Another Immigration Battle: Guatemalan Immigrant Fights to Get His Earnings Back, Seized by Federal Officials

LatinaLista — For 11 years, Pedro Zapeta lived the typical life of an undocumented immigrant.
He came to this country with two intentions: to work and save his money. He had no delusions about staying and building a life here — even though he stayed for 11 years.

Pedro Zapeta
(Source: CNN)

For all practical purposes, he was the “ideal” undocumented immigrant. Yet, when he was ready to go home with his carefully saved money he got stopped and the government took his money.
Now, he’s refusing to return to his native Guatemala without the money he had so carefully saved all these years washing dishes.
What’s unbelievable is that our government which has been so intent on expelling the undocumented as quickly as possible is prolonging Zapeta’s stay because they insist on keeping his money.
In the process, it’s reinforcing an image that has taken root among our southern neighbors — the U.S. is a bully that cannot be trusted and would even steal from a lowly dishwasher.
Which sums up the crux of this issue: Is the international reputation of the United States worth $59,000?


Zapeta’s problems started when he tried to get on a plane to go home. On him, he carried the whole $59,000 he had earned in 11 years.
The natural question would be why didn’t he transfer this money via a bank wire sevice?
Yet when we learn a little more about Zapeta, we realize that he is not unlike many poor immigrants who come here — his lack of education and trust of institutions set him up to be victimized.
Because he didn’t know that he was supposed to declare any amount of money over $10,000, customs officials confiscated the whole amount.
It’s reported that officials automatically assumed he got the money from being a drug courier. Just exactly how they arrived at that conclusion begs to be explored further.
Thankfully, he had the pay stubs to prove that he earned every penny and that he even got a 25-cent raise when he learned to do more than just wash dishes.
One would think that would be the end of it. Give him his money, maybe subtract a few thousand for the taxes he says he never paid on his $5.50 an hour earnings, and say adios.
After all, he was paying for his own ticket home. But no, something that should be a no-brainer is turning into a public relations fiasco.
The problem is the government just doesn’t realize it yet.
After customs officials seized his money and INS started deportation proceedings (again, ludicrous because the guy was ready to go home in the first place), Zapeta dug in his heels and refused to leave without his money.
In the meantime, news outlets had publicized what was happening to him and sympathizers created a trust for him, eventually depositing $10,000 into it.
But Zapeta didn’t care about the trust. He just wanted the money he earned.
Federal prosecutors offered Zapeta a deal: take $10,000 from his total earnings plus another $9,000 from the donations and don’t talk publicly about what happened to him and leave the country immediately.
Yeah, right.
A man spent 11 years doing nothing but manual labor. Stayed out of trouble. Saved his money so he could build a house for his mother and sisters back in Guatemala. Bought his own airplane ticket and was ready to go transfer the American Dream back to his own country and at the last minute, gets all that stolen away from him.
Why should he leave. He’s within his rights to stay and fight.
Now, it seems the IRS wants its share of his money. it’s reported that they want access to the donations to cover the taxes on the donations (don’t quite understand that logic) and they want all his earnings when he was a dishwasher too, since he didn’t pay taxes.
That those unpaid taxes would total close to $59,000, given his wages and the amount he would have gotten back had he paid taxes, just doesn’t sound right.
But what sounds worse is for the government to make an example of Zapeta at a time when anti-US rhetoric is increasing and our global position is being challenged from the halls of the United Nations to round table discussons at foreign meetings.
If federal prosecutors had been so willing to let Zapeta leave the country quietly with $19,000, what would the difference had been to let him leave with a lot more of his earnings?
It’s a safe bet that this incident is going to have a heftier price tag than $59,000.

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51 Comments

  1. Frank said:

    Quote: “In the process it’s reinforcing and image that is taking root among our southern neigbors – the U.S. is a bully that cannot be trusted and would even take from a lowly dishwasher.”
    We are a bully for enforcing our immigration and income tax laws? Here is some advice for our southern neighbors, don’t come here then, especially illegally. It is our country and we will do what we think is best for our country and not for foreigners who come here and whine about how unfair we are to them.

  2. David O. said:

    “It is our country and we will do what we think is best for our country and not for foreigners who come here and whine about how unfair we are to them.”
    To quote the consultants from Office Space, “What exactly is it that you do here?”

