Our Hallows stories remind again, warnings to callous men unwary, mother Earth’s grace tested will run short unleashing untold fury.
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had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d,
And men were gather’d round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other’s face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain’d;
Forests were set on fire—but hour by hour
They fell and faded—and the crackling trunks
Extinguish’d with a crash—and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil’d;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look’d up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash’d their teeth and howl’d: the wild birds shriek’d
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl’d
And twin’d themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again: a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought—and that was death
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails—men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devour’d,
Even dogs assail’d their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish’d men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lur’d their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answer’d not with a caress—he died.
The crowd was famish’d by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap’d a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they rak’d up,
And shivering scrap’d with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other’s aspects—saw, and shriek’d, and died—
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless—
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirr’d within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp’d
They slept on the abyss without a surge—
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon, their mistress, had expir’d before;
The winds were wither’d in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish’d; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them—She was the Universe.
Since the 1900 U.S. Presidential campaign and election the Red, White, and Blue stars and stripes firmly became the offspring of the colonial Imperialist family of powerful nations that were Belgium, Great Britain, France, Denmark, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Russia, and Sweden. After the victory of the Spanish-American War (Part I) it cemented our ‘divine right to prosperity and exploitation‘ of weaker people and put us at the same carnivorous dinning table as the other nine juggernaut nations. With the Monroe Doctrine enforced and the Spanish colonies of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico acquired from a defeated Spain, hungry insatiable American mercantilism then set out to “civilize and industrialize” Central and South America for the next two centuries (Part II) with very minimal to no investment back into local infrastructure or economies of those Latino countries.
Two hundred years of exploiting Central, Caribbean, and South American resources without significant reinvestment into those cultures saw the U.S. father and nurture the current Pan-American immigration crisis (Part III) which in turn fathered and nurtured our illegal domestic Grey and Black Underworld markets done primarily by American business owners/contractors and corporations. These two underworld markets—the white-collar grey market and the criminal black market—have sprouted a most inhumane insidious 14-tentacle monster of which I examined briefly five specific, toxic, anti-social markets (Part IV). In this final fifth part, with thousands and millions of Latinos fleeing their homeland and the U.S. created immigration crisis in Central America, why would these legal and illegal Latinos want to risk their lives, enter, and work for shitty wages in the United States when here in the American nightmare (not dream) there is an obnoxious, rising, threatening socioeconomic inequality and homeless problem for those very people? Is this simply transference of crises from one spot to another?
History has shown repeatedly that these are the very sociopolitical conditions that set in motion civil unrest and revolution. Was it not ironically the exact same despair the Latinos are fleeing in their homelands and more ironically, unless you are a Native American descendant, what most of our own ancestors in the 18th and 19th century escaped from in Europe to start a better, freer life in the United States? Bizarre? History repeating itself? A classic Euro-Asian socioeconomic stratification simply redressed then brought across the Atlantic Ocean.
Primary Causes of America’s Homeless/Housing Problem
Through mechanisms such as scapegoat contracting by American business owners, suppression of state minimum compensatory wages, skyrocketing tuition for trade-school, under and post-grad degrees, the persistent climb of housing and rent, all stimulate a corporate grey market followed by the criminal black market. The latter two markets exploit the chronic desperation of the struggling bottom percent of society. From Bloomberg Businessweek:
A toxic combination of slow wage growth and skyrocketing rents has put housing out of reach for a greater number of people.
The reason the situation has gotten worse is simple enough to understand, even if it defies easy solution: A toxic combo of slow wage growth and skyrocketing rents has put housing out of reach for a greater number of people. According to Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored housing giant, the portion of rental units affordable to low earners plummeted 62 percent from 2010 to 2016.
Rising housing costs don’t predestine people to homelessness. But without the right interventions, the connection can become malignant.
President Ronald Reagan dubiously argued that homelessness was a lifestyle choice. By the mid-2000’s, though, the federal government was taking a more productive approach. George W. Bush’s administration pushed for a “housing first” model that prioritized getting people permanent shelter before helping them with drug addiction or mental illness. Barack Obama furthered the effort in his first term and, in 2010, vowed to end chronic and veteran homelessness in five years and child and family homelessness by 2020.
Rising housing costs are part of the reason some of those deadlines were missed. The Trump administration’s proposal to hike rents on people receiving federal housing vouchers, and require they work, would only make the goals more elusive. Demand for rental assistance has long outstripped supply, leading to years-long waits for people who want help. But even folks who are lucky enough to have vouchers are increasingly struggling to use them in hot housing markets. A survey by the Urban Institute this year found that more than three-quarters of L.A. landlords rejected tenants receiving rental assistance. […]
Then there’s the moral argument for action. “It’s outrageous to me that in a country with so much wealth—and certainly enough for everybody—that there are people who lack even the basics for survival,” says Maria Foscarinis, founder and executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. […]
But efforts to build are often delayed or blocked by people who don’t want homeless or lower-income people nearby. A strong undercurrent of Nimbyism—motivated by fear of falling property values, ignorance, racism, or concern over crime—can get nasty. Opponents of proposed homeless shelters took to the streets to protest in Koreatown and spewed boos and catcalls at a town hall in the beach community of Venice. (emphasis mine)
The poignant article goes on to say that “doing nothing isn’t doing nothing.” Doing nothing ends up costing everyone more money, more resources from law-enforcement, and drains an already strained, under-funded public mental-health and drug rehab system but continually feeds its (very profitable) prison system. Blaming those who are trying to get their feet back under themselves, back above water, is in fact the “least productive way to solve the crisis.” The fact that the U.S. is and has been the wealthiest, most capable nation on the planet to fix these 20, 50, or 100-year chronic socioeconomic problems is not just mind-boggling, but shamefully embarrassing.
Examining four indicators of U.S. income per capita, Kimberly Amadeo of TheBalance.com reports:
According to Zillow.com’s home value/price index, as of May 14, 2019, the median home value/price was $226,700 for an average 2,687 sq ft home. This however, is not the listing price. And the majority of American home-building corporations, for some not-so-mysterious reasons, construct single family homes around 2,500 sq ft—it’s more safely profitable for them and their lending corporations. To determine what it is state-by-state go here.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s latest numbers for median income per capita can be found here, but nationally as of 2017 it is just below $32,000 per year for legal U.S. citizens. Most loan-financing/home mortgage lenders require that applicants for a 30-year house mortgage earn between $58,200 to $64,400 minimum gross household income annually. However, this amount and interest-rate (5%) reflect an applicant(s) near excellent credit score(s). A large percentage of lower middle-class and lower-class Americans that have been living paycheck to paycheck (approx. 70% – 79.3% of the population) do not have excellent or even above-average credit ratings for such decent mortgages. This leads us to renting costs in America.
According again to Zillow.com’s indices, the median list-price rent index as of March 2019 in the U.S. was $1,675 monthly, or for a 12-month lease $20,100 annually. But here’s the catch. Most all private-sector leasing-management corporations require the renter(s) to earn 2- or 3-times that rental amount in net wages. Therefore, $1,675 jumps to either $3,350 to $5,025 monthly, or $40,200 to $60,300 annually. If some renters are on the cusp of their leasing requirements, then housing managers demand a hefty upfront deposit which ends up disqualifying many/most applicants living paycheck to paycheck.
We are back to reality, our chronic homeless dilemma and crisis as the wealthiest nation in the world.
