Land of Sweatshops
[RE: Letters, “Land of Laws,” April 27-May 3] What many Americans fail to realize is that many of the undocumented workers who come here do so because they have no choice, not to seek a better life. Many of them do not speak Spanish but dialects of indigenous languages. Sylvain Segal's letter states that "Mexicans who abandon their own country and come illegally into ours tend to destabilize both countries."
This is not only a false statement, but Segal might not know that the biggest destabilizer to both the United States and Mexico has been NAFTA. Many people might not realize that these workers' lands are now owned by big farms and sweatshop factories. If these workers don't come here to find work, they and their families starve. The United States is indeed a country of laws, but we must not dehumanize undocumented workers for the sake of the rule of law. Doing so ignores the struggle of these people.
Beyond the Beef
[Re: Letters, “The Beef with Cow,” May 18-24]
The "Gate To Plate" article most definitely was not reflective of an "exception," as alleged in the Forest Guardian letter to the editor last week. It is true that ranching is done on government-owned lands in the West. That is because the government, state and federal, owns the majority of the land in the West. In New Mexico, about 60 percent of the land is held by government, which is why so many counties struggle. They have little private property tax base to use to provide basic services.
The Forest Guardians also made several other incorrect allegations. Why would "wilderness" need a management budget? Isn't the point of wilderness that it is an area untouched by man? In fact, hooves do not compact soil, they break the soil keeping it from crusting so that the sparse moisture our region receives goes into the ground. It is true that grazing animals, including wildlife like elk, can and do overgraze if not properly managed. However, most ranchers today have college degrees in range science or management and, as stewards of the land for many generations, are constantly seeking better ways to manage their livestock and the land. Cattle are the harvesters of the land, and it benefits no one for the land to be harmed. Grazing is much like mowing your lawn. If you don't mow and maintain it, your lawn is going to become a mess with the grass chocking itself out and creating a fire hazard.
Finally, it is true that the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has been sued repeatedly by the Forest Guardians and others bent on cultural genocide in the rural West. And it is true that federal agencies often lose these suits. But what most people don't know is that these suits are based on procedural errors in documentation, consultation and paperwork, not actual harm to the environment or any species. As to the ranch in the Lincoln National Forest, the USFS will tell you they are concerned with the condition of the resource. But at least some of that concern lies with the state's uncontrolled elk herd. The rancher has cut his livestock repeatedly during the past several years only to have the elk herd expand and continue grazing so there has been no enhancement of the resource even though there are fewer cows.
The primary goal of federal land management is biological diversity and ecosystem sustainability. Ranchers in New Mexico and the West have provided water and habitat for wildlife and the public for more than 400 years.
We are the eighth grade advisory class at Harrison Middle School assigned to Mr. Chavez. These last few weeks have been hard for us. We are worried about what is going to happen with the immigration bill before Congress. Harrison Middle School had the highest absentee rate in the district on the day of the immigration rights protest. This is because we understand how much the immigration bill will change our community. We have been discussing what we think in our classes; we don't always agree. We didn't agree with our teacher, and he didn't agree with us. But we took the time to listen to each other; sometimes it wasn't easy. We found out that mostly we are all worried and afraid of what will happen to our family, friends and neighborhood if everyone that was here illegally were forced to go home.
We think America is a nation of immigrants. New Mexico was once part of Mexico. We could all have been from Mexico if the imaginary line in the sand had not been redrawn. We think all human beings should be treated the same and have an equal chance to hold jobs, feed their families, give them good homes and have them get a good education. We told our assistant principal we did not want to be judged by where we came from, but by our personalities. She responded that Martin Luther King, Jr. "dreamed of a world where we would not be judged by the color of our skin but by the content of our character." It seems those words are still important.
The government needs to hear our collective responses, because our voices want justice for all humanity. Mostly, we worry for our friends. They cry because they were born here but their parents weren't. What will they do? They are 13 and 14 years old and they are worried for their parents, for their future. They are good people, good students, good friends and good to their parents and good for our country's future.
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