  3. yave begnet said:

    And I said, I don’t care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I’m, I’m quitting, I’m going to quit. And, and I told Don too, because they’ve moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were married, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…
    I’m starting to see a connection here. “Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler …”

  4. yave begnet said:

    And this story is outrageous. It makes clear the tangible effects of stripping due process rights from immigrants. The government is behaving in this case like a schoolyard bully shaking down other kids for change, or Tony Soprano without the moral complexity. That the government is literally stealing a dishwasher’s life savings is emblematic of the might-makes-right moral cowardice of this administration.

  5. David O. said:

    Yave,
    There are good laws and there are petty laws. At least our two friends are annoying at a reasonable level from 9 to 11 while collating their ideas.
    Unlike some of the newspaper forums where the racist to the right of the KKK come out to play Marisa does a very good job at letting in reasoned disagreement.
    Unless of course there is no Frank and Horace and it’s Marissa playing the devil’s advocate.

  6. Marisa said:

    From time to time, I explain why I allow comments like Horace and Frank to post.
    Basically, I need to hear comments like these. They help me formulate my own arguments and just underscore for myself that I’m on the right track.
    Before Horace and Frank, there was a guy named JoC who felt it his mission to point out the error of my thinking. In the process, he became a little more enlightened.
    That’s what I hope this blog accomplishes. It does no good to silence the opposing viewpoints. As long as they don’t personally attack others, I have no problem with airing dissenting viewpoints.
    In fact, we know that it’s needed as we strive for a solution.
    Maybe we’ll never meet halfway but at least we’re talking — and reading.
    Thank you all for doing just that.
    Marisa

  7. coach diesel said:

    “Basically, I need to hear comments like these. They help me formulate my own arguments and just underscore for myself that I’m on the right track.”
    …And this is why Marisa is a classy dame.
    I can understand why he didn’t send money home. I’ve heard of a few cases where the relatives in the home country, who recieved money, wound up being victimized and were robbed, etc. especially since they are missing protective family members who are gone while working in the U.S.
    On another note, are they tracking down his employers and giving them a rap on the knuckles or some consequence for ‘hiring an illegal?’ I somehow doubt it.

  8. Frank said:

    Well Marisa I applaud you for not having a Nazi blog and allowing freedom of opinion even though different than yours. Believe me that is very refreshing from a pro-illegal. I have been in those forums and all they do is pull the race card and insult those of us opposed to illegal immigration, even when the rules of civility are followed.
    yave, the dishwasher was an illegal alien and not an immigrant. What part of that don’t you and yours get?

  9. David O. said:

    Frank,
    For his crime of not paying taxes he should get his life’s savings confiscated?
    And you thank Marisa for not running a Nazi blog while the U.S. Government agents are acting a much like Geheime Stadt Polizei of another era?

  10. Gonzalo said:

    Estoy de acuerdo con David O., y su comentario es una descripción que pinta una pintura muy claro de la corupción que domina tanto de la discusión sobre la gente Latina aquí.
    It very much *is* Gestapo-like– or perhaps more accurately, resembling the crooked agents of Stalin’s USSR who used minor infractions to jail people for years in the Gulags– to perpetrate such a Draconian punishment on this poor fellow who’s worked so hard (and paid Social Security which he won’t collect, mind you) for something so minor.
    Oh and Frank, something for you to keep in mind– my family was here in Arizona, raising crops and tending to livestock, for centuries before that damn Mexican War threw up your beloved “border” to force my people out. You call us illegals, yet who was it that launched that invasion and even violated many of the treaties by depriving Latino citizens of their lands and kicking them out of the Southwest? You call us illegals?
    BTW those treaties demand equal treatment for the Latinos in the SW and throughout Florida, respect for our property and our families, for our culture, for our right to use español in the public sphere for all applications, respect for our holidays and respect for us as equal to the Anglos who, at least for many of them, still seem to think that they can continue their imperialistic ways and push us around.
    Sorry Frank, it’s not gonna work anymore.

  11. Gonzalo said:

    Or perhaps an even more accurate analogy– think of the corrupt and often murderous British imperial agents in Ireland and India. Stalin’s thugs, repulsive as they were, generally perpetrated their hatred and viciousness against their fellow Russians.
    The British crooks OTOH, perpetrated theirs against others whom they hated, i.e. the Irish and Indians for example, in their colonies.
    So is it with the US-based secret police today– mostly Anglos perpetrating their hatred, for minor infractions, against the Latinos whom they hate and seek out as scapegoats.
    Otra vez hay que mencionar aquí, esta vez no vamos a rendirnos ante el odio de los Anglos imperialistos. Tal vez estará una lección para tantos Anglos que no lo hayan aceptado, que ahorita vamos a luchar para nuestros derechos!
    Maybe Anglos like Frank have yet to get the message.