America’s Chronic Homeless Problem Provides More Exploitation
The 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress provided by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), reports that between 2016 and 2018 that instead of the downward trend since 2012, homeless and unsheltered numbers rose across the nation by 10% (p. 13, Exhibit 1.1). They are expected to continue rising under current unchanged socioeconomic and political conditions. However, this can be slowed or stopped in two to four years if changes are made in those same influencing factors, reversed and returned to pre-2016 trends in six years with significant changes.
My hometown of Dallas, TX is not listed in these 10 worst cities, however, as the state’s largest metroplex and one of the nation’s largest metropolises it has its serious homeless problems too. Our Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance reports to-date Dallas and Collin Counties (the latter is one of the wealthiest counties in Texas) have risen by 9% since 2016 with a 16% increase in Emergency-Sheltered homelessness. As mentioned at the end of Part III, I have three personal stories to share from homeless individuals within 1-mile of my home.
Faces of our homeless
Three Dallas Voices of Homelessness
One of my first impressions after briefly speaking with these homeless, sometimes just loitering before moving down the street, is that homelessness is not represented by one gender or one particular race. That’s one false notion those far removed from the struggle have of these unfortunate situations. The other impression I found which wasn’t much of a surprise to me were their backgrounds and stories.
The majority I spoke with came from situations of unstable families while children and/or teenagers. With one man I spoke with he had been abandoned by his biological dad and step-mother at the age of thirteen. For all the others I spoke with their backgrounds were all too familiar. Drug abuse and dealing, alcohol use and abuse, and often the two dysfunctions were accompanied by physical and sexual abuse/assaults.
Every single person I spoke to with drug, alcohol, and sexual/physical abuse histories had indeed been in rehab treatment programs, several times, but without the financial means to even complete a 30-day, much less 60-day program, facilities could not keep them more than 10-12 days. Some could only detox for three days and had to be discharged. And those facilities are the state- and federal-supported programs, not the highly expensive private clinics and hospitals with adequately staffed premier doctors, nurses, and counselors. Regarding those nice private hospitals, one homeless gentleman told me “those are the places and beds for the best insurance policies or rich parent’s kids.” I knew exactly what he meant. Mom and myself dealt with the same difficulties and oddities with my own sister the last 40-years. Still do. My sister has been homeless and living on the streets many times in her life.
Originally from Ardmore, a small town in Oklahoma, Ricki was about 30-35 and when we talked on a partly cloudy, sunny day she had left a downtown shelter that had been overcrowded and her bed was infested with bed-bugs. She showed me her waist and stomach covered in bites and welts. I asked her how long she’s been homeless, “since I was 19.” Did you finish school, I asked. “No, because my momma was alcoholic, unmarried and I got tired of the abusive men that came and went.” Ricki had moved out as a teenager with no high school diploma to escape one or two domestic problems to take her chances on different bigger problems. Her older sister had done the same about three years earlier than she and not faring any better. Her sister has been in and out of homeless shelters and alcohol-drug rehab houses in Little Rock, AR.
Ricki was also manic depressive and recently diagnosed (inside a low-cost county hospital) with Type 1 diabetes. Most of the time she can’t afford both meds, sometimes neither of them. Her combination of emotional and medical problems—most likely other secondary psychological issues I’m assuming too—meant one med without the other kept her in constant volatility with one or the other for all these years. This was my guess anyway. “The low-wage jobs I was able to find and keep for a month or two,” she explained “the supervisor didn’t have any patience with my mistakes and knew nothing about mental-illness.” This was one primary cause for Ricki’s chronic homelessness for 11-12 years.
When I asked her if there was one wish she could have granted for the next 6-12 months, what would it be? She answered, “If they would just give us some place to go where we wouldn’t get run off every other night, or after a week or two, that would work for me to get on my feet.” She had a point. If you have to keep worrying about your next meal(s) and where you will sleep for the night or next week, it makes it much more difficult to be reliable for a boss at a low-paying job. I thought it pointless, probably an insult to ask if she had means of transportation to get to and from a job.
Adam or“Addie” Addie is a 34-year old male originally from Georgia, but recently from Mississippi, which was what struck up our first conversation. A military brat/kid, he moved around many times; four times before he was age twelve. In Mississippi was where the U.S. Marine Corp. recruiter talked him into enlisting, told him he would see the world and become a new man. During boot camp in San Diego, CA, Adam was smoking weed with other recruits, but he was the one busted and made the example to his recruit-class.
He moved back in with his dad in Mississippi, but being former military himself his dad soon kicked him out. “I tried for a couple of months living with an aunt in Ohio,” he shared “but she had too many strict rules.” Many friends-with-couches later and only a diploma, Addie eventually ended up in DFW, sometimes in a shelter, other times on the streets.
Everything has a long line at shelters that often takes an hour or two to stand in, and sometimes you don’t get what you wait for. Beds are often infested because they’re not regularly sanitized. Roaches everywhere getting into your stuff. The staff-workers have their favorites and don’t treat everyone equally. And temporary affordable housing for us takes a long, long time to obtain. Why? It’s non-existent or too expensive in DFW. I want to work, hold down a job, but it all seems like a Catch-22.
Bouts of alcoholism have crept into Adam’s hard times. When I saw him last he was considering drifting up toward Kansas City for the summer (cooler temps) if he was put off again or kept on the housing waiting list at two shelters a fifth time.
Walt inside the library
Walt is a former truck-rig driver from Ft. Worth, TX. He is about 47 – 50 years old, I’m guessing, and due to his high blood pressure from being severely overweight—he says from always being on the road/highway living in his rear cab for 330-days out of the year—lost his CDL (commercial driver’s license) because of those medical problems. In our conversation Walt exhibited several signs of depressive disorders so I asked if he has ever been seen by a psychologist or psychiatrist.
“Yes. Once right after I got out of prison and then through my caseworker at the shelter.” I asked him what they said. “That I needed both counseling [psychotherapy] and regular anti-depressant meds for at least two years.” Of course I asked how that was going. “I can’t afford it after a week or two.” Walter said it had been over a year since he has done any counseling or had meds. When I asked about family his entire affect changed. He started talking about his mother and father, in broken mumbled sentences, but then had to stop. He had no idea how they were or where they were—his mom disappeared when he was little. The last time Walt saw his dad was 1984 and of all places… Richardson, TX, just 10-minutes away.
I asked Walt that other than truck-driving, once he reacquired his CDL, has he been able to find work:
For the last two years I’ve been trying to get into a program for housing for the displaced. After you stand in line for your caseworker for hours, you are usually told it is pending or I’ve been told I don’t fit their requirements. At most shelters you must stand in line by 2:00pm to secure a bed. If you get to your caseworker by 4:30pm, you have much less time to walk everywhere seeking a low-wage job. But sometimes you have to choose between a bed for the night or a possible job you’ve already applied for months earlier. Because I don’t have semi-permanent housing I can’t clean-up and dress to look my best at any job interview. [he gave a half chuckle]
Though not all homeless cases are mental-illness related, America’s public mental-health, mental-illness infrastructure and operation is for the most part only one fragile cog in our nation’s dysfunctional three-cog public services. The second cog is our Homeless-to-Housing cog. It fluctuates greatly and is rarely the same from year-to-year or elections-to-elections. The third cog is thriving and over the last 2-3 decades has become profitably fat: prisons.
Should you want to view the other 94 – 95 U.S. companies clearing profits from county and state corrections facility services, click here. The grossly disproportionate social needs wheel above begs the question, What is the real priority for American businesses and their government constituents? Then ask yourself why can’t housing projects, and state/county mental-health programs keep up with a noticeably smaller (yet fast growing) percentage of the population? Any bets whether you are back to the first question of priorities?
