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about an unlucky Guatemalan made me so mad and sad that I had to write about it.

For 11 years, Pedro Zapeta, an illegal immigrant from Guatemala, lived his version of the American dream in Stuart, Florida: washing dishes and living frugally to bring money back to his home country. Two years ago, Zapeta was ready to return to Guatemala, so he carried a duffel bag filled with $59,000 — all the cash he had scrimped and saved over the years — to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

But when Zapeta tried to go through airport security, an officer spotted the money in the bag and called officials.

“They asked me how much money I had,” Zapeta recalled, speaking to CNN in Spanish.

He told the customs officials $59,000. At that point, U.S. customs seized his money, setting off a two-year struggle for Zapeta to get it back.

I am not a supporter of illegal immigration, but I think this hard working man was robbed in broad daylight. Currently he faces deportation and a Floridian judge has concluded his case and decided that the United States government is entitled to $49,000 of this man’s sweat equity. I personally didn’t know there was a law that says I can’t carry more than $10,000 of my own money out of the country without telling the government. If I did carry more than that amount, would the government also confiscate my money? Another thing I don’t understand is why didn’t they just inform him that he had to sign a form? He has not gone out of the airport and he should be able to obtain a form and fill it out. At first they detained him as a drug runner and held him on drug charges until he produced pay stubs proving he earned all the money through work. This means that even if Pedro declared his money the government probably would still have held him on bogus drug charges. How can any immigrant transport his/her own savings back to his country especially if it’s a country without a very secure banking system?

It makes me sad that Pedro is treated this way, and the fact is many immigrants in this country, whether legal or illegal, face many financial injustices. Here are a few of them that I am quite familiar with:

viagra ratings– In the CNN article it stated that Pedro never paid income taxes, but actually I think taxes were deducted from his pay because the Floridian Judge found that Pedro paid more taxes than he should. In the judge states:

The Court rejects the United States’ argument regarding tax evasion or other law violations allegedly committed by Claimant. As noted above, Claimant has not been charged with any crimes, and the evidence indicates that some taxes were in fact paid, when perhaps they did not need to be paid.

Pedro’s income was very low and Florida does not have state income taxes, so he probably did not have to pay any federal income taxes if he did file. Like Pedro, a lot of immigrants pay more taxes to the United States coffers than they should. For example, if any immigrant is paying for social security and medicare taxes and intend to go back to their home countries then they will forfeit 100% of their money. A lot of immigrants are also not extremely knowledgeable about taxes and do not file their taxes either out of fear or ignorance. In fact, if they did file their taxes some of the lower income immigrants will get a return. I also think it’s an injustice that the Internal Revenue Service can classify you as an US person for tax purposes while the Immigration and Naturalizaion Service has not yet given you permanent residency or citizenship. Myself and others I know have been in this situation where we paid all the same taxes that a citizen pays without knowing whether or not we can actually stay in this country. I don’t think it’s fair that immigrants facing uncertainty about their ability to stay are paying for the social security benefits of the current American retirees.

viagra ratings — Outsourcing and H1B visas are hotly debated topics in the United States. The immigrants and foreigners are almost always painted as the villains that steal jobs from hard working Americans. The fact is that corporations are always looking out for their own bottom line and wants to hire immigrants because they are more likely to accept a below average wage. No one denies that most of California’s agricultural workers are illegal immigrants and most of these immigrants are paid below minimum wage. Additionally, a lot of construction positions are filled by day workers who are illegal. In the Silicon Valley, an H1B visa is usually a way to keep a high tech worker working for a company for below average pay. It is pretty much legalized indentured servitude because the deal is that the foreign worker works for a company for six to seven years and hopefully earn the right to stay in the United States. When the internet bubble burst in the beginning of this decade many immigrant workers were laid off from their companies and had to go back to their own countries. California is an at-will state and that means a company can fire a worker at any time so an H1B worker isn’t always guaranteed their American dream. It is true that the law states when a company helps a worker obtain a green card they must pay the worker a certain wage, but there is a prevalent abuse of this law since the H1B worker can be fired at anytime and isn’t likely to complain about their wage. I have heard cases of companies that do not consider American workers because they know they can keep an H1B worker longer and pay them less. It is completely illegal, but it’s quite a common practice. In Pedro’s case, we do not see that his employers suffered any legal consequences for hiring an illegal immigrant. That seems like quite a double standard on the part of the United States government.

viagra ratings — The banking and credit system in this country isn’t very friendly to immigrants who do not understand much English. From my experience, a lot of immigrants also have an inherent distrust of the banking system and end up keeping a lot of cash in their homes. Pedro actually kept all of his money in a sack around his home according toUsually you can’t open a bank account, investment account, or obtain loans without a valid social security number so illegal immigrants tend to keep simply cash. It’s very dangerous to do this but they have little other choice. The credit system is another odd beast. It seems that in the recent years it has been so lax that many immigrants were victimized by shady loan peddlers.