  12. Daniel Maldonado said:

    This is like the Nazis confiscating Jewish property circa 1930′s-40′s.
    I’m glad Pedro wasnt further insulted by calling him a LATINO or Hispanic. I mean look at the guys face.
    Anyway, here’s the video if anyone’s interested.

  13. Frank said:

    To all, if you are an American citizen why are you siding with Mexico and Mexicans rather than Americans? If Hispanic citizens didn’t get the land they were promised, then take it up with the U.S. government and stop beating up on all Anglo citizens for it. We weren’t alive back then and neither were you and we are not responsbile for what our government did or didn’t do 150 years ago.
    If you are a Mestizo then you are partly white too from your WHITE EUROPEAN SPANISH ancestors. Do you think it was only the British or other Anglo- white Europeans who came over here and fought the natives for their land? No, the Spanish did to. But you only want to blame white Anglos and not the Spanish white who are a part of you.
    I don’t know of any government enity that is not allowing someone to speak Spanish or any other language. Who is denying you your culture? For crying out loud, this is Hispanic heritage month, isn’t it?
    Stop whining and unite with all Americans no matter what their ancestors heritage was. Stop siding with illegal aliens. If someone was born on the other side of the border from the U.S. aka Mexico TODAY, they are Mexican citizens, not U.S. citizens and have no right to be here without papers. You make yourselves appear racist and disloyal when you don’t honor the borders of this country but instead favor illegal foreigners just because they are ethnically like you or some past grievances from 150 years ago. You want the land back for your ancestors, then start a war over it instead of whining and dividing this country over it.(keep in mind though that part about your Spanish ancestors being just as guilty though). Let’s settle the land rights once and for all, as I am sick of Hispanics dividing us as a nation.

  14. Frank said:

    Here are the facts about the Guatamalan man that was here in illegally for 11 years. Note, after all those years he still couldn’t speak English and never paid taxes.
    So an illegal immigrant (who, by the way, doesn’t speak English) tries
    to leave the country on an airplane with $59,000 cash stuffed in a
    duffel bag. How could this plan go wrong?
    The article goes on to paint Zapeta in the most sympathetic light
    possible, pointing out that Zapeta, “lived his version of the American
    dream in Stuart, Florida: washing dishes and living frugally to bring
    money back to his home country.” The article claimed that Zapeta had
    worked in this country for 11 years.
    But as Zapeta was leaving the country, a customs official discovered
    the cash.
    Zapeta … said he didn’t know he was running afoul of U.S. law by
    failing to declare he was carrying more than $10,000 with him. Anyone
    entering or leaving the country with more than $10,000 has to fill out
    a one-page form declaring the money to U.S. customs.
    Customs officials seized the money, and the remainder of the article
    details Zapeta’s legal struggle to recover his money (not to mention
    stay in the country). Although he “admits he never paid taxes,” the
    article cites Zapeta’s statement that “[t]hey are treating me like a
    criminal when all I am is a working man.” Zapeta later states, “I am
    desperate. I no longer feel good about this country.” CNN.com
    predictably does not point out the irony that Zapeta actually is a
    criminal – and wasn’t supposed to be in this country in the first
    place.

  15. David O. said:

    Hi Frank,
    No matter how impassioned, articulate and persuasive your arguments are on illegal immigration (not alienation) you loose me and probably everyone else on this blog when you label these poor, and uneducated immigrants as criminals. Simple as that.
    If you want us, Mexican Americans, Latinos, Hispanics to go along with Anglos then start offering sensible solutions and enough with the ‘What part of illegal don’t you understand’ mantra. It’s so, so, AM radio and not helping to bridge.
    A sensible solution is this case is not confiscating this poor guy’s life savings. Paying his share of taxes if it was not deducted would be appropriate, but if he is not a citizen then I’m not so sure that would right either.
    He lived in the U.S. for 11 years without causing any trouble and that is a big plus in my book. So he doesn’t know english, big deal, he lived a clean and decent life. We would be so lucky if U.S. parolees would do the same for one year.
    Don’t presume to know our bloodline and our relationship to Spain. That is a big mistake.
    Now if you want some support then offer up solutions. Offer solutions to real serious problems affecting the border and the U.S. like drug smuggling and drug cartels and on down the line.
    Good decent people scraping a living to support their families is not the problem that Anglos make it out to be and lumping them in with true criminals is not ever going to help your cause, especially on this blog.