There is another alarming ripple-effect of the U.S. corporate grey market and black underworld/market destabilizing the nation’s struggling middle-class and sinking lower-class: a falling life-expectancy. Neurosurgeon and Emmy-winning CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, hosted a special HBO documentary called One Nation Under Stress and examined the reasons for the historic decline in life-expectancy inside the world’s wealthiest country who ironically has spent the most on healthcare by any developed nation around the globe.
If you are unable to watch or stream the HBO documentary, here is a 25-min overview of Dr. Gupta’s findings. He reveals the multiple causes all pointing to one single epidemic: the chronic, prolonged levels of abnormal stress. I highly recommend watching this documentary and sharing it with family and friends. If you don’t have anyone close suffering from long-term stress and its many side effects, then watch it as an introductory briefing so you might recognize the many symptoms and one day help a stranger or acquaintance.
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Now that this five part series is concluded and covered the entire historical spectrum from 1900 across the North, Central, South Americas and Caribbean, to recent and present-day criminal and corrupt back-office, domestic businesses, to the end product of an ill, decaying middle and lower socioeconomic class in the U.S., share your thoughts or questions below. I hope this series and the discussions will cause you to ask yourself, What more can I do? Then inspire to act.
Well, after a few breaks from my inundated, unavoidable family and life obligations and the time-effort they required, I have finally finished and posted Part IV! Thank you for your patience and understanding these last four months.
Previously in Part III we learned that the higher and wider the gap of inequality in the United States, the more extreme, converse abuses and crimes its population will engage and endure. America’s corporate world dabbles in, even thrives off of this inequality and distress and often yields to the temptations of the more profitable grey market which is never far removed from the black market—in several cases the two are indistinguishable. In this Part IV I want to burrow into five of at least fourteen specific markets or tentacles that comprise the insatiable beast called BU Inc.
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Illegal Gambling & Games
The sole reason illegal gambling and gaming take place in the U.S. or by way of the U.S. is its highly lucrative profits without any taxation. “Each year, it is estimated that casinos and sports-books in Nevada pay $868.6 million in taxes” says Casino.org an online casino guide website. Imagine if those gambling-gaming houses could keep that money. The combined illegal gambling-gaming market is reportedly a $67 – $380-billion dollar industry, a tax free industry. Too many American citizens and businesses, whether law-abiding or not, seem to not want to pay taxes or their legitimate fair share of taxes. Why?
There are perhaps four generally popular, risky or life-threatening gambling-gaming activities in the U.S. Street racing packs high-speed, oil, carbon-monoxide and rubber for an adrenaline high and big money for winning crews and driver. Though illegal high-stakes racing is on the rise across the nation, Southern California is the epicenter. There is typically a race or races every night. If caught, drivers can sit in jail for up to 90-days; a small price to pay (in their minds) given the huge rewards of winning, upwards of $20,000+ in some big races. Reaching 100 MPH in about 6-seconds then over 130+ MPH in longer races, they do it for street respect and a winner-takes-all prize. But it can be at the expense of pedestrian bystanders and other non-participating drivers caught in the middle of chance “takeover” races they were oblivious to. Only a small group of drivers and fans know about the when and where of races. Injured or killed pedestrians are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. For more, read Out of Control by the L.A. Times.
Cock-fighting and dog-fighting in the U.S. have become lucrative illegal games of gambling the last 25-years. The ASPCA states in their A Closer Look at Dog Fighting report Why Do People Get Involved with Dog-fighting:
There are many reasons people are drawn to dog-fighting. The most basic is greed. Major dogfight raids have resulted in seizures of more than $500,000, and it is not unusual for $20,000 – $30,000 to change hands in a single fight. Stud fees and the sale of pups from promising bloodlines can also bring in thousands of dollars. […]
For others, the appeal simply seems to come from the sadistic enjoyment of a brutal spectacle.
Cash confiscated from an illegal gambling ring in Nashville, Tennessee. (Source: wsmv.com)
Today elaborate and extensive breeding techniques for hostile/killer animal bloodlines with very basic, crude genetic education has turned cock- and dog-fighting into a thriving and growing million-dollar black industry.
Finally, there is the widely popular, fanatical and illegal Sports betting in and by way of the U.S. Currently sports betting is an approximate $150-billion per year illegal market according to the American Sports Betting Coalition. This year in 2019 there is a race by some 20+ states to make sports gambling legal, regulated, and to take chunks out of wagers and winnings for state tax-revenues. Gamblers and underground gambling-gaming houses are fighting these changes; they do not want to give up more of their “profits.” This means there will likely always be illegal sports betting in the U.S. to evade state and federal taxes. This creates more problems. A large sector of America, mostly the economic upper 20% – 30% do not want to pay their taxes. Therefore, this breeds and sustains black markets such as sports gambling and affiliate laundering markets.
The majority of American prescription drug patients want or need their pharmaceuticals for one or two reasons: 1) they must have them to survive their chronic medical issues and illnesses, and/or 2) the cost to patients and insurers fluctuates relative to economic variables throughout the entire chain of manufacturing, from research, to FDA approval, to production and distribution, to end-user and their insurance coverage, semi-coverage, or no coverage. The fact will always remain, everyone in that entire pharma chain affects all the others. Period. Legislatures must factor their policies with all six phases in mind.
When it comes to a matter of life or death, or even getting by until something improves, legally or not, patients or end-users will do whatever it takes to survive. Common medicines such as inhalers, antibiotics, or insulin for diabetes are rarely affordable. Those three widely used meds for chronic illnesses are a very small part of America’s health problems overly managed by pharmaceuticals. Just a one-month supply of legal legitimate insulin costs $900 at the pharmacy. Between 2002 and 2013 legal insulin prices tripled that. According to a February 2019 Fortune.com article:
According to a survey by the Commonwealth Fund, just 12.4% of Americans ages 19 to 64 are uninsured, a rate the Commonwealth Fund notes is statistically unchanged since 2016 despite efforts by the Trump administration to weaken the law.
As healthcare and pharmaceutical costs remain fairly steady, or higher, and/or rising, millions of Americans are increasingly underinsured. These are a handful of causes for a thriving black underground phony pharma market. With demand on the rise exponentially, a demand now higher than heroin, this illegal trade has gotten uglier and usually the consequences are deadly, immediately and in the short and mid-term.
A vast number of phony pharma dealers and distributors risk their liberties and rights as “free” citizens and going to prison if caught in order to deliver patients their life-giving prescriptions—prescriptions they otherwise could not legally afford due to insurance denials and/or deductibles nor the mandatory health guidelines of obtaining prescription refills, i.e. the monthly or bimonthly doctor checkups, tests, etc. Those checkups are by no means cheap for further additional reasons. And as law-enforcement clamps down on this illegal business, they push it further underground. In turn, black market prices rise, then more ruthless criminal opportunists get involved for the higher profits. Despite good intentions of sons, daughters, nieces or nephews making Robin Hood pharmacy deliveries for family and friends, consuming or injecting unregulated, untested medications from producers sold without the licensed experienced permission of a medical doctor and staff puts the user at high risk for overdose, misuse, and severe side-effects or permanent damage, sometimes death.
