Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Daughters of the Iranian Revolution

A fascinating story about a young woman and the struggles she goes through as a first generation American citizen with ties to her parents' homeland, Iran. DP

By Amy DePaul, WireTap

AlterNet : Asal Mirzahossein was born and raised in the United States, but her stomach remains ever faithful to her parents' native Iran, where, like the Eskimos with their varied words for snow, Persians revel in rice in its myriad forms. Basmati rice with lentils is Asal's home-cooked Persian meal of choice. Another favorite is baklava cake, a moist pillow of a dessert made fragrant by an Iranian baking staple: rose water.

"We put rose water in every Iranian pastry I can think of. It's the aroma," says the 22-year-old aspiring English teacher from San Diego. Asal believes rose water is soothing for digestion.

Along with pastries, savory khoresh (stews) and kebabs are one way Asal keeps her Persian heritage alive, but it's not the only way. She also grew up learning to speak and write Farsi (correctly, she emphasizes), taking note of her father's vigilant attention to developments in his home country. Several times a day, the 55-year-old businessman checks the BBC for the latest political news on Iran, printing out numerous articles that he adds to his stacks of papers on the subject.

Asal vividly remembers her visit to Iran at the age of 7. There, she watched friends and family stirring waist-high vats of rice in preparation for a neighborhood feast. She also scampered about her grandfather's fruit orchard outside Tehran, climbing trees, picking berries and dipping her fingers in an icy stream. And she wandered the ancient city of Esfahan, for several centuries the capital of Persia. It was dusk when her family strolled under the illuminated archways of the Sio-Seh Pol Bridge, admiring the mosques and other architectural landmarks stretched out before them. For Asal, Esfahan was a little like Rome -- a tribute to a proud heritage. Also a tribute to a lost world.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Special Report: the Future of Foreign Language

Finally, some schools realizing that we will be competitive in business when our people know more than our own language. And they are starting in kindergarten, when it is easiest to learn a language. DP

Tony Tagliavia : "Un raton en la casa!" kindergarten students shout back to Lansing schoolteacher Ann Grimm.

You heard right: Kindergarteners are learning Spanish right here in Lansing.

"We have an enormous population in the country and especially in the city who speak Spanish. It's important for communication," Grimm said.

Grimm drops by Lansing's Wainwright magnet school three days a week to teach Spanish to five- and six-year-olds. They're the age at which researchers say it's easiest to learn a new language.

And the language they're learning makes sense, according to Michigan State University’s acting dean of International Studies.

"From a business standpoint, Spanish, understandably, would be an important one," Acting Dean Jeff Riedinger said.

But some say in the increasingly global 21st century, it's time to broaden language offerings.

"Looking to the future: Chinese, Arabic, Japanese, Korean. A number of languages. Hindi. They're already important trading partners or becoming important trading partners," Riedinger said.

He says with all the talk about Michigan becoming competitive in the "global economy," state residents are going to have to do their part by learning more global languages.

"Our competitors are learning their own language and culture and learning our language and culture. That puts them at a competitive advantage," Riedinger said.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

21 immigrants newest Montana, U.S. citizens

After passing all the tests and paying all the fees, 21 new citizens! DP

By EVE BYRON, IR Staff Writer

Helena Independent Record : Antoinette Popp is a mother and a business owner in the Flathead valley.

Now she’s also a United States citizen.

Popp, a native of Jamaica, was one of 21 immigrants who on Thursday morning renounced their allegiance “to any foreign prince, potentate or sovereignty” and vowed to uphold the United States constitution and all its laws. They came from countries including Belarus, Germany, Russia, Costa Rica, Canada, New Zealand and China.

After the ceremony, Popp smiled at her 3-year-old daughter and her husband, and said that she decided to become a citizen for a number of reasons.

“I’m a taxpayer, and I want to have a voice in the government for my daughter’s future,” Popp said. “And I want to vote.”

The naturalization ceremony in the federal courthouse in Helena came as the U.S. Senate debated a far-reaching immigration bill that would improve border security, create a new guest worker program and open the door to eventual citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

The Senate bill contradicts a measure passed by the House that would criminalize all immigrants in the country illegally, and contains no provisions for a new guest worker program.