  16. grandmausa said:

    I somewhat agree with your article. My heart tells me “give the guy his money and let him go home”. But it’s more complicated than that. I blame it on his greedy employer, trying the get labor on the cheap for extra profit. The whole situation is a mess. My solution would be for him to fill out tax returns for the past 11 years. He owes taxes. He used roads, services, etc. The government should be more willing to sit down with him and help him sort this out. Tax the donations, tax the earnings and give him the money that is left and be fair about it.

  17. Frank said:

    He is a criminal according to our laws. It isn’t my personal labeling. As far as what to do with his earnings, yes he should pay back taxes. After that I would go along with whatever our laws demand when money is earned illegally in this country.
    I don’t presume to know your bloodline. It is what it is. The majority Mestizo Mexicans are native indian and white Spanish European. Why do Mexicans speak Spanish then?
    I have offered up solutions for securing our borders (which will help solve the drug dealing problem), and dealing with the illegals already here but you probably wouldn’t like them. I offer them where it counts, with our politicians. I am one of many voices who are giving congress my input on these matters.
    Illegal immgration is a problem and against the law no matter how honorable the reason. Why don’t they stay in their own countries and fix them so they can feed their families? I haven’t lumped all illegals along with hard line criminals such as felons unless the shoe fits and it does in some cases. But they still broke the law crossing our borders illegally.
    I agree with you, grandma. The feds should go after this guy’s employer too. They were both guilty.

  18. David O. said:

    Frank,
    you wrote,
    “The majority Mestizo Mexicans are native indian and white Spanish European.”
    Try telling Native Americans and Blacks the same thing, since there was lots of forced inter-racial fornication going on then.
    “Why do Mexicans speak Spanish then?”, the same reason Blacks and Native Americans speak English.
    Can you provide the U.S. code that spells out the crime and punishment for illegals caught working here? Seriously I would to see it for my self.
    As for solutions, I too give my input to the local paper, organizations, and the elected politicians.
    As a side note regarding criminality. Our local paper ran a full page ad of wanted criminals and listed the top 10 at the top. Well they arrested over a hundred. Wow! That’s great! Turns out most were for misdemeanors. I’m checking to see if any were for late library fees.
    If the immigration laws are criminalizing good, decent people then maybe the laws should be changed.
    Why don’t these poor people stay in their own countries and work things out? For the most part the people coming over are farmers, who would like nothing more than to work their lands, but one of the reasons they can’t is because they cannot compete with agri-business and the cheap products from the U.S. Thank you NAFTA. That’s not the whole cause, but one of a many in very complicated problem. The Mexican military is also scaring the heck out these poor folk and they are seeking a better place, armed by the U.S. of course.
    During WWII the U.S. welcomed Mexicans for field labor, and deported them back in droves in the 1950s under operation Wetback. Yes Mexican immigration does ebb and flow to use a an analogy that goes along with the slur.
    Your turn.

  19. Deport Lou Dobbs said:

    “Illegal immgration is a problem and against the law no matter how honorable the reason. Why don’t they stay in their own countries and fix them so they can feed their families?”
    Hey, Frank. Why did you ancestors not stay in Europe and fix the issues they had here instead of coming here? Sounds like a hollow argument? Fact is your ancestors had easy access to immigrate here. The illegality for current migrants is a political term. These migrants are needed yet they are not given a pathway towards citizenship like your ancestors were given. NO EUROPEAN WAS EVER SENT BACK AFTER PERFORMING NEEDED LABOR FOR THIS COUNTRY!Why the discrepancies? Your arguments, while respected, are weak.

  20. Frank said:

    You assume a lot that none of these were love matches but just plain outright rapes. It doesn’t matter anyway, we are stuck with whatever our genetics are, we don’t have a choice and we cannot deny them.
    Mexicans speak Spanish because they are genetically Spanish along with native indian. A thing you seem to want to deny. Obviously they chose Spanish over their native indian languages.
    I don’t need to point out any civil code for illegal immigration. We all know that it is against the law, otherwise why the raids and deportations?
    My ancestors came over here after there were immigraton laws in place. They went thru Ellis Island and were checked for criminal record and health checks. That is one of the reasons immigrants have to come legally so that these checks happen before the immigrant is allowed in here. Another reason we have immigration laws is to control our population growth and make sure every country gets a fair quota of immigrants to come here so that assimilation occurs. When my ancestors came here we were a relatively a new country with only a fraction of the population we have today and there was plenty of open land and natural resources. Not so today!
    Another thing you fail to realize is that our economy is becoming population driven by this. We don’t need a huge economy along with a huge population. Better to have a smaller population to fit a smaller economy and return to a nation of laws while protecting our country from too much population growth.

