Sunday, October 23, 2005

How the Wetbacks Got Their Backs Wet (and Halliburton Got Its Beak Wet) 

Our august colleague Oyster (from Your Right Hand Thief) covers New Orleans with such zeal and vigor you'd almost think he lived there. In the post immediately below, he describes his experience at a seminar attended by several hundred New Orleans businessmen hoping to apply for SBA loans. These entrepreneurs are doubly cursed: once, because their livelihoods were wiped out in a natural disaster, and twice, because they did not happen to be living in a swing state at the time:
The Small Business Administration is denying over 90% of the loan applications to Louisiana businesses destroyed or disrupted by Katrina. Same for home loans to Katrina victims.

After Hurricane Charlie struck Florida last year, the SBA approved 42% of all loan applications . . . .

It's very, very disheartening to think that of the HUNDREDS of business owners who went on a wild goose chase for SBA application hints and info, only about 10% of us will be deemed "worthy" of assistance (unlike our favored neighbors in Florida and, presumably, Tejas).
You are certainly aware of President Bush's swift move to save a buck on the back of Louisiana's displaced poor by suspending the Davis-Bacon act, which forced federal contractors to pay "prevailing local wages" to reconstruction workers. Democratic Rep. George Miller of California has recently invoked an exotic parliamentary procedure in an attempt to reverse Bush's order:
Miller's maneuver under the 1976 National Emergencies Act requires a vote by Nov. 4 on an issue that has Democrats united and Republicans divided.

If Republican leaders fail to hold a vote on Miller's joint resolution by Nov. 4, the act allows him to demand that one be held within three days, according Miller spokesman Tom Kiley . . . .

Miller, the ranking Democratic on the House Education and Workforce Committee, filed a bill in September to overturn Bush's executive order. Despite its 203 co-sponsors -- all House Democrats and one independent -- there is no assurance that Republican leaders would have allowed the 435-member body to vote on second-guessing a Republican president.

But another 37 House Republicans recently wrote Bush to ask him to reinstate the prevailing wages required under the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act.

Kiley said he was optimistic that many of those Republicans would join Democrats in voting to overturn Bush's order. Senate Democrats are considering a similar maneuver, Kiley said.
Of course, if the law does compel them to pay fair wages to local American workers, it would not surprise us to see overburdened contractors scaling back on payroll costs by hiring some of those illegal immigrant workers against whom the leaders of the GOP are always fulminating. And there's one very large reason it would not surprise us -- they're doing it already:
The office of Senator Mary Landrieu said late yesterday that immigration agents detained a large number of illegal immigrants -- possibly more than 100 -- who were working for a Halliburton subcontractor building a tent city for Hurricane Katrina recovery work.

Landrieu's office claimed that illegal workers were employed by B-E-and-K of Birmingham, Alabama. The Democratic senator issued a statement saying it was a ``shame'' for a contractor to ``line his pockets by breaking the law and hiring a low-skilled, low-wage and undocumented work force.''
As you might expect, the administration that routinely winks at militia members and "Minutemen" forming "citizen border patrols" weighed in with a swift, unflinching response to Halliburton's shameless skirting of the law:
At a time when Latino immigrants are expected to form a big part of the Gulf Coast reconstruction labor pool, the Department of Homeland Security has temporarily suspended sanctioning employers who hire workers unable to prove their citizenship, essentially allowing contractors to hire undocumented workers.
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