EDITOR: As do most Americans, I agree that some solution must be found for the 11 million hapless undocumented workers who hide in the shadows and slink around in fear.
The Immigration Bill on Capitol Hill is trying to do just that. Unfortunately, as part of the political sausage-making, some worthwhile programs have been sacrificed. Under the original Senate Immigration Bill, all J-1 student exchange programs, such as summer camp counselors and au pairs, were to be eliminated. That is approximately 200,000 young people from all over the world, all university students (except for au pair), the future leaders of their respective countries.
This was puzzling as J-1 programs are the cornerstone of U.S. public diplomacy efforts. The Senate Bill reclassified all of these as "foreign labor" (under Subsection F, "Human Trafficking") and as such, the U.S. employers would have to pay for all of the students' program expenses, including their airfare, insurance, housing and visa fees — in addition to their regular stipend. Sen. Schumer's amendment added insult to injury by making the U.S. non-profit sponsors post an additional $500 bond for every student (to be put in a federal fund to repair the border). No businessman in his right mind would have paid foreign students' airfares and other fees to flip hamburgers in Virginia Beach or tend the young campers in the Adirondacks.
These are cultural and educational programs, not "labor." The foreign students enrich the fabric of our cultural life and become life-long friends of the United States. And, boy, do we ever need friends around the world! This was basically a piece of raw meat thrown to the unions, who maintain that these students are stealing jobs from the Americans (nonsense). Student exchange organizations were saved at the last minute by Sens. Corker and John Hoeven of North Dakota.
The Senate Bill now "only" imposes heavy financial burdens and legal liabilities on U.S. student organizations and their overseas partners. Schumer's bond was cut to $100. Let's hope these provisions will be thrown out in the House Immigration Bill. Or better yet, kill the Senate bill in the joint conference and start again, without piggybacking the pressure groups' agendas. It is sad that this needed legislation was perverted by lobbyists. It also appears this bill is destined for the legislative dustbin and the undocumented workers will be the losers.
Kristi Doyle, Petaluma
On climate change
EDITOR: A review of 12,000 papers on climate change, in the May 15th issue of "Environmental Research Letters" found that 97 percent of scientists attribute climate change to human activities. Although we're unlikely to reverse climate change, we can mitigate its effects by reducing our driving, energy use, and meat consumption.
Yes, meat consumption. A 2006 U.N. report estimated that meat consumption accounts for 18 percent of man-made greenhouse gases. A 2009 article in the respected World Watch magazine suggested that it may be closer to 50 percent.
Carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, is generated by burning forests to create animal pastures and by combustion of fossil fuels to confine, feed, transport, and slaughter animals. The much more damaging methane and nitrous oxide are discharged from digestive tracts of cattle and from animal waste cesspools, respectively.
Each of us has the power to reduce the devastating effects of climate change every time we eat. Our local supermarket offers a rich variety of soy-based lunch meats, hotdogs, veggie burgers and soy and nut-based dairy products, as well as an ample selection of vegetables, fruits, grains, and nuts. Product lists, easy recipes, and transition tips are at www.livevegan.org.