism
    — Jihad incorporated : a guide to militant Islam in the US
    — The Jihadist threat : the reconquest of the West?
    — Kaleidoscope : the resettlement of refugees in the United States by the voluntary agencies
    — Marxism and the Muslim world
    — Migrant, refugee, smuggler, savior
    — Migration, terrorism, and the future of a divided Europe : a continent transformed
    — Militant Islam reaches America
    — Modern day Trojan horse : al-Hijra, the Islamic doctrice of immigration : accepting freedom or imposing Islam?
    — Mohammed’s Koran : why Muslims kill for Islam
    — Muslim mafia : inside the secret underworld that’s conspiring to Islamize America
    — Muslims in the west after 9/11 : religion, politics and law
    — Nazi propaganda for the Arab world
    — The Nazi roots of Palestinian nationalism and Islamic Jihad
    — Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East
    — No go zones: how denialism of radical Islam imperils the West
    — No, we can’t : radical Islam, militant secularism, and the myth of coexistence
    — On the immorality of illegal immigration
    — Political Islam, world politics and Europe : from jihadist to institutional Islamism
    — Pope Francis loves Islam
    — Al-Qaeda and Jihadi movements worldwide : Islamic Europe and the Frozen Conflicts
    — Radical Islam in America : Salafism’s journey from Arabia to the West
    — The rage and the pride
    — Red-green axis : refugees, immigration and the agenda to erase America
    — Reflections on the revolution in Europe : immigration, Islam, and the West
    — Refugee resettlement and the Hijra to America
    — Refugee resettlement in the United States : language, policy, pedagogy
    — Refugees, security and the European Union
    — Religion, ethnicity and transnational migration between West Africa and Europe
    — Religious ideology and the roots of the global Jihad : Salafi Jihadism and international order
    — The return of the Moor : Spanish responses to contemporary Moroccan immigration
    — Rohingya hoax
    — Shariah in America : Islamic Shariah’s threat to American liberty
    — Stealth invasion : Muslim conquest through immigration and resettlement Jihad
    — Stealth jihad : how radical Islam is subverting America without guns or bombs
    — Stop the Islamization of America : a practical guide to the resistance
    — The strange death of Europe : immigration, identity, Islam
    — The terrorist next door: how the government is deceiving you about the Islamist threat
    — To host or to hurt : counter-narratives on Rohingya refugee issue in Bangladesh
    — Unholy alliance : radical Islam and the American left
    — United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a Muslim and Jordanian Prince Ra’ad bin Zeid, has been outed for using the UNHCR as an instrument of Muslim invasion and conquest of North America and Europe under the guise of charity for fake refugees:
    — United States of Jihad : who are America’s homegrown terrorists, and how do we stop them?
    — ‘We love death as you love life’ : Britain’s suburban terrorists
    — The white man’s burden : why the West’s efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good
    — Without roots : the West, relativism, Christianity, Islam
    — Why Muslim integration fails in Christian-heritage societies

  3. Nope. If you’re here without proper documentation, no public services should be available. Just saddle up and head back the way you came. Without exception.

  4. Very few services are available to the undocumented; most deal with food assistance and basic medical care for children. Most people do not support starvation or allowing communicable disease to spread; but feel free to write your lawmakers.

    There is no need to entertain the tinhat caliphate conspiracy garbage- the people who buy ‘alternative facts’ are not very good at checking sources. I fail to see 80% Muslim “staff” in the UNHCR; but why take the time do your homework (trolls don’t need no homework) when infowars and zeitgeist have everything from UFOs to JFK to Birther-mania all tied together.

    We can and should debate the details of policy, and the future of the 12 million residents who have committed the civil violation (not crime) of entering or remaining in the country without a visa. But hate will not offer any workable solutions. Saddle up and head back? I can’t imagine how much food would cost- if it were even on the shelves- if we deported the people harvesting and processing it. As we saw in the recession, immigrants ‘saddle up’ when employers stop hiring workers. And it is timeless political genius that white poor people have been hoodwinked into blaming brown poor people, when poverty is the issue. If the wealthy would pay a living wage, employers could hire exclusively native-born workers. You don’t see white folks in red baseball caps lining up to sanitize the slaughterhouse on the night shift for minimum wage; they feel they are above such work; or they rightfully want more money to do it. The tax code just shifted more money to the top; but don’t hold your breath for the trickle-down. That money will be in places like Mar-a-Lago, or sheltered offshore, because there was no requirement for any of the beneficiaries to actually create jobs for Americans. Why are these workers here? There is plenty of blame to go around, and no simple solution.

    In our democracy, we must once again ignore the extremes, find the center and forge compromise. If I can pay for foreign wars I object to, my neighbors can pay a fraction of that for some public services they object to. We are not children; so we will have to accept not getting everything we want, and get along with others. A republic if we can keep it, neighbors.

    Silence did not work out well for the Jews in Europe, the Chinese in Tacoma or the Japanese Americans in the USA. Facts and compassion will not convince or warm the hearts of xenophobes; but those of us who refuse to repeat the ugly episodes of American history have a duty to speak up and say, never again. We will not round up, deport or exclude people on the basis of their race or religion. To do so is against our most deeply held American values. All people are created equal. My grandfather got shot and spent months as a prisoner of war to free the Jews in Germany; so If you don’t believe in universal human rights, saddle up and ride back to where your ancestors came from, and take your torches with you.

  5. A Clean, Stand Alone Bill applying RICO to the accumulated wealth of illegal aliens: The application of RICO laws would mean that everything an illegal alien has accumulated, while claim jumping: cars, homes, stock, bank accounts, and jewelry would be subject to seizure and forfeiture because all that wealth was accumulated as a consequence of an illegal act: being in America illegally, claim jumping on American citizenship…….

  6. Do the undocumented I know own homes or stock? Not too many. Low bank balances, too. There are execptions among skilled construction workers, but by and large you are talking about doing repo on a large fleet of very used cars. Also interesting you choose the term ‘claim jumping’. That reminds me of all those broken treaties involving native Americans. Much of the farm and real estate wealth of white people stems from an illegal act. Give it back! Rule of law, I heard someone say once; but they only mean that when it benefits them.

    Let’s say it were economically and practically feasible to deport all the undocumented; let’s say it were wise to divest them from public schools and services; let’s say it were legal and morally upright somehow to turn them away from hospitals let them die in the streets. Let’s say we round them up like we did the Japanese Americans and put them in camps in the desert. Native-born workers won’t line up for their jobs. So, best not do any of that until a legal mechanism is in place to source the needed labor; either a massive guest worker program, or a much higher Federal minimum wage to get more American citizens to roll up their sleeves and install insulation in crawlspaces, clean hotel rooms, work the night shift…There is no free lunch, and no free or cheap labor without a hitch. Anyone complaining about the undocumented has to acknowledge that slaves in this country were replaced with immigrants- and in the hardest jobs, undocumented are the best, because they are easy to exploit by leveraging the fear of deportation. Both sides- the compassionate and the merciless- can agree that the current “system” is broken. I look forward to hearing some practical solutions from the anti-immigrant camp. So far I just hear scapegoating for white poverty, which is a structural economic issue; racist stereotyping (“rapists”), conspiracy theories, and ridiculous plans for a big wall. Real solutions to complex problems are not so simple.

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