Friday, May 19, 2006

School Ensures That Day Jobs Don't Leave Immigrants in Dark

This charter high school is in session weekends and nights to accommodate the Latino teens who have to work to help their families pay expenses. They can't fit weekday school into their schedules. Such a good idea! DP

By Lianne Hart, Times Staff Writer : HOUSTON — Like thousands of teenage immigrants who cross the border into the U.S. each year, Noe Choxom worked a day job to help his family pay for rent and groceries.

"I didn't have time for school," said Choxom, who reached the eighth grade back in his village in Guatemala.

That changed when he saw a Spanish-language television report last year about a Houston high school that accommodated the work schedules of young immigrants. Classes were offered at night and on Saturdays, and held the promise of a high school diploma.

Choxom, now 21, quickly enrolled. "What I'm doing is better for me," he said during a break at his job at a quick-oil-change shop. "If we have bigger dreams, we can make a better life."

Open since January 2005, Houston's Newcomer Charter High School is gearing up for a move in the fall to a new space of its own. Its 185 students currently attend classes in several rooms at Lee High School in southwest Houston.

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The tales of four immigrants

Another story about the overburdened immigration system and how people trying to become legal are made to wait, often for many years. DP

Keith Matheny, The Desert Sun

Amnesty in 1986 taking a long time

The Desert Sun: Luis Salazar came to the U.S. from Peru in 1981 with his then-wife and their two children, ages 3 and 11 months. They came on tourist visas, but had no intention of returning, Salazar said.

“We came here basically to start a new life,” he said.

The situation in Peru at that time “was pretty much devastated,” the 46-year-old said. The economy was bleak; the guerilla rebel group Shining Path was sharpening its violent attacks.

Six months after arriving in Palm Springs, their tourist visas expired, and the Salazars were illegal immigrants.

“In the beginning we were basically living in the shadows,” Salazar said.

Salazar had worked for Proctor & Gamble as a marketing assistant in Peru. The jobs available to him in the U.S. were different.

“I was trimming trees, cleaning houses, cleaning pools, doing basic handyman jobs until I learned English,” he said.

Salazar qualified for amnesty under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, signed by President Ronald Reagan. But 20 years and three presidents later, Salazar is still waiting.

He has documents proving he visited the U.S. immigration office in Los Angeles seven times, seeking to adjust his status after the amnesty was approved. He was turned away each time, he said.

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More Asian immigrants become U.S. citizens

This story tells why Asians are more likely to become citizens than Hispanics. Education and distance from their homeland are the two biggest reasons. DP

By Gannett News Service

Quad-City Times : WASHINGTON — While a raucous public debate swirls around the estimated 12 million, largely Hispanic, illegal immigrants living in the United States, little attention is paid to the nearly equal number of foreign-born residents who are naturalized U.S. citizens.

These new citizens come mainly from Asia. A smaller percentage of Latinos go through the naturalization process.

Forty-one percent of the 537,151 new Americans in 2004 — 218,874 — were from Asian countries, according to the federal Office of Immigration Statistics. And while Mexico tops the list of home countries of new U.S. citizens that year, the next five home countries are in Asia: India, Philippines, Vietnam, China and Korea. The same trends hold true over the five-year period ending in 2004.

Compare that with the makeup of the illegal immigrants in the United States in 2005, according to the Pew Hispanic Center: 56 percent were Mexican, another 22 percent were from the rest of Latin America, while 13 percent were from Asia.

“The question isn’t so much why it is that Asians naturalize at a higher rate,” said Bill Ong Hing, professor of law and Asian American studies at University of California, Davis. “It’s why Latinos and Mexicans don’t naturalize at higher rates.”

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Legal immigrants face citizenship hurdles

This story about legal immigration procedures explains why so many people choose to come in illegally. Not many citizens realize the difficulties. This country can handle more immigrants and we need immigration reform. DP


Seattle Post-Intelligencer : NEW YORK -- Kshitij Bedi recently marked his fourth wedding anniversary, but it wasn't much of a celebration, just a long-distance phone conversation.

