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John Florez: Immigrants always a good gamble

Published: Saturday, June 11 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

If gambling in Utah is illegal, how come farmers are still in business? They gamble on the weather, gamble on having a workforce, and still have to meet the bank loan payment.

Talk about betting the farm; they do it every year. And this year they have been hit with a tsunami, floods that have ruined the crops they planted with the money they borrowed, and not knowing whether they can count on having farm workers to harvest the crops that survive. On top of that they are subject to being raided, not by the local police, but by Homeland Security.

Our hearts go out to the real entrepreneurs — our farmers, growers, and dairy farmers who struggle to keep America's family farms producing our food supply; and who do it with the love they have for the land and the American tradition. You don't see them getting the "entrepreneur of the year" award; yet they represent the true American spirit, the willingness to risk, to work and to hope. They deserve our thanks and support, especially during the tough economic times our nation is undergoing.

It's one thing for farmers to be willing to gamble that Mother Nature will look kindly upon them, and another to have to fight employment policies, made by politicians, that work against them. Hounded by the Labor Department, one small business owner with MS who tried to keep the family business going after her husband died said it well. Appearing before a U.S. Senate committee hearing, she said, "Why do we have to fight our own government?"

The American spirit has been one of risking, pursuing one's dreams, yearning to forge new trails, and believing that with hard work and faith we could hope for a better tomorrow. While our entrepreneurs have learned to accept the cards Mother Nature deals them, they should not have to put up with policies humans make without caring about the general welfare of our nation and our people.

American employers always used their entrepreneurial instincts to retool to compete in their environment, including hiring foreign workers. Historically, the U.S. has seen immigrant labor as an economic and workforce solution in time of need — during World War II, in the face of crop failures, when people were needed to work in mines and for the building of railroads. With each wave of immigrants, the American economy became stronger, Utah included — with our miners, farmers, railroad workers, financiers, industrialists, and retailers (see The Peoples of Utah, by Helen Z. Papanikolas). America's leadership in innovation has been because of its ability to benefit from diverse cultures that renew the American spirit, the willingness to risk, to work and dream for a better future. It's found in our farmers, entrepreneurs, innovators, inventors and educators. They all are gamblers.

During tough times, such as we are now experiencing, Americans have always pulled together. We now find ourselves reaching for solutions for a world that is changing dramatically. As we agonize over an uncertain future, we are doing the human thing, finding blame and fomenting conflict with each other. Undocumented immigrants have become the easy target to blame; however, the more we talk and listen together, and lower the volume, the more understanding is fostered about our economic problems. As we publicly argue about our differences, we also find beauty and value in each of us with our varied strengths that have created our quality of life and Utah values.

We only need to look to those who settled this valley and made it blossom like a rose. They were immigrants, and the Native Americans did not ask for documentation. Hmm, maybe they were the first gamblers.

A Utah native, John Florez has been on the staff of Senator Orrin Hatch, was former Utah Industrial Commissioner and filled White House appointments — including Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor and Commission on Hispanic Education.

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