  21. Phoenix Woman said:

    Frank:
    1) Want to protect American jobs? Don’t shop Wal-Mart.
    2) Why do US employers hire undocumented workers? Because they know that they can treat them like trash and get away with it. If all workers had equal rights and wages before the law, and the laws were enforced, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  22. Phoenix Woman said:

    Frank:
    1) Want to protect American jobs? Don’t shop Wal-Mart.
    2) Why do US employers hire undocumented workers? Because they know that they can treat them like trash and get away with it. If all workers had equal rights and wages before the law, and the laws were enforced, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  23. Deport Lou Dobbs said:

    This has to be the dumbest post I have read in a long while:
    Frank ignorantly spews:
    “You assume a lot that none of these were love matches but just plain outright rapes. It doesn’t matter anyway, we are stuck with whatever our genetics are, we don’t have a choice and we cannot deny them.”
    Yep, and obviously you got stuck with some bad genes.
    “Mexicans speak Spanish because they are genetically Spanish along with native indian. A thing you seem to want to deny. Obviously they chose Spanish over their native indian languages.”
    Language is not correlated to genetics. You are not being serious? Mexicans had Spanish surnames and the Spanish language forced upon them. Still, Nahuatl is the most spoken indigenous language in North America.”
    “I don’t need to point out any civil code for illegal immigration. We all know that it is against the law, otherwise why the raids and deportations?”
    The raids are a concerted plan to force self-deportation. Great news for you. But it is also part of a plan to falsely create a crisis in labor so there will be a cry for a bipartisan support for a huge temporary workers program that will lack: any living wage assurances, any safe work conditions protection, and any chance at residency. While I know you LOVE the no residency part, the first two parts will hurt all workers on both sides of the border.
    “My ancestors came over here after there were immigraton laws in place. They went thru Ellis Island and were checked for criminal record and health checks. That is one of the reasons immigrants have to come legally so that these checks happen before the immigrant is allowed in here. Another reason we have immigration laws is to control our population growth and make sure every country gets a fair quota of immigrants to come here so that assimilation occurs. When my ancestors came here we were a relatively a new country with only a fraction of the population we have today and there was plenty of open land and natural resources. Not so today!”
    You freaking liar. Usually all the Europeans had to do was show some proof of who they were and get a medical screening and they were home free.
    As for population control, we need immigration, as do most industrialized nations, to offset our low birth rate.
    Again, you are a freaking liar. Ellis Island was not around as an immigration point in the 1700′s. If you mean that they came here in the 20th century then your points are false. Not that truth matters to you. As long as you have an argument that sounds good to you.
    “FAIR QUOTA OF IMMIGRANTS? Do you really believe this? The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was to guarantee a fair quota of Chinese immigrants? The Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924 basically guaranteed that the ethnicity of the USA would remain the same. What was fair about that? When American soldiers came home from WWII with European brides, the brides did not count against the number of immigrants allowed from their respective European countries. Asian brides who came home with American soldiers had their numbers deducted from the small number of allowed immigrants from their respective countries. You call that fair?
    “Another thing you fail to realize is that our economy is becoming population driven by this. We don’t need a huge economy along with a huge population. Better to have a smaller population to fit a smaller economy and return to a nation of laws while protecting our country from too much population growth.”
    That is the most assinine thing I have heard in a while. Is this the best you can do? Is it a Lou Dobbism?
    Gloves off. You sir are a full-blown idiot. I am disappointed. I was hoping for informed dialouge.
    the saddest thing is this is how you spend your entire day.

  24. Frank said:

    Phoenix woman, I don’t shop at Wally Mart. I know why employers hire illegal aliens, yes it is because they can exploit them and pay them less than an American. Your point is?
    Yes, our laws do need to be enforced….aka our immigration laws for one and enforcement in the workplace needs to occur too. Employers that don’t comply with our immigration and labor laws should be put out of business and fined and jailed.