The Long Island resident has barely seen his wife, Shweta, in the past four years. She is in India, waiting and waiting - and waiting - for the visa that would allow her to join her husband, a legal permanent resident, in the United States.

Bedi applied for the visa in April 2002, less than three weeks after the couple's wedding. He tries to visit India as much as possible, but essentially, "I've been a bachelor since then."

"There's nothing we can do," he said. "We're so helpless."

In all the recent talk about immigration reform, most of the focus has been on the millions of people in the United States illegally. But part of the problem, legal experts and immigrant advocates say, is a complicated legal immigration system in which the demand for visas far outstrips the supply.

"People aren't choosing to walk through the desert; they're doing that because the front door is closed," said Benjamin Johnson, director of the Immigration Policy Center at the American Immigration Law Foundation. "The only way to get in is the back door."

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Legal immigrants take citizenship oath

This story tells how some people became legal citizens. I think much more money should be spent to speed up this process and clear up the backlog. The problems these people had are the reason so many others try to come in without legal status. We really have to make this process more efficient. DP

By BRENDAN KIRBY, Staff Reporter : Amid a growing furor over illegal immigration, 25 people who came to Alabama legally officially became Americans on Friday.

Some fled war. Others sought protection from oppression. A few were motivated by love -- of the American dream or an American. Some spoke broken English with thick accents, while others were as fluent as native-born Americans.

"I love it. I love everything," Parzhin Abdullah Abdulrahman said of her new country after she and other people hailing from 18 nations swore allegiance to the United States during a ceremony in Mobile's federal courthouse.

Abdulrahman came to the United States nine years ago with her husband and son from Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Mustaffa Abdulrahman, who works as an engineer in Saraland and hopes to join his wife in citizenship, opened his briefcase and removed the document granting his family political asylum. The Abdulrahmans are Kurds, an ethnic minority from northern Iraq oppressed by the old regime.

The Abdulrahmans' home country, of course, has dominated international news in America the past few years. But they were reluctant to speak about the ongoing war there.

Parzhin Abdulrahman spoke generally about her love for America. "I don't have any problem with my (new) government," she said.

Those taking the oath Friday first had to complete years paying fees, filing paperwork and taking tests. Applicants had to travel to Atlanta to take their citizenship test, which consisted of questions about the nation's history and government. They also had to demonstrate a minimal command of English.

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Immigration Reform: Let’s Use Common Sense

Few of the many suggestions swirling around the current immigration debate use much common sense.

The idea to build a wall along our 2,000 mile southern border is stuck in some peoples’ minds but they don’t say who would actually build it or how long it would take or how much it would cost. They just say “build a wall” and think that will solve everything. Who would do the work? Our unemployment rate is below 5%, and this is with millions of illegal workers. Where would we find more workers to do this hard manual labor? Where would the estimated $2.2 billion it would cost come from? What about the environmental damage it would do to the deserts it would cut through?

The people who say we should deport 12 million people don’t say how to do that either. They just say “round them up and send them home”. They think arresting 12 or 15 at a time on street corners and construction sites will quickly get rid of 12 million people. They don’t consider the personnel who would have to be hired to do this. They don’t consider the cost to find out if they are here legally, where they came from or where they should be sent. They don’t consider where we would keep these people until their status was decided or the cost to send them “home”.

Those who say we should stop all immigration for awhile don’t say how we would manage here without more people to replace our low birthrate and aging workers. They seem to think we can keep the economy going without new people, but we don’t have enough young workers to do that. And most of the young workers we do have want easier jobs and aren’t interested in picking vegetables or cutting lawns or cleaning hotel rooms.

Even the people who say that illegal immigrants who have been here two to five years should return to their homeland and come back in legally, are not considering how many (or how few) would leave. If people have to prove they have been here for more than two years by providing rent receipts, utility bills and paystubs, a whole new industry will start up. The counterfeiters who are now printing driver licenses and social security cards will start printing rent receipts, utility bills and paystubs. I imagine most of these “entrepreneurs” will be American citizens. This bill says those here less than two years just have to leave and not come back. Many of those people will simply go farther underground and be exploited and mistreated more than they are now.

