Pay to Stay: It's Tough Being an Immigrant, Unless You're Rich

Pay to stay: If Emma Lazarus were alive and living in Dallas these days, she'd probably throw up.

Lazarus—for those of you who were sleeping in civics class—is the author of "The New Colossus," the poem that adorns the Statue of Liberty. Why would she be a nauseated Dallasite? Well, consider these two little unrelated news items from the past week.

On one hand, we have City Hall announcing that it's cracking down on the hordes of immigrant day laborers who line the corner of Royal Lane and Dennis Road in Northwest Dallas. If you haven't been up there lately and you need a lesson in the miserable state of the economy, you should take a drive. The corner has long been a pickup place for laborers hungry for work, and in recent months, they've gotten a lot hungrier. When times were better, there might have been a handful of men wistfully eyeing any passing pickups after about 10 a.m., hoping that someone was offering jobs. These days, the parking lots of the corner convenience store and neighboring gas station are filled with men milling about, and Dennis is lined with scores of others for about two blocks north of Royal, virtually all day.

Their numbers have grown so much that what once was a handy corner to find cheap labor has now become a hotspot for drugs and prostitution, according to Dallas police and code enforcers, who at the urging of city council member Ann Margolin have stepped up enforcement at the intersection while the city works to find someplace to relocate the workers. The city is securing forms from nearby businesses that would allow cops to bust the laborers for trespass, and the city recently broke up an encampment of homeless nearby. Code enforcement is set to do a sweep of nearby apartment complexes to look for violations. You know, roust the poor people.

On the other hand, we have a news item from last week's Dallas Morning News that City Hall is looking to create a regional center under a federal program that offers green cards and a shot at permanent residency to immigrants willing to invest $500,000 or $1 million in the city. (The $1 million investors also get a free toaster.)

Got it? If you're poor and want work, please stay off the streets, Mr. Immigrant Person (unless we need you to cut the grass). If you're rich, it's "Welcome to Big D, partner."

Or, as Lazarus might write it these days: "Give me your wired, your rich/Your well-heeled classes willing to spend free/The blest Babbitts yearning to make a score./Send these wealthy first-class fliers to me/Because Lady Liberty is a whore."

 
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