Immigration is an important source of people and income for this country and I do not understand why it is so hard for the United States to accept all the hard working honest immigrants. My personal experience with immigration is so bizarre and dramatic that it deserves another few blog posts. If you speak to me in person you’d think that I was just another young American born Chinese woman, but the truth is that for a long time I was so jealous of all my friends who were born here. I got my green card just two year ago after growing up in America for the last fifteen years. In many ways, I am more American than I am Chinese, but when I read stories like Pedro’s it just makes me sick how immigrants are treated in this country.

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viagra ratingson 09.28.07 at 10:06 am

This is a very sad and touching story. As an immigrant myself I can identify with how both you and Pedro feel. I have been here for seven years so no green card in sight yet……

I am passing your article on to a mailing list that I belong to. There are many immigrants here who are not aware of this.

viagra ratingson 09.28.07 at 2:11 pm

Whichever way you slice it Pedro has been done a grave injustice.
I find it abhorrent that representatives of the US Government “lawfully” confiscated his wages, then tried to weasel a deal with him for hush money and now even the judge who found the Government’s account incorrect still denies him his own money and interest. He wants Pedro deported and to fund his own ticket back home to his mom and two sisters, whom he was working for during the 11 years he worked as a dishwasher (with the full complicity of the US Government by the way).
It’s been highly publicized that many industries in the US would not be viable without the labor from the illegal immigrants who are exploited for the benefit of their American bosses and citizens. I find the US Government’s stance on this man’s issue highly hypocritical and a misapplication of the spirit of the laws of the US Code and Statutes.

viagra ratingson 09.28.07 at 5:29 pm

Thank you for your comments. When I heard Pedro’s story yesterday I cried in my car on the way home. I am also so mad that I can’t really do anything for the guy. If I send him money the US government is just going to take it away again. In the CNN story they mentioned that people donated money to him and the government tried to take that away, too. I find it ironic and hypocritical that America is always taking the moral high ground and criticizing other countries for their human rights practices and at the same time does things like these to its immigrants.

viagra ratingson 09.28.07 at 6:59 pm

I think it’s a tragedy that the government may confiscate this man’s hard earned money. Providing a legal avenue for people to come into this country and do jobs nobody else wants to do would solve a good number of problems.

Given the huge problems this country has with money laundering, I think it’s reasonable that the government does not allow you to bring massive amounts of cash in and out of the country w/o explaining what you’re doing. That being said, now that the situation is cleared up, the man should get his money back.

viagra ratingson 09.29.07 at 1:26 pm

Wah! Poor criminal wanted to break our laws by entering illegally and doesn’t want to pay the consequences for his crime. I have no sympathy for any illegal alien; if they don’t want things like that to happen to them, they shouldn’t enter America illegally. The argument that they are somehow needed or wanted here is nothing but pure tripe. They do nothing but drive down the standard of living for Americans and waste tax dollars and community resources. Any company that employs illegal aliens should be shut down immediately; no fines, put out of business.

An emotional response to this situation does nothing but further the problem; dispassionate pragmatism is the only thing that can pull our country out of the abyss of illegal immigration.

viagra ratingson 09.29.07 at 1:41 pm

Guess what Eric, the companies that hire illegal immigrants are NOT shut down. The government knows full well that illegal immigrant work our fields, build our homes, and serve us food. The companies are rarely punished severely. Instead, immigrants are often abused without protection. Additionally I wrote about legal immigrants who also face challenges in this society due to our immigration laws. Another thing is that you should remember that if you’re not a Native American your family must have immigrated here. On the contrary Pedro Zapeta is a Mayan, and that makes him a Native North American. He is actually NOT an immigrant to this continent.

viagra ratingson 09.29.07 at 3:00 pm

Guess what? I am a Choctaw, a tribe that is indigenous to the 48 contiguous states. The problem with your native american argument is that was then this is now. Zepeda was a mayan? Big deal. He was not a citizen of the United States. Period. Therefore, he is an illegal immigrant to the U.S.

I don’t fret very much about my ancestors that were forced down the Trail of Tears, as that doesn’t do anything to solve today’s problems. Zepeda was not forced to come here against his will, he willfully chose to break the laws of our country.

You need to set aside your emotions and get a grip on reality.

viagra ratingson 10.04.07 at 9:14 am

[...] About The Financial Injustices Immigrants Face In America @ The Baglady – Interesting read.  You’ve got to feel pretty bad for Pedro in this story. [...]

viagra ratingson 10.05.07 at 9:51 am

[...] The baglady explores the financial injustices that immigrants face.  As an immigrant (ableit barely), I’m very sympathetic immigrants.  Immigrants are some of the hardest working people we have in America.  Sure some might not pay taxes, but I don’t really blame immigrants for that as much as the system in place. [...]

viagra ratingson 10.05.07 at 9:51 am

[...] The baglady explores the financial injustices that immigrants face.  As an immigrant (ableit barely), I’m very sympathetic immigrants.  Immigrants are some of the hardest working people we have in America.  Sure some might not pay taxes, but I don’t really blame immigrants for that as much as the system in place. [...]

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