And while we are all discussing this problem of illegal immigrants and raiding a few factories and arresting a few workers, many more will be walking across the deserts. They will simply be replacing the people we put on the buses heading south.

Common sense says we should change the immigration laws and put more money into border protection to secure the border with Mexico. There were no immigration laws here until the 1890s when waves of Irish immigrants forced the government to write them. These laws have been constantly rewritten since then. It is time to do it again, this time making more sensible laws that people can live with. This, along with more border protection will slow the illegal immigration to a manageable number.

If we change immigration regulations so that people can legally come into this country with wait times of only a year instead of 10 or more, most people will do it legally. If the fees are only a few thousand dollars, most will pay that instead of paying smugglers and be cheated or die.

People who try to immigrate legally now, often have to wait many years and pay many thousands of dollars in fees. Even children whose parents are already here or spouses of U.S. citizens have to wait years to come in legally. Once people apply for legal immigration, they are not allowed to come into the U.S. as a visitor until the immigration papers are finalized. This means some of these family members don’t see each other for years.

If money were put into clearing up this backlog of people waiting to get in legally, we could then deal with the people here illegally. If undocumented people were convinced that they should apply for legal status and will not automatically be deported just because they register, they would do it.

The overwhelming majority of them are law abiding and would prefer to be legal residents and workers, they are just here to provide good lives for their families. If people understand that they can get decent jobs with safe working conditions when they have the proper documentation and that the documents can be attained while they are here, they would do it. They would gladly pay back taxes and fines in order to get legal status.

As much as many citizens are against amnesty, and we all wish it had never gotten to this point, I don’t see how the immigrants who are here illegally can be sent away. They should be allowed to stay and register and go through the criminal checks and approval process. The ones who qualify should be put on the path to become permanent residents and citizens.

Over the past 20 years we have let them in, used them, enjoyed the fruits of their labors and now we have to use some common sense and be responsible. We should change the immigration laws and secure the border so everyone who wants to come in will apply for legal status, and then we should legalize all the millions of people from all countries who are here without documents.

If we make these changes and keep enforcing the “new” rules, we won’t find ourselves in a similar or worse mess 10 or 20 years from now.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Polish doctor says America should embrace immigrants

Another inspiring story about immigrants succeeding in this country. Work hard, study, learn the language, a little bit of luck and finally - success. DP

By HINA ALAM, The Lufkin Daily News
The Lufkin Daily News : He came to the United States in 1982, seeking asylum from communist Poland.

He and his wife carried their four-month-old baby daughter in a box. They escaped to a camp for refugees in Austria, then came to the United States. They had $100 in their pockets.

They were dropped off on 8 Mile Road in Detroit.

Four weeks after coming to the United States, Dr. Andrew Fercowicz, armed with a medical degree from Poland, got his green card. It took three years for him to take his exams and get into the residency program, in Memphis, Tenn.

He had no money. He could not afford the $1,000 to take the exam to be a licensed doctor in the United States.

He had no knowledge of the people here or their customs. He had no knowledge of housing or transportation. He had no knowledge of English.

"Every community has a super system to help a person to adjust," he says.

He took free classes at a special institute to learn English. Someone gave him a bicycle. People dropped off free supplies at his house for him. After a while he got some odd jobs. Two old ladies gave him the required $1,000 to help him take his exam

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Guanajuato native finds better life in U.S.

Another success story of an immigrant, without education, who came here, worked hard, and now owns his own business. He has attained The American Dream. DP

By Jonathan Turner, Quad-Cities Online
Quad-Cities Online : When Roberto Carrillo came to the United States in 1984, he didn't know any English and worked with his father picking fruit in the fields of Fresno, Calif.

The young teen didn't attend school. In fact, he didn't continue formal education until he got a food-management certificate last year from Black Hawk College. Today, Mr. Carrillo, 37, is proud owner of El Mexicano, 448 Railroad Ave., in Moline's Floreciente neighborhood, and wants to ensure his three children get the schooling that eluded him.

"If they learn more, they can get more," the humble Guanajuato native said in his bright, spacious eatery. "I always told them, 'Do the best you can do.' That's why we are here. I have to work to help my family. Many people like me came over here because we didn't have anything."