Many self-made self-taught pharmacists setup their own chemical labs, mix-up and package their own knock-off meds that are in high demand. For example, many of the aforementioned chronic illness prescriptions above stimulate a rise of homemade pharma labs. Their kitchens become a mini-production line based on internet printed recipes of chemical ingredients, volumes, weights, and procedures making a sketchy cheaper consumer street-product. But very high profit margins for kitchen-pharmacists in a high-demand American society who cannot get enough pills and vials for every type of discomfort, pain, relaxation, or pleasure make all the risks worthwhile to improve their own economic distress.
Human Trafficking For migrants entering illegally from Central America through Mexico to the U.S., surviving the days and nights in the desert is daunting, exhausting, and sometimes lethal. Yet, to flee the escalating violence in their native country they’ll pay Coyotes up to $5,000 upfront for ‘protection’ and a one-way attempt across the border. Along the way immigrants also face extortion, pathetic conditions, while young females are sometimes forced into global prostitution. For more detailed reports click hereand here. If they make a successful entry across the border and get to their final, main hub like Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Antonio, or Houston, the gang/cartel extorts another large fee of up to $3,500 – $5,000 for “employment hookups” with corrupt American business owners. More on this later.
For over two decades street gangs and crime syndicates or cartels have taken over the billion dollar human smuggling operation into the United States. The entire chain of illegal immigration from origin, to stash-houses (holding as many as 150 people in small 2-bedroom homes with no plumbing or electricity), to the next hub-transfer, to more stash-houses, to final destination, gangs, grey business groups, and cartels… here in the U.S. each are extortion setups for cash percentages. Everybody takes their large cut.
Over 62 illegal immigrants living in a Houston, TX stash-house for several weeks, 2017 – photo by U.S. I.C.E.
In a 2015 National Geographic investigative documentary, a 26-year old U.S. small business owner/contractor in Phoenix, AZ nicknamed Vicente, who has perfect English, told journalists how lucrative human trafficking works on the American side of the border:
As long as there is a hard border with a wall, no wall, threats from this President or that President, I.C.E, law-enforcement like Border Patrol, and an endless demand by American business owners wanting cheaper, cooperative, no hassles, blue-collar workers accepting minimum wage or less to work 12-16 hour days, and for no job health benefits, my life and family are good!
In fact, the harder the U.S. government makes it to cross, the more money I can demand and make! They keep me in business. And in D.C. when they demand less government intrusion into businesses and work operations, pass laws for more lax regulations and enforcement, that makes my job and money easier! [Vincente chuckles] Yeah, I’d be STUPID not to make fat cash like this. All the other American-born “taxi drivers” or human wranglers [also business owners/contractors] here I know have been doing this for generations. And this is just Phoenix! In the larger cities they rake in 2-3 times as much as I do! I want a piece of that American dream just like anyone else here… or coming here. To be honest, that dream is really a nightmare on BOTH sides of the border. But damn it sells; and for just about any amount.
Now that gangs and cartels are involved in every part of trafficking immigrants from origin to U.S. destination, any migrant that can’t pay or causes problems, gangs like Barrio 18 in Guatemala or Honduras will threaten or kill their family members back home until the debt is paid in full. When the operation goes difficult or bad, money is not the only tender—children or teen-girls are bartered throughout the gang/cartel systems as sexual commodities.
Regarding those aforementioned “employment hookups,” I personally have two cousins (Caucasian of course) near Austin, TX that have been in all aspects of the business-residential construction industry for all their lives—started out as 17-year olds with uncles. By 34 and 36 years old, they had their own official contracting businesses, one in plumping & electric, the other in residential and commercial landscaping. Both eventually progressed financially up into storage-unit facilities (several different locations), in particular RV & Boat storage for the highly popular, recreational lakes of Lake Travis, Lake Marble Falls, and Lake Georgetown. These three areas, as well as West Lake Hills and Rollingwood, are some of the wealthiest zip codes in the U.S., and certainly in Texas. My cousins are both in their early 50’s now and fully retired from their 30-years of work, the last 10-15 managing their hired supervisors. By the way, my cousins both speak decent Spanish, their “supervisors/foremen” are always bilingual.
After many family reunions that take an entire day to socialize, eat, drink, socialize more, eat more, drink more, and perhaps some games or dancing, I overheard and learned firsthand from these two cousins the tricks-of-the-trade and their yellow brick road to fortune and the high-life. Their success, fortune, and retirement was really made when they owned their contracting/sub-contracting businesses in construction and landscaping, most of it on the sweat and backs of a Hispanic labor-force who almost always accepted low wages (compared to Caucasian workers) and who demanded no health benefits for themselves or families. Wages and salaries, much less benefits, were NOT one of their biggest business expense. One reunion when asked indirectly how he avoided immigration problems he replied with a grin,
Who tha hell wants more government!? As long as we have under-staffed and under-funded State and Federal labor and immigration agencies (led by some we know personally) or are virtually non-existent agencies and staff that I don’t want to pay taxes for and try not to, and Texas stays Red and/or D.C. has a Red Administration and Congress, there’s no worries—the economy is great![he winked and smiled]
Needless to say, I didn’t need to ask what party-ticket he always voted for and supported. Just two more native Texans/Americans that fuel this ugly, inhumane BU Inc. For the appalling reality of official statistics, go here: The Facts of Human Trafficking. For an investigative look into human sex-trafficking going on inside the United States, like Phoenix, AZ, also a hub for illegal migrants, watch PBS Frontline Sex Trafficking in America.
When economic inequality is rising or high, other social and criminal problems follow. Street gangs, pimps and international drug cartels require untraceable guns to enforce their activity. Enter the booming black market of ghost guns: an illegitimate exact replica that has no ballistic record and has never been serialized. Hence, governments and law-enforcement have no records, and background checks on buyers are completely bypassed. For felons with history and illegal operations this is the only means of acquiring weapons. With recent technology in metal-milling just about anyone over the age of 12 can now make firearms at home. This is exactly what 17-year oldAlwin Chen built himself and regularly carried inside his Clarksburg High School in Maryland.
Imagine for a minute that you are born into a very impoverished, violent crime-ridden neighborhood anywhere in the world, including the highest violent-crime cities in the United States like St. Louis, MO, Detroit, MI, Baltimore, MA, and Memphis, TN (2017 stats)… the nation’s top four lethal metro areas respectively. Economic, occupational, and mental-illness programs are either non-existent or extremely under-funded and under-staffed. This leaves most all residents with very few legitimate options to earn enough to pay rent and utilities just to barely get by. The more convenient choices for better money (but with a low education-level) are illegal choices. For a 13-year old Guatemalan boy whose parents and siblings were threatened or executed by street gangs and drug cartels, if he didn’t work for them, what would you do to save the lives of your family?
Street and drug gangs in corrupt, poor, violent Central American countries as well as in Mexico and the United States, e.g. Fresno, CA, home of the Fresno Bulldogs, usually buy with their Black Underground earnings ghost guns or “burner guns” to protect, maintain, and enforce their illegal business operations against other cartels/gangs and law-enforcement. Homemade ghost guns today are now the gang’s and syndicate’s bread and butter, their Savior of convenience with no serialization or backgrounds. Clean weapons.
Wealthy, well-supported pro-gun, 2nd Amendment fanatics, retailers, gun-shop owners, and national weapons organizations all lobby heavily in Washington, D.C., to keep regulation of weapons and weapon-sales to the “general public” either non-existent or very minimal/lax. When all the past chronic gun problems and legal issues of weapons manufacturing fade away—because producing them in your home-garage, or inside the cartel’s and hidden warehouses/stores of street gangs is too easy, more profitable—ghost gun milling will (and has already started) replace such traditional brand-names as Smith & Wesson, Heckler & Koch, Sig Sauer, Colt Defense, and many others. The only effective defense against such a future, extensively weaponized, trigger-happy armed society will be a total ban on gun-part sales.