  25. Frank said:

    Deport Lou Dobbs (lol, he is a U.S. citizen, good luck with that one), what is dumb about pointing out one’s genetics? I have bad genes because I speak the truth and oppose an illegal invasion of my country? Race card alert!
    I mentioned that most Mexicans speak Spanish as their primary language so that you couldn’t deny that they are indeed descendants of the Spaniards.
    Raids couldn’t occur though without the backup of our laws no matter what ulterior motive you think there is for them. I am only concerned about legal workers and American workers, if the illegals leave the job market will be better for them.
    Don’t call me a liar! Marisa should ban you for that and I hope she does! My ancestors did come thru Ellis Island during the 20th century and even those who didn’t, you yourself admit that they had some screening. The illegals just waltz in here with no criminal backgroud check and no health checks.
    We don’t have a low birthrate. Our births are still nearlly double the death rates. We have 300 million people in this country now, above what our carrying capacity is. Do you know what carrying capacity is? I am not suggesting that we do away with legal immigration just that we keep in mind the carrying capacity of this nation while allowing more immigrants into our country.
    I don’t care historically who was allowed in here and who wasn’t in regards to quotas. I care about today and having fair quotas for all immigrants today. Digging up the past is irrelevant.
    What is asinine about making sure we don’t become so over populated that we drop from a first world nation to a third world one? You don’t care about the future of your kids and grandkids? You don’t care about all the negatives related to too much population?
    So you show you cannot debate civilly. With all of your personal insults. Marisa should absolutely ban you for that.
    I don’t spend my whole day in here. What are you talking about? But if you must know, I am retired and can afford the luxury of being on my computer as long as I wish and it is none of your business anyway.
    I think you are angry because you couldn’t stand the truth!

  26. Francine said:

    I think he should have paid taxes. He should give the government the amount that should have been paid in taxes and leave with the rest. Not to pay taxes is a crime in and of itself.

  27. Phoenix Woman said:

    I remember when the poor didn’t pay taxes. Now taxes hit them hardest of all: Cigarette/liquor taxes, user ‘fees’, et cetera. Judging from how little he was actually paid by his employers, I think he’s “paid” more than his fair share of taxes just by not getting a decent wage. (Sweatshop owners just don’t hire undocumented workers and then pay them good wages.)

  28. Frank said:

    Still, it is against the law not to report one’s income and file a tax return. In all likelyhood this man would probably have gotten back all or most income taxes paid in if they had been deducted from his paycheck. It is the non-filing that carries a penalty.

  29. Frank said:

    One other thing is that if he had income taxes deducted from his paycheck, he probably would have had to use a fake or stolen SS number and that is a felony.

  30. David O. said:

    Well I suppose that we need to know more about this case before we start handing out justice and all that.
    Were you so adamant about applying the law to Scooter Libby? The right wing wackos think he got a raw deal.

  31. Bruce A. said:

    Oh, please. Stop claiming that this guy “didn’t pay taxes.”
    If he had pay stubs, then taxes were deducted from his pay before he got any money of his own. The government got its money.
    If he was usinjg a false ID number, he still paid taxes. The government got its money.
    And… if the “crime” was that he didn’t file tax returns, well, if he had, at a dishwasher’s wages he would have gotten some of that money BACK from the government.
    So if anyone is stealing money here, it’s the government.

  32. (: Tom :) said:

    Well Marisa I applaud you for not having a Nazi blog and allowing freedom of opinion even though different than yours. Believe me that is very refreshing from a pro-illegal. I have been in those forums and all they do is pull the race card and insult those of us opposed to illegal immigration, even when the rules of civility are followed.
    Now, what does that remind me of?
    Oh, yeah…
    And I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks, primarily black patronship.
    Those uppity pro-illegals are real people after all!
    Also: I think I read in the article that Zapeta kept his pay slips. So it should be relatively easy to find and fine his employer(s), right? Funny – I don’t recall seeing any stories about the IRS going after his employer(s), fining them amounts equivalent to the amount of money they made off this illegal immigrant, or even announcing that they will be investigating the matter with the purpose of finding and punishing the employer for choosing to illegally employ aliens. I don’t even see anything from the supposedly liberal media that outs the employer and calls for an investigation.
    Plus: he didn’t pay any taxes? No sales tax on the goods he bought? The services he paid for while illegally in the states? Seems like Frank is ignoring all of those ‘taxes’ in his remarks.

  33. Frank said:

    I am favor of the laws applying equally to everyone. No favoritism.
    As far as the Guatamalan guy goes, he admitted that he hadn’t paid any taxes on that money himself so to me that means he was paid under the table with no pay slips. As far as stealing someone elses I.D. or SS number to work, it isn’t just about the government not getting its money so much as what it can do to the person whose identity or number is stolen. I know of several cases of this where they were investigated by the IRS for money they never earned and their credit ruined.
    Just because you didn’t read anything about the employer not being investigated doesn’t mean that he wasn’t. In fact I can guarantee that the employer is being investigated. He will probably be fined and rightly so.
    Just because illegals pay sales tax, doesn’t excuse them from not paying income taxes. We are liable for all taxes in this country. We can’t just pick and choose which ones we will pay and those we will not. Geesh!