"When I get older, I'd like to go back to school. I want to learn a lot more things," Mr. Carrillo said. "Nobody can learn enough. We learn something different every day, no matter if you're in school or not. You have something to learn ... If you have a better education, we're going to be something better."

It's clear Mr. Carrillo has learned quite a lot already. In 1987, he obtained temporary resident status. He moved to the Quad-Cities in 1990 and in 1995 took classes in American history to apply for U.S. citizenship. He passed the citizenship test that year.

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Linking one's fate to that of others

Vietamese immigrants in the 1970s were given support when they arrived in the U.S. and partly because of that, they thrived. This woman tells her immigration story and says we should help the new immigrants, many of whom are Asian. She explains why she marched on May 1 with other immigrants for respect and justice. DP

By TUYET LE, Progressive Media Project

Star-Telegram : Just before May 1, 1975, the day after Saigon fell, my family and I left Vietnam for the United States. So the immigrant rights rallies May 1 had special meaning for me.

We were able to escape because an uncle, who was a Navy captain, negotiated a place for us on a fishing boat in exchange for his navigation skills. Originally, he was told he could bring only his immediate family on board. But he turned down that offer, risking his own chance to escape in order to get seven siblings and their families onto the boat -- 31 of us in all.

After several days at sea, a Taiwanese ship pulled alongside with orders to rescue any Chinese refugees. Of the hundreds of us on the boat, only two were offered spots: a father and daughter. But they refused guaranteed safe passage unless we could all go with them.

The Taiwanese relented, allowing all the women and children onto their ship, with the men following in the fishing boat. They led us to the Philippines. Two days later, we left for the United States.

I always hear how impressed people are with Vietnamese refugees, who came here with nothing and excelled beyond anyone's expectations. But what they leave out is that early Vietnamese families came during a time that U.S. refugee policy supported them.

We had case managers, food stamps and English tutors. My family was allowed to come here, and we were then able to support one another. That meant my grandmother could baby-sit, allowing both my parents to work even without being able to afford childcare.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Immigrant students choose ‘teach-in’ rather than walkout

Helping their peers understand the immigration problems and debates will go farther to solve the problem than many of the opinion pieces talking to the parents who have already made up their minds. DP

By TARA M. MANTHEY; The News Tribune

The News Tribune : Arjany Henriquez could have walked out of school on Monday to join the thousands of students around the nation marching for immigration awareness.

Instead, she stayed.

Marching would be an empty act if her peers didn’t understand her reason.

“Half of you don’t care,” she told 300 Clover Park High classmates gathered for a forum. “Be honest. You came here because you don’t want to go to fourth period.”

Since they came to a “teach-in” discussion, she was determined that they learn why she emigrated from Honduras and what the United States means to her.

Students at Foss, Stadium and Lincoln high schools in Tacoma also planned discussions Monday afternoon, according to Centro Latino, a Tacoma-based Hispanic resource center. In Lakewood’s Clover Park High School, students heard questions ranging from the basic to emotional:

What’s the difference between illegal immigrant, undocumented worker and regular immigrant?

How do you get a green card if you can’t speak English?

What happens to American-born children when their illegal parents are deported?

Some queries roused the crowd like an afternoon talk show host: Why not stay in your country and fight to make it better?

Henriquez explained how her younger cousins sell their bodies for money in Honduras. People lose their jobs because they have a different political belief than the ruling party. Women and children work for pennies a day sewing basketball jerseys that go for $80 in the U.S.

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Danbury CT has almost all the downtown storefronts filled with new businesses. Latino entrepreneurs have brought the down town back to life. DP

Latino entrepreneurs changing region's commercial landscape
By Robert Gold and Mark Langlois, THE NEWS-TIMES

THE NEWS-TIMES : When the federal Small Business Administration decided to hold a class for prospective Latino entrepreneurs in Danbury, about 70 people showed up for the first class in March.

The following week 110 people showed up.

And the sessions have been crowded since then.

The interest comes as little surprise to anyone. As Latinos rally across the United States today and boycott workplaces and schools on Monday, one of the messages they are sending out is that they have become key cogs in the U.S. economy.

