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The [Sunday] Papers

The important news in the Sunday papers is about immigration, baseball, and the American worker. Kind of like a Lou Dobbs show. Only with baseball.

In the Sweet Spot: The Chicago Sun-Times did the logical journalistic thing Sunday by jumping on and localizing the hottest issue in America, producing a front page "special report" on immigration called "Illegal in Chicago."

The paper told its main story through the eyes of Martin Barrios, a 35-year-old father of three kids (all American citizens because they were born here) who escaped a life of poverty in Zacatecas, Mexico, when he was 16.

"He walked away from Zacatecas--like his older brother before him--over a mountain pass, up a riverbank and through an avocado field toward opportunity," writes Mark Konkol.

"That is my only crime," Barrios told Konkol.

When Barrios first arrived in Chicago, he started working as a dishwasher and cook at Raymond's Tacos in Pilsen. Now he is a quality control manager at Sara Lee making $13.77 an hour.

But Barrios, who lives in a Berwyn bungalow with his wife and kids, faces deportation even after spending $32,000, apparently on lawyers according to Konkol's report, to gain citizenship.

Konkol nicely fills in the statistical background. For example, those who suppose that the immigration issue is largely one for the Southwestern border states might be interested to know that Illinois ranks sixth in the nation in the number of illegal immigrants, and fourth in the nation in the percentage growth of illegal immigrants since 1990.

"There's not a person in Illinois who has not benefitted from [illegal immigrants'] work," Josh Hoyt, the executive director of the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, told Konkol.

"In Illinois, immigrants account for a huge chunk of restaurant and food-service industry employees," Konkol writes. "In fact, about a quarter of managers are foreign born, according to [a] Pew [Hispanic Center] study."

Scott Fornek contributes with a reconstruction of how the 100,000-strong rally downtown last month came together. Lynn Sweet examines the prospects of congressional legislation--including a new "whispered solution" called Do Nothing--on the front cover of the paper's Controversy section. Readers respond to Mary Mitchell's column last week suggesting young black American males caught up in the drug trade receive an amnesty similar to what some illegal immigrants may receive--and she responds back.

Over at The Blue One: Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune also published a front page story on Sunday about the desperate hopes of those south of the border hoping to make a life in America: Cubans. Which is a fine--if familiar--story as far as it goes, but hello? Not even a mention of how the so-called "rafters" fit into the current, raging immigration debate, much less a front page story about the current, raging immigration debate.

The Big Missing Piece: Perhaps I've missed it but in all the immigration stories I've been reading, I've yet to see a simple account of how the present laws work. If Martin Barrios, for example, "played by the rules" instead of illegally entering the country, would he have made it here? Just what are those rules? And what would happen if we did have "open borders" without a quota system and other restrictions? What if we let everyone in but registered them at the border?

This story is larger than the one framed by current congressional proposals and the agendas of those driving them.

Homer Hanky's
All six Tribune writers polled in the paper's baseball preview picked the White Sox to win their division, while three picked them to repeat as World Series champions. The Sun-Times had three writers make predictions; each picked the Sox to win the division and two of the three picked them to again win the World Series.

But veteran baseball writer Murray Chass of The New York Times is smarter than them all. Chass writes: "Forget the White Sox. They are last year's news. This year they will be lucky to make it out of the division."

Instead, Chass sees the division going to the Minnesota Twins, and quotes Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro as saying the Twins are "the most overlooked team in the majors."

Aaron Error
If the White Sox don't repeat, one reason may be their trading away of centerfielder Aaron Rowand, according to this story in Sunday's New York Times.

Crud Light
William Zolla II, of Chicago, had this letter to the Sun-Times published on Sunday: "Like the Cubs, I am 'proud to have the prestigious Bud Light brand' serving as the exclusive sponsor of the Wrigley Field Bleachers. I'm sure others will agree that when thinking of Bud Light, the first words that often come to mind are 'prestigious,' 'classy,' and 'sophisticated.' Now fans can purchase a $40 bleacher seat for twice that amount from the Cubs' in-house scalping operation, drink $7 cans of warm Bud Light in the 'Bud Light Bleachers' and watch a mediocre team. I look forward to the day that I can enjoy a game with my daughter from the scenic heights of the 'Hooters Upper Deck Box Seats.'"

In fact, Mr. Zolla, the Hooters Upper Deck Box Seats aren't the only possibility still on the table for Tribune Company. In light of Wall Street's pressure on Tribune to unlock value, look for the whole joint to be synergized to within an inch of its life. For example, maybe Ask Amy can sponsor Dusty Baker's errors in judgement. Tom Skilling could produce injury forecasts far more accurate than what we get now. Kerry Wood could be put to work on a blog 'cause he always has a lot of free time during the season.

Send me your ideas for how Tribune can further synergize and sponsor up Wrigley Field and the Cubs.

And Dear Tribune Company: Is there anything at Wrigley Field not for sale? Seriously, provide us with a list. If I don't get one I'll assume the answer is that nothing is untouchable, including the infield dirt.

The American Worker
Remember the NAFTA debate about "free trade" versus "fair trade"? Well, wouldn't we be better off with those labor and environmental standards that the fair traders were arguing for? In other words, wouldn't the global economy work better if we raised everyone's wages instead of lowered them?

Yes, that would mean higher costs for employers. But it's not higher costs per se that is the problem; it's the lack of an even playing field. If everyone's costs were higher, there would be no such thing as higher costs.

Would the prices of goods rise? Marginally. But then, in a stronger economy consumers and workers would still be better off. And the pressures of global competitiveness would still be in play.

Finally, what if Steve Jobs took over General Motors? I have a feeling they'd be opening new plants in no time.

The Tribune's multimedia "Broken Heartland" package starts here.

Americans Idle, the new book by New York Times economics writer Louis Uchitelle, is reviewed here.

"Immigrants and the Economics of Hard Work" is here.

Our Tip Line does a job many Americans won't.


Posted on April 3, 2006

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