Burn baby burn...........maybe not
(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)
See any Minutemen around?
Are you drunk?
With Illegal Immigrants Fighting Wildfires, West Faces a Dilemma
By KIRK JOHNSON
Published: May 28, 2006
SALEM, Ore. — The debate over immigration, which has filtered into almost every corner of American life in recent months, is now sweeping through the woods, and the implications could be immense for the coming fire season in the West.
As many as half of the roughly 5,000 private firefighters based in the Pacific Northwest and contracted by state and federal governments to fight forest fires are immigrants, mostly from Mexico. And an untold number of them are working here illegally.
A recent report by the inspector general for the United States Forest Service said illegal immigrants had been fighting fires for several years. The Forest Service said in response that it would work with immigration and customs enforcement officers and the Social Security Administration to improve the process of identifying violators.
At the same time, the State of Oregon, which administers private fire contracts for the Forest Service, imposed tougher rules on companies that employ firefighters, including a requirement that firefighting crew leaders have a working command of English and a formal business location where crew members can assemble.
Some Hispanic contractors say the state and federal changes could cause many immigrants, even those here legally, to stay away from the jobs. Other forestry workers say firefighting jobs may simply be too important — and too hard to fill — to allow for a crackdown on illegal workers.
"I don't think it's in anybody's interest, including the Forest Service, to enforce immigration — they're benefiting from it," said Blanca Escobeda, owner of 3B's Forestry in Medford, Ore., which fields two 20-person fire crews. Ms. Escobeda said all of her workers were legal.
Some fire company owners estimate that 10 percent of the firefighting crews are illegal immigrants; government officials will not even hazard a guess.
The private contract crews can be dispatched anywhere in the country through the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho — and in recent years have fought fires from Montana to Utah and Colorado, as well as Washington and Oregon — anywhere that fires get too big or too numerous for local entities to handle.
The work, which pays $10 to $15 an hour, is among the most demanding and dangerous in the West. A workweek fighting a big fire can go 100 hours.
So Lou, what do we do now? Considering the Guardsmen they would use are shooting up Iraq?
Why, they can cross the border legally while the west burns to the ground.
Given weather conditions and the simple lack of bodies , things might be complicated. But that never stopped the Minutemen.
posted by Steve @ 1:28:00 AM