As evidence, they point to Danbury's Main Street and its side roads, which are lined with businesses owned by people from Central and South America.

There's BEM Bonita, a shop hawking South American fashions. A few doors down, there's The Mirante Center, an insurance and mortgage company catering to Brazilian and Spanish-speaking customers. Travel agencies line the street, hawking trips to South America.

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Local broadcaster entertains, teaches Latinos

Here is a citizen helping immigrants with the most important aspect of becoming American - learning English. DP

By Sarah N. Lynch, Tribune
East Valley Tribune : Most of the time, only static is transmitted through the speakers of radios tuned to 1710 AM in west Mesa’s Nuestro Neighborhood.

But at 5 o’clock every evening, the hissing void comes to life with cheerful Latino music and the lively voice of 79-year-old Mesa resident Jack Hannon.

Since October, Hannon has spent an hour each night trying to reach out to his neighbors through his radio station, “Radio Barrio” — or in English: “Neighborhood Radio.”

The station is operated, literally, out of a small shed in the backyard of Hannon’s South Macdonald home. He uses a shoebox-sized transmitter perched in a tree to broadcast the signal about a half-mile in all directions.

The goal of his program is to give Hispanic immigrants a way to enjoy the music of their culture while at the same time learning practical English words.

The radio, he says, is a nonintrusive way to accomplish those goals. Radio Barrio is a low-powered, unlicensed station that runs on 1 milliwatt of power. Hannon hopes to use a higher-powered FM frequency some day, but for now he’s content serving his barrio.

During the broadcasts, Hannon’s neighbors can switch on the radio and hear something like this:

“It’s time to study,” Hannon will say in Spanish into a small microphone. Then he tells his listeners he will repeat helpful phrases.

“La repetición es la madre de aprender,” he says. “Repetition is the mother of learning.”

He then reads several phrases out of a book called “English on the Job.”

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Fitting in: A saga of one family

This story is illustrated and explained by the spelling and pronounciation of the names of the women in the family. It tells how the different generations assimilated. Very interesting. DP

Assimilation pattern has changed for immigrants
By Gina Kim and Erika Chavez -- Bee Staff Writers : As immigration reform continues to dominate dinner table conversations across the country and activists gear up for a planned national boycott Monday, a common refrain has emerged from some critics: Why won't Mexican immigrants assimilate?

The complaints are similar: They won't learn English. They wave Mexican flags. They don't consider themselves American.

But assimilation is more complex than the simple act of learning English and waving the Stars and Stripes, experts say. For immigrants, it's the often delicate balancing act of adapting and adjusting to new cultural norms and values while retaining their original identity.

"For many people, assimilation is the idea that people can come to this country and their culture, like their clothes, is something they can take off to put on a new one," said Leo Chavez, a professor of anthropology and immigration expert at the University of California, Irvine. "That never happens. Immigrants change and adapt, but they also retain things they value while contributing new things to the society they move into."

For immigrants to America, the experience of assimilation has evolved over the last century, and continues to change for their descendants.

That evolution can be illustrated by something as seemingly simple as a name.

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Illegal immigrants establish a labor pool vital to the U.S. economy

An interesting article about the lives of some of the undocumented workers in this country. DP

BY BARBARA ROSE AND STEPHEN FRANKLIN, Chicago Tribune : CHICAGO - She lives in Rolling Meadows, Ill., teaches catechism at her church, attends parent-teacher meetings at her children's schools and files tax returns on her earnings from a $7.50 per hour restaurant job.

Rosa and her factory-worker husband are not unlike millions of working parents struggling to improve their lives except for one important difference: They are here illegally.

The Mexican natives are part of a large and growing pool of illegal workers whose presence in the local economy is an open secret that persists because of mutual accommodations between migrants hungry for jobs and employers hungry for cheaper labor.

As immigrant rights advocates prepare to take to the streets Monday in another of the mass demonstrations that have jolted cities across the country, illegal workers no longer are invisible. Their role in the economy is being hotly debated, but few deny their importance.

"Many industries rely on them as important components of their workers," said Rob Paral, a Chicago-based consultant and research fellow at the American Immigration Law Foundation. "Many operators would not be in business if they didn't have this labor."

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