Some background: A few weeks ago, a letter was published in the Malibu Surfside News about a Thanksgiving dinner for day workers who use the Malibu Labor Exchange. About 300 people showed up.
The next week, a letter appeared in the Surfside News accusing the organizers of the dinner of aiding and abetting “criminal misconduct. Illegal aliens break our laws by virtue of their presence here. When they work, they break more laws, to say nothing of committing identity theft with forged and stolen documents.” He called the organizers “a political cancer” and said that “This group of nitwits and neophytes seems not to care that there are home grown Americans who need the caring and services they so freely provide to these interlopers.”
He went on to say that “One should notice that the aliens have little interest in our language, culture, customs or much of anything else. We can do nicely without them because they lack the American spirit.”
(You can read the whole thing in the Malibu Surfside News, Dec. 13, available online.
Below are responses from me, and from Travis Crisco, both published in the Malibu Surfside News, December 20, 2012
Letter from Stephen Krashen
Steven Granville Jones (“Core concern,” December 13) is upset that several local residents helped organize a Thanksgiving dinner for day workers associated with the Malibu Workers Exchange, claiming that at least some of them are illegal aliens who “have little interest in our language, culture, customs of much of anything else.”
Workers associated with Malibu Workers Exchange are mostly Spanish speakers. People sometimes get the impression that Spanish speakers do not speak English because many of those they have met have been in the US for only a short time. But they acquire the language quickly: A study of Spanish-speaking illegal immigrants revealed that 80% said they could speak no English when they arrived in the US, but only one and a half years later, this was reduced to 40%, quite impressive considering that few have the chance to take classes.
Studies also show that in general Spanish speakers in the US speak English as well as speakers of Asian/Pacific Island languages. Research also consistently shows that the children of immigrants typically speak English better than their home language by the time they reach adolescence.
Jones claims that day workers are taking jobs away from locals. This is unlikely: The average worker associated with centers such as the Malibu Worker Exchange works only about 20 hours a week. Day workers in general make up less than 1 percent (0.2%) of the state’s employed labor force.
Taking jobs away? Gonzales, D. 2007. Day Labor in the Golden State. California Economic Policy, Public Policy Institute.
A study of Spanish-speaking illegal immigrants …: Krashen, S. 1997. Do illegal aliens acquire English? CATESOL News (California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) 29 (3): 1,7.
In general, Spanish speakers speak English as well as …: Krashen, S, 1999. Under Attack: The Case Against Bilingual Education. Culver City: Language Education Associates.
Letter from Travis Crisco
This letter is in response to the inflammatory letter written by Steven Granville Jones about the Malibu Community Labor Exchange and those who support it.
My name is Travis Crisco, I have been working in Malibu for seven years and coming here with my family for my entire life. I was formerly the manager/IT director of the now shuttered PCH Collective, an institution which loyally supported and contributed to this community for over six years.
For the last several months I have been volunteering my time at the Malibu Community Labor Exchange, establishing a computer lab for all of the people who come there each day looking for work. Over the last few months I have been able to get to know many of the people who come down there each day trying to find work in the Malibu community.
I personally take issue with many of Mr. Jones’ statements and find that they pander to the worst of the racist stereotypes held by many right wing elitists. The people that come to the exchange looking for work are no different in spirit than my immigrant ancestors who came here in search of the American dream in the late 1800s. If one asks many natural born citizens in this country the common belief given our current economic situation is that the American dream is dead.
If someone wants to see where the American dream is still alive and well, it is with people like those who dare to risk everything looking for a better life in the U.S. for themselves and for their families.
I work at the labor exchange three days a week helping hard-working, self-motivated, dedicated people every day look for work, learn English, and learn basic computer skills to better themselves.
These are not freeloaders taking jobs away from the community. I sincerely doubt that many of the sons and daughters of local residents are lining up to dig holes, paint fences, clean corrals, etc. They do the jobs that local children don’t have to do because they have had an opportunity to have a good education with the added benefit of being born in the U.S.
Many of the people looking for work at the labor ex- change every day are not illegal immigrants, we assist those of all ethnic backgrounds and many who speak English very well. We also provide a safe place for the local home- less to spend their day, look for work and have a meal.
I challenge Steven Jones to spend a couple hours at the labor exchange getting to know the people who he is so callously bashing before vomiting out more tired and slanderous statements against good people trying to do some- thing positive for the less fortunate.
Malibu Community Labor Exchange