Sadly, even a drastic nationwide ban on the sell of gun-parts won’t stop home-made produced weapons getting into the hands of 13-year old boys from extremely destitute families, homes, and neighborhoods or violent gangs and cartels, no matter what country is poor or wealthy, corrupt or compassionate, civilized or uncivilized. The genies will be out of the bottles. They will be near impossible to put back in unless Congressional countermeasures are swift and atomically comprehensive.
Human Organ Trade Of all the fourteen tentacles of this Black Underworld market, the human organ trade is one of the most despicable black markets in existence for me personally. But for desperate impoverished people, severe desperation causes people to do unthinkable desperate acts. Once again, gross economic inequality creates yet another inhumane market: the buying and selling of human body-parts. Whether the donor is alive and consenting or not, doesn’t necessarily matter to the business dealers.
With legal supply unable to meet demand, the black market organ trade is thriving, and crime syndicates with global reach pocket millions from the desperately poor. Kidneys and livers grab some of the highest dollar amounts because they are 2-of-5 organs most vital to sustained life.
The international organ trade links the incapacity of national health care systems to meet the needs of patients with the lack of appropriate regulatory frameworks or implementation elsewhere. It exploits these discrepancies and is based on global inequities. Accordingly, the growth and regularization of the international organ trade should be regarded as a global public health issue.
What part does the U.S. play in this global public health issue? The 2009 arrest of 44 people in New Jersey working in and knowingly benefiting from trafficking human organs shined a dark light on a growing, gross exploitation of health and economic inequities, in the U.S. and around the world. Wealthy patients pay top-dollar for organs from poor third-world residents and the 2009 arrests revealed only one out of many crime-rings of organ brokers operating within our country. Levy Rosenbaum, a rabbi in Brooklyn, NY and Finder-Middleman between donors, surgeons, and recipients boasted to the FBI agents he had been operating in this market for over 10-years. After serving about 2-years in prison, Rosenbaum was released.
Why would anyone get involved in this black market of human body-parts? The graphic below illustrates why.
Dr. Nancy Scheper-Hughes of the Dept. of Anthropology at the University of California-Berkeley is perhaps the most renown advocate and activist against human organ trafficking. In an April 2016 interview, Dr. Scheper-Hughes stated:
…some of the U.S.’s topmost medical facilities have been caught with illegally trafficked organs. Scheper-Hughes has tracked organs to hospitals and medical centers in New York, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, among other places. At one point, she found herself across the table from a group of organ transplant surgeons at a top Philadelphia hospital.
In the shadows of these transplant operations are the organized crime syndicates using many deceptive illegal scams. Sometimes they’ll convince the target they have a (false) medical issue, get them to a clinic, put them (forceably?) under anesthesia and remove the organ(s) they seek. Other means are promising a large cash payoff and some aftercare treatment… but after its removal. Then they short-change the donor and offer no rehab afterwards. In most of these 3rd world countries, the poor and powerless can do nothing.
Once the syndicates have the fresh organs, they fetch anywhere between $20,000 to $200,000 per organ depending on its destination country and wealth of the patient. The donors rarely receive $5,000 for their naivety. Organ brokers deal with anyone around the world and put them in touch with “broker-friendly” surgeons and hospitals in developed countries like the U.S., Canada, or China… wherever top-dollar is acquired. Many U.S. hospitals and doctors, says Scheper-Hughes, either ignore the organ’s point of origin or how, they simply don’t ask, or pretend the black organ trade doesn’t exist. Many doctors and hospitals knowingly get involved for the big cash-payoff, which in turn requires “experts” in laundering that income. They often justify/defend their illegal behavior, like Levi Rosenbaum remarked, by stating How is saving a life a crime?
Perhaps one of the most maligned, indignant defenses or justifications for participating in and promotion of organ trafficking is conveyed by author and investigative journalist Alison Weir regarding Scheper-Hughes’ assistance in the 2009 New Jersey arrests:
When the [New Jersey] events became public, [Scheper-Hughes] said that much of the world’s illicit traffic in kidneys could be traced to Israel. In a 2008 lecture, she is reported as identifying two motivations of Israeli traffickers as “greed” and “Revenge, restitution—reparation for the Holocaust.” She is reported as describing speaking with Israeli brokers who told her “it’s kind of ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We’re going to get every single kidney and liver and heart that we can. The world owes it to us.’”
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In my final part five, the Conclusion, I want to further explore how chronic poverty and socioeconomic inequality (America’s desperate and/or homeless) is not only a petri-dish for extreme exploitation of the needy and Have-nots by the criminal Black Underworld as we’ve seen in these four parts, but more importantly in the end, in the long-run, costs everybody in a town, community, state, and nation—especially the U.S. with its exorbitant wealth among the top 10% of its population—no matter your social-economic class, status, or public image! You cannot buy yourself out of it or buy exclusivity from it. Everybody ends up paying for the cumulatively self-perpetuated crime, despair, and poverty in one way or another. Period.
I hope you’ll stay tuned for the Conclusion. Meanwhile, please do share any thoughts or questions in the comment-section below. Thanks.
In Part II of Black Underworld Inc., the economic repercussions of foreign and American exploitation in Central America has sired many, if not most of our modern illegal immigration-refugee problems at our southern border. Economic indicators over 35-years show substantial income per capita inequality in Texas, the state that makes up half of the southern border as well as one of four states that immigrants-refugees might first enter. The reality is most illegal immigrants enter the U.S. through points-of-entry like airports and seaports, and stay well beyond their visas when here then disappear into the general population. A tiny percentage actually gain entrance through our southern border.
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics there are five (5) sectors driving the current national economy and have been for many years. Construction and Retail/Service are #3 and #4 respectively. Both of these U.S. industries illegally hire tens of thousands of low-wage workers via contractors, subcontractors, by mid-size and small businesses. Mega-corporations rarely do because they are high profile and therefore utilize buffer methods, or scapegoat contractors. In Texas and the U.S. this unprincipled, illegal labor finessing has become a booming underworld relationship, benefiting America’s upper 10% – 20% along with the mega-corporations or companies they own or are employed by.
The fact that the other three big driving GDP sectors of the U.S. economy—healthcare, technology, and non-durable manufacturing—demand highly educated, degreed, sector-specific experienced workers able to garner high wages. This trend has another domino effect. Sparse high-wage jobs channel most U.S. citizens or Texans without the under or post-grad degrees, or impeccable industry-experience into low-wage construction or retail/service occupations once again profiting the upper 1% – 20% of the nation’s population. This in turn contributes to America’s amassing economic inequality and a host of other domestic hardships and unlawful markets.
The More Extreme the Inequality, the More Extreme the Converse Abuses and Crimes
The majority of the U.S. economic wealth in 2014 was accumulated in 18 firms or corporations. The Hill reports:
[Those 18 firms hold] 36 percent of all wealth last year, a jump from 27 percent in 2009 with the gap expected to widen further, according to a report from Standard & Poor’s, a New York-based credit rater.
That means that out of a record $1.53 trillion in cash and short-term investments held by U.S. corporations the wealthiest 18 held about $535 billion.
“In our view, current U.S. corporate tax policy and accommodating credit market conditions have been primarily responsible for this growing wealth gap,” the report said.
Furthermore, the wealthiest top 20 percent held 89 percent of total cash, leaving only 11 percent for the bottom 80 percent of firms.
