Enforcement Comes to My Hometown; Residents Clueless about Consequences

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

December 14, 2016

Here in Pittsburgh, we don’t have much immigration. As I sit writing this blog post, I’m trying to remember the last time I heard a language other than English spoken around me. I can’t recall. The jobs that legal and illegal immigrants so often fill in California and other immigrant-heavy states are, in Pittsburgh, almost exclusively done by Americans.

Only illegal aliens need apply.

Since immigration is so rarely in the Pittsburgh news, a local television report about illegal immigrant workers got my immediate attention. Acting U.S. Attorney Soo C. Song, working with the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations, indicted 44-year-old restaurateur Xing Zheng Lin. According to the indictment, Lin was charged with concealing, harboring and shielding from detection his workers “for the purpose of commercial advantage and private financial gain.” Lin’s felony offenses occurred from 2009-2014, and make him subject to a maximum sentence on each count of up to 10 years in prison for each illegal immigrant, a fine of $250,000 for each illegal immigrant, or both.

The story’s embedded video brings up some interesting side points. First, the ramshackle building Lin housed the aliens in is a disgrace. Second, Pittsburghers have a lot to learn about immigration. Maybe because there’s so little of it around the ‘Burg, understanding its consequences is beyond the immediate grasp of many.

Outside of the Saga Restaurant, the WPXI reporter interviewed two customers. He asked one what she thought about the owner employing illegal immigrants, and she said she’s too old to care (she appeared about 15 years younger than me). The reporter asked another customer if he would continue to patronize Saga, given the felony charges against its owner. The patron immediately replied that of course he would because “the food is delicious.” [Aside: I’ve eaten at Saga. The food was barely edible.]

Enlightening my Pittsburgh friends and neighbors about illegal immigration’s perils is an ongoing challenge. But the Lin case gives me ample opportunity to show why we don’t want Pittsburgh to become Los Angeles.

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