  34. John Oh said:

    this is just heartbreaking. there’s the law and there’s justice. While I agree with you Frank (common sense really) the actions of the government is just too much. 11 years of savings doing back breaking work? give him his freaking money back and send him home. if kenny pierce can get a 1.4 million dollar settlement from the city if los angeles for eating dog food then lets let this guy keep his money.

  35. Frank said:

    Well, no one should get away with income tax evasion. He should at least have to pay any due taxes and penalties for not filing. I am not sure what our laws demand in this case. It should be a decision based on our laws, not emotional or personal opinion.

  36. John Oh said:

    you and I both know his real taxes would be zero or close to it. a dishwater making minimum doesnt really owe any taxes. of course he didnt file, he’s an illegal alien. while i agree he shouldnt be here you know god damn well if you were in his shoes and a family to support youd break the law and come here to. the wink wink law that we just started to enforce right? lets not blame this poor fellow for systemic failures in our immigration policy. lets pleae not try to make an example of a dishwasher trying to go back to his family with 11 years of hard EARNED wages. im a business owner and if im going to hire us citizens for menial labor then make my cometitors hire them too. its simply to much to ask all us businesses to voluntarily adhere to a law when thers no penalty for breaking it. you know of course there is a limit to how much poverty we as a society can absorb and when the general public begins to see a degradation in public services like access to ER rooms and crowded schools, its easy to blame the illegals but the problem is employers. always has been.
    of course employers prefer illegals. they work hard. theyre hungry and there far more reliable than some teenage kid who doesnt show up to work if hes got a hot date.
    “It should be a decision based on our laws, not emotional or personal opinion.”
    lets not be naive. do you really believe in equal application of the law? we’d like to believe that exists but everybody knows if youre famous you can get away with murder and white collar crimals aren’t punished to the degree or frequency of blue collars crimnals. its the best system we’ve got and so it is but lets not pick this time to throw compassion and human civility out the door. if youre going to quote regulations in the face of this man’s plight… you are one stone cold hillowner. you know damn well screwing this guy isnt the solution to the problem and the only message it sends is … we dont fucking care. thats real mature of the world’s only superpower.

  37. kingfelix said:

    Frank – you are killing me.
    I like it best when you talk about applying the law without emotion, as if a lack of emotion brings matters into closer contact with such notions as justice and fairness.
    People like Frank can find a way to hold somebody responsible somehow, given time. And once the person is deemed responsible, then comes the punishment. What Frank does not bother to factor into this, like a lot of US citizens, of a self-sufficient streak, is the system within which events take place. All Frank can say here is that every person who has done something wrong with regard to Mr Zapeta has to be punished. There! That is the answer. You take it back as far as it goes, punishing everybody. Problem solved. So we also need to prosecute and punish the officials who assumed he was a drug courier, too.
    In Frank’s world, there is disorder (this is bad) and then there is the law. And the law is the antidote to disorder. What I see is that the world is complex and that complex situations arise. And that the authorities demonstrate the legitimacy of their authority by making common sense decisions, decisions that take into account the individual case. Rather than Frank’s invitation to act ‘without emotion’. The notion that the law is more just when it does not respond to the invididual circumstances is a fallacy. It is clear that Frank, no matter what he may have busied himself with, is no student of the law.
    The law is beyond question, in Frank’s worldview, yet the law is just a creation of men. It is not divine and it is not set in stone. It is also not something that is to be administered with no regard for its effects and tough cheese for those on its receiving end, no matter what Frank might like to think. The fact is, there would be no judges if that was the case, there would be no advocacy, and there would be no appeals.
    Frank, you need to grow up and look at the facts and stop this cause-and-effect approach of ‘if he had never done X then Y would never have happened’ because that is not how the world functions. People don’t possess absolute free will and poverty forces decisions upon people. If somebody would like to point me to a Mexican millionaire sneaking through the border, I will stand corrected, but these personal stories are not brought about through individual moral failings or failures of character, but through circumstance. Stop divorcing the individual from their circumstances – stop seeing, deliberately or not, half the damn picture.

  38. Frank said:

    John, of course you are right, he probably didn’t owe any taxes based on his low income but that is beside the point.
    No, I would not violate another country’s immigration laws. From what I understand most Mexicans in Mexico have jobs, they just don’t pay near as much as they could earn in the U.S. so their families are not starving. Why continue to have kids you cannot feed anyway?
    There is a three-fold blame with this illegal immigration mess we are in today. The employers, our government and the illegals themselves. Of course people like you want to only blame the first two and give the illegals a pass. Bottom line is that employers hire illegals because they work cheap.
    Our justice system isn’t perfect but it is what it is and we are obligated to honor it. I don’t have an opinion on what should happen to this man, except paying taxes and penalties on money earned. Whatever else happens to him should be based on our laws whether we agree with it not.