The top 1 percent are mostly investment-grade businesses — Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Apple, Oracle, Ford, Coca-Cola and Boeing — and are concentrated in technology and healthcare industries.
By utilizing advantages of foreign deposits and other minor investments, these 18 wealthiest corporations mostly or completely avoid their ethical and taxable obligations back home.
The corporate analysis shows that the top 1 percent gets about 55 percent of its revenues offshore, and that more than half of the cash flow is generated overseas, as well.
That cash is rarely brought onshore because of the U.S.’s 35 percent tax rate, which would be on top of the taxes paid in the country in which the revenue was generated.
“As a result, overseas cash continues to accumulate untouched,” the report said.
Before stepping into the lethal venomous part of BU Inc., it is critical for readers to fully grasp the gravity of obscured, illegal American labor practices and abuses onto economically average and below-average Texas and U.S. citizens. This cannot exclude exploitation of abundant undocumented workers and the corporate evading of fair, compulsory reinvestment back into our nation’s general well-being via effective statutory tax rates. I am hence obliged to drive home how grim this toxic disparity has become, how misconstrued Americans perceive it and the ulcerating consequences of the American (and Texas) naïvety or shirking of the elephant in the room.
In order for a single person to live alone safely and comfortably in 50 of the biggest U.S. cities one must earn (in 2014) an average of $57,879 per annum—in Texas’ seven largest cities it is an average per annum of $50,686 with San Antonio the lowest and Houston the highest, $46,238 and $60,795 respectively. As I noted in Part II, the per capita annual income of Texans in 2017 was only $28,985 for about roughly ±25-million Texans. The American population, according to a 2011 study, of any political persuasion grossly underplays the nation’s true wealth inequality.
And so as the elephant of growing severe inequality continues to lounge unimpeded in our room of false patriotic optimism, then the horrors of the darkest parts of BU Inc. here in our own backyard will continue to feast and cannibalize our malnourished middle and lower classes.
Essentially, the wealthy possess greater financial opportunities that allow their money to make more money. Earnings from the stock market or mutual funds are reinvested to produce a larger return. Over time, the sum that is invested becomes progressively more substantial. Those who are not wealthy, however, do not have the resources to enhance their opportunities and improve their economic position. Rather, “after debt payments, poor families are constrained to spend the remaining income on items that will not produce wealth and will depreciate over time.” Scholar David B. Grusky notes that “62 percent of households headed by single parents are without savings or other financial assets.” Net indebtedness generally prevents the poor from having any opportunity to accumulate wealth and thereby better their conditions. —Causes of Wealth Inequality, Wikipedia, accessed Feb. 24, 2019
Whether the abuses and crimes take place on this side of our southern border or just across it in Mexico or clear down to Colombia in South America and everywhere in between—a small part in a enormous picture is not a “crisis” and especially not a national emergency—then we native-born U.S. citizens, our corporations, and our federal and state governments have a major role in how we address, reduce, and cure ourselves of the venom and pestilence we have helped create and sustain. Vague political rhetoric does not make the beast go away.
Tentacles of Our BU Inc. Monster
There are at least fourteen (14) known tentacles to this insatiable monster. Its den of Lords, its associates and offspring are too numerous to count and as difficult to identify. Ignored for so many decades and as many to prepare and countervail, the BU Inc. beast has slithered into a litany of feeding grounds. Some are familiar I assume, others maybe not so much:
I will probe only five of these tentacles since there is not enough time to probe all fourteen and I could not do each justice and the exposure they deserve in this series. However, if you would like to read brief summaries of the other nine black (tentacle) markets then click here. Following are the five I believe harbor, amplify, and distribute plutocracy, not democracy, increased tyranny and the worst of human trauma and suffering to disadvantaged millions and their families. That in turn rewards the few BU Inc. kings, lords, their associates and spawn. As I soon conclude this 5-part series, next in Part IV then five, will be close up ugly and frightful looks into America’s illegal gambling, phony pharma, human trafficking, ghost guns, and the human organ trade. The nemesising black byproducts of America’s unlawful corporate grey market.
And in my conclusion (Part V) I will share some of my one-on-one personal stories of three homeless people (out of ten) I spoke with over the last 12-months. Just over a mile away from where I currently live is a part of Dallas called Preston Hollow. Further up a bit is North Dallas where the Dallas North Tollway cuts through on its way to Addison and Frisco, Texas, two suburbs that are some of the wealthiest in the DFW Metroplex. Barely over 1,400 feet from me to the south then east of 75/Central Expressway is a large number of rotating, roaming homeless persons.
I met six of them at one nearby convenient store where they often loiter hoping to receive money or food and drink. The other four I met were not too far away either. There I often purchase my car’s gasoline at another convenient store that borders one of our many city public transit rail-stations. In this area are two or three times as many homeless people roaming and loitering for the exact same help. The stark demarcations of haves and have nots within a 2 ½ square mile area is remarkable and curious. I hope you can return to read their personal stories that speak directly to what my BU Inc. series reveals: how and why these underworld markets thrive and who suffers.
Previously in Part I we learned that what happened then—119-years ago in our Pan-American hemisphere—ripple-effects what happens now and into the near and not-so-distant future both in prosperous and horrible ways. Part I was the more visible and dirty, complex public domain where historical facts and political motivations are not always freely attained nor aggressively sought by the average American. Here with Part II let’s follow the Pan-American histories of the 19th and early 20th century and examine what is going on today on the north side of our nation’s southern border.
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Involved with the North American FTA’s covered in Part I and their decades socioeconomic impact on Caribbean and Latin American nations (CLAN) are the foreign corporation’s abilities to conquer the CLAN’s through Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanisms. There are two development distinctions between politicized “economic development” and how much of that development by foreign “investments” are really stimulating and occurring inside the CLAN’s, or not, and how much “foreign stimulus” is benefiting the investing, foreign corporate pacts. From Dr. Walter Ferrier, University of Kentucky:
Through the 1990s, foreign multinational corporations (MNCs) seemed unrelenting in their quest to invest in and conquer this culturally rich land of more than 500 million people, upwardly mobile consumers, and promising industrial markets. Between 1991 and 2001, the ownership of the 500 largest companies in Latin America changed dramatically, with non-Latin multinational ownership growing to 39 percent from 27 percent. (see Exhibit 1 and 2 below.) The rising foreign competition pressured local Latin companies, which historically served only their home-country markets, to consolidate and expand into other Latin American countries, transforming themselves into “multilatinas.” —Multinationals vs. Multilatinas: Latin America’s Great Race,Gatton College of Business & Economics, University of Kentucky
Also mentioned in Part I, the Latin populace rightly protested in the streets against foreign Multinational FTA’s (and BIT’s) that ultimately did benefit those foreign interests. Since 2009 Multilatina investment pacts are slowly able to acquire some CLAN foothold, but in doing so they become competitive threats to powerful American and foreign investment groups and their international law firms.
However, to date few local Latin firms have taken on the world or tried to create large multilatinas. In fact, very few Latin American companies earn more than 50 percent of their revenue outside their domestic market. […]
The post-2000 stock market collapse, currency devaluations, mounting political disorder, and the prospect of defaults on debt obligations have considerably reduced both the rate and the value of foreign investment in Latin America. —Multinationals vs. Multilatinas: Latin America’s Great Race,Gatton College of Business & Economics, University of Kentucky
Since the early and mid-20th century, perhaps too going back to the Age of Imperialism, Latin America’s and the Caribbean’s prosperity has essentially been dictated or at minimum heavily influenced by North American and European interests and their own economic stability or volatility and recessions. This 118-years of exploitation created the modern Black Underworld Inc., then creating further repercussions domestically to the USA. What are some examples of those American-made repercussions?
