Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Caveat Vendor

The Gotham Gazette has a little vignette this week, redolent with compassion, about the City’s recently passed legislation allowing undocumented immigrants to receive vending licenses. What disturbs us, and the author graciously records our comments, is the perspective of some of the immigrant groups who prefer not to make any distinction between legal and illegal immigration. Flor Bermudez of Esperanza Del Barrio, captures this spirit:

“We’re all very happy. The city will no longer discriminate against immigrants in the licensing process.”
Well pardon us for pointing out that this City has never discriminated against immigrants in any licensing process if they had managed to arrive here legally. One of the requisites of many city licenses is the absence of a criminal record. For instance, if you break the law you can be denied the right to haul garbage. The law of the land, vis-à-vis immigration, is that you can’t just sneak into the country. That is why such immigrants, undocumented though they may be, have been characterized more appropriately as illegal.

All of which leaves out Ms. Bermudez’s larger objective: the promiscuous expansion of the number of vending licenses. The Gotham Gazette does tackle the issue obliquely but does so in such a way as to minimize the potential danger. When Richard Lipsky of the Alliance points out the danger to small stores the Gazette quotes DCA spokesperson Dena Improta, saying that the number of licenses are fixed and:

“allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for licenses would not threaten small business with more competition while the license limits are still intact.”
To its credit, the Gazette goes on to mention that there is another bill, also sponsored by Charles Barron, that would increase the number of licenses. It is precisely at this point that the compassionate slippery slope takes over at the expense of small neighborhood store owners, a great proportion of whom are also struggling immigrants.