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Birth Control, Baby
Sonia Nazario, author of the dreadfully written but Pulitzer-winning illegal immigration story, "Enrique's Journey," has a piece in today's LA Times about the kids left behind by illegal immigrants:

IT STARTED AS AN OFF-THE-CUFF question to María del Carmen Ferrez, who came to clean my house twice a month. Did she plan to have more children? Carmen, always chatty, suddenly went silent. She started sobbing. She told me about four children she had left behind in Guatemala. Her husband had left her, and Carmen simply couldn't feed them more than once or twice a day. They would ask for food. She didn't have it. So she left them in Guatemala with their grandmother and came to work in El Norte. She hadn't seen them in 12 years. Her youngest daughter was 1 year old when she left.

Carmen's answer stunned me and sent me on a journey of my own. How could a mother leave her children and travel 2,000 miles away, not knowing when or if she would see them again? After nearly two years of research in the U.S. and in Latin America, I found some answers — and many more Carmens. Regardless of the law, regardless of the danger and pain, millions of women, often single mothers, come to the United States from Mexico and Central America and send dollars to the children they leave behind. And after years apart, their children, desperate to be with their mothers, often make their own harrowing journey through Mexico to find them.

These mothers and children offer up almost certain proof that the legislative "solutions" that Congress is debating — and that brought thousands out into the streets in protest — can't and won't make a difference in the nation's illegal immigration problem.

What will? Dumping dumbass "abstinence" education, in the U.S. and around the world, and developing a strong message (and training) about birth control --- and even free sterilization programs, free patches, and free birth control pills to women in developing countries. These women need lessons in economics -- that having too many children means starving all of them. I couldn't deal with four children, and I'm a middle-class American citizen. Hell, I'd have a hard time paying for one.

Finally, I have an off-the-cuff question for Sonia Nazario: Is your cleaning lady legal? Another question: If she's not, do you pay her what you'd have to pay somebody who was? People who hire illegals are half the problem. A lady from Mexico and her family clean my house and others on my block. They're American citizens, and I pay them accordingly: $75 for a tiny one-bedroom. I could pay less, by far, by hiring illegals. But, that's unpatriotic and skeevy -- contributing to the problem of illegal immigration just to save a few bucks.

Posted by aalkon at April 2, 2006 8:57 AM

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A couple of thoughts: while I totally agree with you about the utter nonsense that is "abstinence" education and benefits of broad distribution of birth control to women in dire economic circumstances, there are a lot of other cultural/economic factors at work that keep this from being a simple fix. First, for families living in subsistence economies, having more kids often has meant more hands to hunt, fish, gather, work the fields, weave baskets, etc., and having someone to take care of you when you are old or sick. It does become a vicious cycle of poverty, but some cultural changes/education are also going to need to take place before the equation "more kids = more poverty" is going to ring true for people who have grown up in these cultures/economies. Add to that the influence of the Catholic church in many developing countries, and you've got a perfect storm for perpetuation of poverty.

Posted by: deja pseu at April 2, 2006 3:03 PM

But the Catholic Chruch is on the downswing in Central America--Pentacostal is what's happening now, and birth control is an area that they don't preach about.
While I feel for anyone leaving a child, I think Sonia's wailing is a little much. What does she suggest? Can we make Guatemala the 52nd state?

Posted by: KateCoe at April 3, 2006 4:36 PM

This may be a stupid question, but how do you find a cleaning service with legal employees? We moved to L.A. almost a year ago, and everyone we know uses cleaning services that employ illegal immigrants and cost almost nothing. We've looked into various places from the yellow pages, newspapers, etc. and it's never clear whether our money would go towards a living wage or be skimmed by unscrupulous employers.

Posted by: Harriet at April 3, 2006 7:16 PM

We hired our son's nanny through an agency that we knew did background checks and only referred legal residents. Check out domestic employee referral agencies rather than cleaning services. You'll pay more per hour, and probably pay a referral fee, but you'll have better luck finding legal employees.

Posted by: deja pseu at April 3, 2006 7:30 PM

For the second time in 47 years, I had a cleaning person in my home last weekend: Molly Maid of WLA. They were corporate, safe, and pricey, not necessarily in that order. They excelled this time as they did last time.

The point is this, and it pains me to comment in a language I can't read:

"Peu d'hommes ont esté admirés par leurs domestiques." --Montaigne (1533-1592)

Posted by: Crid at April 4, 2006 2:42 PM

Anyway props to Amy for coming through for the hires

Posted by: Crid at April 4, 2006 2:45 PM

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