27 April 2008


As someone who lives on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I think we should be thankful for all the immigrants, whether documented or unauthorized, who helped us rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that without them we would be years behind our current state of reconstruction.

Perhaps one way to look at immigrant construction workers is as a RESERVE LABOR POOL who will quickly travel to disaster sites in large numbers. Believe me, with increasing likelihood of great disasters due to increasing population growth and migration to coastal areas, many which are susceptible to tropical storms or earthquakes--or any of the other natural disasters with which the U. S. is plagued--those quickly responding workers are a blessing. The Mississippi Gulf Coast understands this. Just as importantly, we also saw how honest, reliable, and dedicated Hispanic workers were to get jobs done.

Look at the situation another way: Can you imagine the ginormous costs and ineptitude if we left the actual reconstruction logistics to government? How could governments ever arrange for a ready pool of construction laborers to rapidly move into a disaster zone? FEMA had a hugely difficult time just acting as first-responders. But people need workers
extremely quickly to begin the reconstruction process. FEMA has enough to do. The rest is left to individuals, and whoever they can hire on the spot--many of whom are Hispanics who quickly migrated from somewhere--to rebuild. They proved to be a rapid-response recovery force.

The Gulf Coast is (as are other places) still a disaster waiting to happen. The Mississippi politicians who passed the recent draconian law making it a felony with severe penalties to work unauthorized here in the State clearly were not considering potential emergency situations.

When the next disaster occurs, will the politicians hope the workers come and law enforcement simply not enforce the new law? Let's hope the workers come anyway when we need them, in spite of the "Not Welcome" sign we have nailed up at the State borders.

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