'Evening News' Sings the Blues for Employers of Illegal Immigrants

   It’s ironic when the “CBS Evening News” takes up for a business that openly breaks the law, but such was the case on the October 10 broadcast.

     “Jim Zappala says the federal crackdown is killing his business right in the middle of harvest,” CBS correspondent Seth Doane said. “His onion farm in western New York has been targeted by immigration officials twice in just six months. Workers have been deported. Others are too scared to return.”

     Zappala is the owner of Zappala Farms and has openly admitted to hiring illegal immigrants. One solution Doane proposed to Zappala – pay more money and he could get American workers to do the jobs.

     “I don't think there's any amount of money that we could pay to get workers to come in and hand-clip these onions or help with the field work,” Zappala replied.

     However, Oswego County, N.Y., where Zappala Farms is located, had an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent in 2006 – slightly higher than New York’s state rate of 4.5 percent and the national rate of 4.8 percent that year, suggesting there is a sufficient labor force to meet the locality’s needs.

     According to Doane, up to $9 billion annually could be lost if U.S. farmers “don't get the labor force they need.”

     But, if farmers did get the illegal labor some are advocating, the cost has a way of being transferred to everyone else.

     In April, The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector released a study that found a household headed by an individual without a high school education, including about two-thirds of illegal aliens, costs U.S. taxpayers more than $32,000 in federal, state and local benefits. That same family contributes an average of $9,000 a year in taxes, resulting in a net tax burden of $22,449 each year.

     Those numbers indicate more illegal immigration would have a significant price for everyone.

     “Over the next ten years, the constant dollar net cost of low-skill households (immediate benefits received minus taxes paid) is likely to be at least $3.9 trillion,” Rector and his colleagues wrote. “Policy changes that would expand entitlement programs such as Medicaid will increase these costs at the margin. On the other hand, changes in immigration law that would significantly increase the inflow of low-skill workers and families will increase future government spending dramatically.”

     “Aren’t there laws on the books to be enforced?” Doane asked Mike Biltonen, an apple grower in New York.

     “They are,” Biltonen replied. “They are intended to be enforced. I think they haven’t in the past because there has been a recognized problem.”

     But Doane warned that “enforcing the current laws will only force operations underground, out of the country or out of business altogether.”

     ABC’s “Good Morning America” has also been lobbying for an ease on the illegal immigrant crackdown. The October 8 broadcast criticized the 700-mile fence the federal government is constructing on the Mexican-U.S. border and confused legal Hispanic workers with illegal Hispanic workers when making the case against the crackdown.