Big Texas and American Businesses Perpetuate BU Inc.
It’s the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. We live in a society where we don’t really want to acknowledge that… precisely because business depends on those workers. —Bill Beardall, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Center – Austin, TX
Minimum wage in Texas is $7.25 per hour, $290 per 40-hour week, or just $15,080 per year. This wage was last changed in 2008 from $6.55 per hour. The vast majority of the jobs that pay minimum wage are food preparation/servers, restaurant dishwashers, retail cashiers, hosts or hostesses, cinema ushers/ticket-takers, and farm workers (any farm). Just 19-years ago it was $3.35 in 2000. The latest Texas per capita income (2017), in other words for legal, documented citizens was $28,985 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That figure amounts to a $13.93 per hour wage. Texas has a minimum (legal) population of 28,300,000 assessed in 2017. According to the U.S. Census Bureau 6.3% of that 28-million people (i.e. just 1.8 million people) earn over $200,000 per year, or a $98.16 per hour wage.
Yes, the economic inequality or simply the buying power of those 26.5 million average Texas consumer-laborers (see this Texas Tribune article) is frankly atrocious by American standards, particularly in light of rising housing and living costs in an economic model that in so many ways favors and rewards wealth (or proven credit) with more wealth/credit. Texas’ disproportionate wages does not include those wages of the border states: southern California, Arizona, or New Mexico.
And yet despite the wage disparity, oddly enough the U.S. apparently has a big illegal, undocumented immigrant and refugee crisis according to Conservative Republican rhetoric reports, but more bizarre is that we have no hiring or labor crisis. To be honest, in the entire context “border security” immigration is just a small component of a bigger dynamic, but it is not a crisis, much less a National Emergency. What the causes are is never quick or simple to pinpoint. It’s not just one cause either.
No Shortage of Low-Wage Jobs for Illegal Immigrants-Refugees
Within the larger historical political context the United States has a significant debt and responsibility to many decades of political and financial instability/poverty in the Caribbean and Central America since 1901. Recently, one of the major contributing factors of illegal immigrant entrances—that many erroneously describe as a “crisis”—is the constant available work undocumented Latinos and Afro-Caribbeans can easily find throughout the U.S. and here in Texas. Unauthorized immigrants are constantly “hired” illegally by Texas employers and businesses. The current enabling by American-Texas illegal hiring practices creates a non-stop merry-go-round of U.S. invite, seduced migration then/or deportation, and false work/reward dreams to Latinos going back to 1992, but in several ways even to the 1980’s with Ronald Reagan’s overt and covert interventions in Latin America.
As reported by one of the nation’s most unbiased news and media organizations, The Texas Tribune, in 2016 – 2017 launched an investigative project over several months into U.S. border security, immigration, the reality and the rhetoric. Their findings in “Bordering on Insecurity” are painfully sobering and about as far away from patriotic pride as an American could ever muster, unless hypocritically mustered. I will briefly pull from this outstanding and extensive report.
Let’s not forget that our U.S. Capitol building, the White House, and many buildings and landmarks in Washington D.C. and throughout the entire U.S. proper—most of the fifty States—heavy hard labor and construction inside the ‘Land of the Beautiful’ was mostly done on the backs of slaves and minorities. During modern times of prosperity, booming business and economic stimuli, certain disadvantaged ethnic groups still do all the hard labor for exploitative wages and labor abuses by their supervisors and employers:
Though it’s illegal, brothers Israel and José Martinez [native Mexicans] have no shortage of work, moving from one construction job to the next in the ongoing building boom of Central Texas. They’ve worked on homes in affluent communities along the Upper Colorado River and renovated sprawling apartments in North Austin. They were on a crew that erected a new health center at a high-end retirement community, and as expert masons have built luxury pools, interior chimneys and backyard grilling stations. […]
In all their years in Texas, Israel and José — pseudonyms, since both asked that their real names not be published — have experienced a lot. One thing they say they haven’t seen: U.S. citizens doing the heavy lifting on construction projects.
“We’ve never seen any Americans carrying cement, picking up stone, working from sunup to sundown,” Israel said. “Never.”
This is the economic and social reality in which the brothers, and millions of other unauthorized immigrants, find themselves — a country so reliant on cheap labor that substantial portions of the economy are built largely on the backs of immigrants willing to do work most Americans won’t, and for lower pay. —Bordering on Insecurity, The Texas Tribune by Travis Putnam Hill, December 2016
Because of Wild Wild West circumvention, good ole boy private agreements, and rear-door activities by (usually) well-educated or street-smart, unscrupulous, native-born American big business owners and supervisors, they’ve learned over decades how to finish “under budget and before deadlines.” With this success comes higher motivation for repeating their illegal rewards for the project-foremen and upper/middle management, and habits are formed blatantly bypassing lawful prohibitions of hiring workers illegally. Next, their competitors duplicate the illegal methods and work abuses to stay in the game of hyper-capitalism… and the vicious cycle continues. Much of the time these native-born American and Texas executives and hiring managers silently know, before and during work projects, that casual oversight in hiring and paycheck finagling are not only illegal, but they also ignore the long-term DAMAGE to many American principles and values. More audacious is that these same good ole boys publicly and “patriotically” rally and campaign for diversionary “problems” in election years. The rally speeches are all the same, the usual vague, oversimplified political rhetoric from candidates. But the damages and the ignored red-white-blue “elephant in the room,” as Beardall described, do not stop there.
Another negative side-effect from these native-born patriotic American business owner’s/employer’s and their subversive double-standard practices cheat all American citizens out of public state and federal tax-funded services and programs:
Many undocumented immigrants also find informal work paid in cash under the table, often at rates far below minimum wage, and the employer can pretend they were never hired.
Operating in the shadows of this clandestine labor market puts the workers in a vulnerable position: Yes, jobs are plentiful, but only in exchange for working long hours for low pay and little recourse against unscrupulous employers who cheat or exploit them. —Bordering on Insecurity, The Texas Tribune by Travis Putnam Hill, December 2016
And these unethical, illegal practices by (advantaged, wealthy, white?) American and Texas business owners and supervisors create more negative ripple-effects of social, economic, domestic, and illegally explicit temptations and behaviors. These are the native-born Americans with criminal records and/or ties to organized crime-groups which prey upon the thousands of undocumented immigrants. The snaring of illegal, struggling immigrant workers fuel increased problems of drug addiction/abuse, drug dealing or running, further public mental-health problems—due to state or county clinic’s following proper, legal admission protocols so they go back out to the streets—and prostitution and/or sex-trafficking.
The Martinez brothers in the Tribune’s article are fortunate. They are mobile when they recognize employer abuses. The brothers state repeatedly just how ‘easy and endlessly available the service or construction jobs were to find.’ The never-ending availability of low-wage jobs is due in large part because the vast majority of college-educated young Americans are not seeking low-wage jobs after 4-5 years of going into thousands of dollars of debt or spending it to acquire their Bachelor’s degree. It was easy for Israel and José to work multiple 10-12 hour a day jobs, 365 days a year. However, as state and federal immigration policies become increasingly strict, he and his brother had to adapt or counter the new, stricter policies and laws:
[Now] they have to get past the laws that forbid their being hired. For many undocumented immigrants, that path forward is through fraudulent documents.
