Letters for the week of May 11-17, 2005 

Treating dogs with respect. Treating butt rock with no respect. Respecting immigrant victims of violence. Disrespecting West Berkeley residents.

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We care
Thank you for your story on the troubles of women immigrants. Here at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, we assist immigrants and refugees with service referrals and gaining political asylum. Because of your story I am able to convince many female clients that there are others in their situation. Please post our information for readers who need legal immigration assistance: East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, 2362 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94708, EastBaySanctuary.org, 510-540-5296.
Javaughn Fernanders, Berkeley

Stop romanticizing illegals
Kara Platoni's "American Nightmare," depicting the plight of four immigrant women abused and exploited by husbands and employers to the point of slavery and imprisonment while in the US, pushes all the right buttons to heap truckloads of sympathy for seemingly blameless victims, and initially the dramatic ordeals worked on me until, well after establishing this sympathy, it's disclosed that three of the young ladies are illegal immigrants, a fact at this point in the article whose relevancy is cleverly diminished to the level of a mere afterthought, at best incidental to the three accounts.

Unquestionably, the husbands and employer described are, if the characterizations are accurate, disgusting enough and just plain criminal -- but the three women choose to break US law by illegally entering the country, and while neither they nor anyone else deserve to be so mistreated, they put themselves in such peril and deserve no sympathy, compensation (at least not from public funds), or special consideration for residency. The bogus husbands, bondage-style employers, and the illegals are equally culpable -- a pox on all of them as well as errant sponsors, shyster immigration attorneys, scam marriage brokers, counterfeiters of documentation to establish some form of residency, politicians who pander to ethnic-bloc voters, and "coyotes" who traffic in illegal immigration. I worry more about the considerable socioeconomic harm to our own country attributable to illegal immigration, a reality vehemently denied by misguided and misinformed proponents who maintain quite erroneously that illegals contribute more to the country than they take.

To be sure, illegals come to the US for a better life, but it's hard enough to provide for the 300,000,000 here legally, and the media all too often portrays illegals in a romanticized and heroic light to downplay their criminality and negative impact.
George Warren, Alameda

Humans first
I read Kara Platoni's article about the difficult struggles of immigrant women. I live in Manassas, Virginia, and I attend a Spanish-speaking church, so I am in contact with immigrant men and women every day. So much of the media and especially columnists and talk-show hosts are ferociously anti-immigrant, and I see and read so many articles and commentaries insulting and degrading these people. It is so refreshing to see something published that talks about these people as human beings rather than "lawbreakers" or political pawns.
David Mills, Manassas, Virginia

Editor's Note
The women profiled were not illegals at the time of their abuse. As spouses of United States citizens, they were eligible to live here legally, apply for a green card, and enjoy the protection of our justice system.

"Why Berkeley Can't Do the Right Thing," City of Warts, 4/13/05

That's $10,204 a foot
It's not a "bike path to nowhere"; it's a bike path to Emeryville. In "Why Berkeley Can't Do the Right Thing," the author leaves a confusing ambiguity. The southern section of the proposed bike path connects to the Emeryville Greenway parks, and makes sense. Only the block north of Ashby seems to be the intended target of his criticism. Here, I agree with the author.

The one-block bike-path appendage will cost roughly one million extra dollars, and require a new traffic light on Ashby. The project makes as much sense as extending an interstate freeway with an escalator. Ninth Street is a Bicycle Boulevard, where cyclists travel in the road at ten to twenty mph. Dropping that type of cyclist onto a low-speed bike path invites conflicts with pedestrians and children, and makes for a poor commuter route. The design invites conflicts between turning cars and bike path users. A better plan for all is to extend the Ninth Street Bicycle Boulevard, which is complete except for a 98-foot gap. Since cyclists can't be expected to jump the 98 feet, they need some help from the city and the Berkeley Bowl. They don't, however, need a million-dollar bike path.
Bryce Nesbitt, Berkeley

It starts with good faith
The West Berkeley Traffic and Safety Coalition is pleased to note that City of Berkeley planning officials and Berkeley Bowl owner Glenn Yasuda finally have done the right thing. They've agreed to our request for an environmental impact report on the proposed West Berkeley Bowl, with a primary focus on traffic and parking.

At 91,000 square feet (half again as large as the existing Bowl), the new Bowl would be bigger than the Pak N Save on San Pablo in Emeryville but with much less parking. Unlike most big grocery stores, which are sited directly on major arterials, the new Bowl at 920 Heinz (just west of Orchard Supply's parking lot) will be accessed via narrow, neighborhood-scale streets.

The original traffic study for the Bowl projected that the new store will generate 50,000 new vehicle trips a week, yet the study concluded that the project would have virtually no significant negative impact on traffic and parking. It also asserted that there's less traffic at San Pablo and Ashby now than there was in 1993. And it gave short shrift to the children's safety issues posed by the store's proximity to Ecole Bilingue. To check out these and other matters, we hired an independent traffic engineer. The Berkeley Planning Department has acknowledged that our consultant's findings were key in their decision to do an EIR after all.

The consequent delay could have been avoided if city planners had facilitated good-faith negotiations among all the stakeholders at the very start. We encourage the city to sponsor just such a collaborative effort through the EIR process.
Jeff Hogan, Ashby Lumber; Bernard Marszalek, Inkworks; John Phillips, John Phillips Harpsichords; Mary Lou Van Deventer, Urban Ore, Berkeley

Editor's Note


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