“The workers present false documents of the kind that the law requires the employer to inspect,” said Bill Beardall, executive director of the Equal Justice Center, a nonprofit law firm that represents low-wage workers, many of whom are undocumented, in employment rights disputes. “Now, the employers know this. The workers know this. The prohibition on hiring undocumented workers has stimulated the growth of that whole industry in creating false documents.” —Bordering on Insecurity, The Texas Tribune by Travis Putnam Hill, December 2016
Yes indeed, today large American and Texas corporation CEO’s, department Heads, Hiring Managers and Supervisors are for the most part familiar with the numerous benefits of low-wage illegal workers laundered through (sketchy) subcontractors. There are many who are so familiar with hiring and labor laws they know what not to see, hear, read or inspect closely. They also understand the buffering benefits of having scapegoats, ala Senior Executive Bunny Greenhouse of the USACE, Lt. Colonel Oliver North and National Security Advisor John Poindexter, Capt. Charles McVay of the USS Indianapolis, or famously PI Bryan Wagner employed by Board Member/External Director Patricia Dunn of Hewlett-Packard, or more famously Kareem Serageldin of the Credit Suisse Group.
As the nation’s 39th ranked company in total revenues on the 2018 list of Fortune 500 American corporations, the Target Corporation and its many subsidiaries is the 8th largest retailer in the U.S. As of Sept. 2018 Target had 1,839 stores across the USA with 148 in Texas.
In 2004 or 2005 an Austin-area Target store hired/contracted a local janitorial-cleaning company, Jim’s Maintenance, to clean bathrooms, take out garbage, wash windows and carpets, and polish floors to a reflective white sheen, something the Target Corporation publicly prides itself. An undocumented Mexican immigrant nicknamed “Chunco” had been working for several contractors cleaning Target stores. Chunco told The Texas Tribune that all the cleaning-janitorial workers he’s ever known in those 12-years are illegal immigrants. They go in the stores between 10 and 11pm and are scheduled to leave between 7 or 8am on company records. However, he said, that rarely happened.
Target night managers locked them in and they couldn’t leave until a walk-through inspection by the manager was completed, usually well after 8:30 or 9am. Working this way in the wee-hour shadows puts Chunco and fellow immigrant workers at risk for exploitation. They were hired by Austin-area contractors and companies with full unspoken knowledge and oversight they were or might be unauthorized to work in the U.S. and Texas. Many times Chunco reported that he and fellow custodians were paid less than minimum wage and no overtime pay for working 7-day work weeks.
“We’ve realized that[employers]prefer us for being undocumented because we just keep our heads down to get jobs,” Chunco said. “[We]can’t afford to complain. They take advantage of us being undocumented.”
Chunco and 28 other custodians represented legally by the Equal Justice Center filed a lawsuit against Target and Jim’s Maintenance for unpaid wages and overtime. Despite the fact that it was Target night managers letting the workers in back doors late at night, directing them what to do for 10- or 12-hour shifts and letting them out the back doors late into the following morning, attorneys for the large retail corporation claimed they were not co-employers with Jim’s Maintenance. The case was eventually settled out of court in 2008. Jim’s Maintenance, however, had already been put out of business in 2006 because Target terminated its contract with him and withheld $496,000 in fees owed to Jim’s for its services. This buffering tactic has sometimes been called scapegoat contracting.
Executive Director of Austin’s Equal Justice Center Bill Beardall talked about how disadvantaged workers like Chunco are not informed by native Texas (or American) business owners and contractors of any labor rights they actually do possess:
“Employment rights apply equally to all workers, regardless of their immigration status,” Beardall said. “The problem is most undocumented workers don’t know that, and employers may not know that. If they do know that, they will nevertheless use those workers’ vulnerable immigration status to discourage them from enforcing their rights.”
The H.E.B. Grocery Co. is a supermarket chain I am very familiar with; it was founded in 1905 in my Mom’s 20-year hometown of Kerrville, Texas, now based in San Antonio, Texas. Today H.E.B. and its many subsidiaries, including in Mexico, has 350+ locations with over $21-billion in revenues in 2018. According to the National Retail Federation’s 2017 ranking of retail stores, H.E.B. ranked 20th in the USA. Like the Target Corporation, H.E.B. also practices in scapegoat contractors.
In 2012, produce workers filed a class action lawsuit against Pastrana’s Produce and H.E.B. for cheating them out of minimum wages and overtime pay. As in the case with Target, the H.E.B.-Pastrana’s undocumented workers worked long 10-12 hour shifts and frequently 7-day work weeks. And…
As in the Target case, lawyers from the Equal Justice Center argued that the workers were jointly employed by H-E-B and Pastrana’s because they were a vital part of H-E-B’s business. They worked only in stores owned by H-E-B and under supervision of H-E-B managers, who determined their work hours and daily production.
Once again this case was also settled out of court with H.E.B. shouldering no responsibility for their ties and contract with Pastrana’s Produce. What is more aggravating to note is that in both of these cases the immigration status of the plaintiffs was never a concern in the court case! Care to guess why?
Consequently, like hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants and refugees, construction workers Israel and José Martinez step closer into illicit, illegal activity to keep jobs and keep working. Chunco is still cleaning the exact same bathrooms and floors of Austin-Target stores he always has for the last 14-years with a host of custodial companies all contracted by Target, but below minimum wage and still 10-12 hour shifts with no overtime pay. Yet, in their native countries everyone knows work in the U.S. is very easy to come by. So they come. And keep coming because the standard of living in their hometown or city is much worse and in many cases has been as far back as 1901, as covered in Part I.
Added Dec. 13, 2019: North Texas construction company owners charged for continuing to employ undocumented workers, reads the Dec. 13, 2019 Dallas Morning News headline. It goes on to say:
For the second time in as many months, a North Texas business has been accused of defying the government by continuing to employ undocumented workers despite being caught in the act and agreeing to fire them.
Four corporate officers of Speed Fab-Crete in Kennedale[just south of Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex]admitted in court papers to shifting their undocumented workers to a staffing company instead of firing them — one year after an I-9 audit first exposed hiring problems. The plea documents say the defendants hid their continued employment of 23 undocumented employees.
For these immigrant workers and thousands of others who can find abundant work, but want some protection from exploitative Texas and American contractors, better hours, and better pay, they then slip into another side of a growing profiteering equation, the underground market of forged and falsified documents and I.D.’s. For each work document or I.D. a forger charges $100 – $1,000. This puts them at risk for another type of exploitation. But Israel and José Martinez are men. Associating with and having to depend on certain mechanisms and unethical or abusive people in positions of power over their American dreams, or its dormancy, or detection and arrest. It is a racket with daily temptations for the American-Texas extortionist or blackmailer. And these vulnerabilities for illegal, but hired workers are significantly higher for female teenagers and women, and possibly their children.
The Effectiveness of a Great Wall of China
On a final note, when there are hundreds to thousands of American corporations, business owners, upper and middle management supervisors/foremen illegally hiring undocumented immigrants—either directly or through scapegoat contractors—and have been doing it since at least the late 1990’s, what is any practical use of a fixed, and quite permeable 1,954 mile Medieval wall when American big businesses are (allowed) happy to give illegal immigrants jobs? A near 2,000 mile symbolic hurdle seems insanely asinine to me.
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In Part III I want to further peel back the uglier, illegal black market a majority of every day Americans know little about, are too busy and/or naïve to connect all the dots of how their own business-as-usual consumer-values and American corporate profit-models fueled and have sustained the inhumane virulent tri-continental black market. It gets worse.