  39. Frank said:

    king, if we don’t apply the law equally, then we are being biased and discrimanatory. We have to have laws in place or our country would be in chaos. Did I say that the accused shouldn’t be allowed to appeal their cases? No, in fact that happens all the time in our criminal justice system. But we still have to have “basic” laws to adhere to and those basics can’t be based on emotionalism or biasnesses.

  40. George said:

    ” its simply to much to ask all us businesses to voluntarily adhere to a law when thers no penalty for breaking it. ”
    Our society is regulated on the basis that most people are honest and will obey our laws. If the premise were otherwise, there wouldn’t be enough policemen to arrest the criminals or jails to hold them. Remember our income tax system? It’s based upon the premise that most people are honest and will pay their taxes. If everyone decided to evade their tax liability, there wouldn’t be enough IRS agents to handle them all, and our nation would go bankrupt very shortly thereafter. So, John O, I challenge you on your point that it is wrong to expect employers to obey our laws. When employers begin to ignore our laws, it is the duty of the government to correct the situation and bring order to chaos. Punish a few thousand and the others eventually fall into line.
    Lastly, there are penalties for disobeying our immigration laws. They just haven’t been vigorously enforced.

  41. George said:

    really goerge? i guess hiring illegals as constuction workers, dishwashers, bus-boys, valets, etc… is not happening and has not been happening for many TENS of years now.
    my premise is wrong?
    have all our business owners in this country suddenly become anarchist? its called “competition” idiot and the illegals are here because they will find eager employers who risk the virtually nonexistant threat of fines for somebody who will work hard.
    I agree punish a few thousand and the rest will fall in line but until recently, when has that ever happened??? so were raiding meat packaging plants…big whoop. EVERY SINGLE restaurant in Los Angeles employs illegals, EVERY SINGLE construction site has them, EVERY SINGLE hotel has them and the garment industry employs them by the thousands….

  42. Horace said:

    “…….is not happening and has not been happening for many TENS of years now.”
    So have theft murder and rape, but that doesn’t mean that they are permissable and should be allowed to continue.
    “…its called “competition” idiot and the illegals are here because they will find eager employers who risk the virtually nonexistant threat of fines for somebody who will work hard.”
    Idiot? One of this idiot’s degrees is a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering. Universities do not tend to bestow them on idiots. What evidence do you have that you aren’t an example of the pot calling the kettle black?
    There is such a thing as unlawful practrices in competition. Those employers who actually comply with our immigration hiring laws go out of business, while their competition who do violate the law don’t. I hear this complaint all the time. Such situations should not be permitted to continue, and with immigration reform, i.e. enforcement of the laws our citizens have approved through the actions of their constitutionally elected legislatures, it will. Our laws are not abstract, coming out of the blue, so-to-speak, but have legitimacy that reflects the will of the people. Your objections mean nothing unless you obtain the backing of the same. It will never happen.

  43. George said:

    This incident must be used as an example of what will happen when people come to this country illegally and try to take our government’s money, again, illegally. We as citizens must pay taxes yet they don’t?! I hope this guy loses everything, which he probably will. It’s unfortunate, but you get what you deserve. Wish this would happen more often.

  44. George said:

    This incident must be used as an example of what will happen when people come to this country illegally and try to take our government’s money, again, illegally. We as citizens must pay taxes yet they don’t?! I hope this guy loses everything, which he probably will. It’s unfortunate, but you get what you deserve. Wish this would happen more often.

  45. John Oh said:

    Horace,
    I’m just trying to explain the current situation. Despite having those laws, employers still continue to hire illegals. Should those laws be obeyed? Of course they should. Are they? No.
    You wrote:
    “There is such a thing as unlawful practrices in competition. Those employers who actually comply with our immigration hiring laws go out of business, while their competition who do violate the law don’t. I hear this complaint all the time. Such situations should not be permitted to continue, and with immigration reform, i.e. enforcement of the laws our citizens have approved through the actions of their constitutionally elected legislatures, it will. Our laws are not abstract, coming out of the blue, so-to-speak, but have legitimacy that reflects the will of the people. Your objections mean nothing unless you obtain the backing of the same. It will never happen.”
    I completely agree with you and what did you ever read (from me) that makes you think I disagree?
    Until the government enforces current immigration laws the status quo will continue. As an American, I deplore whats happening to our country but understand why businesses continue to hire illegals. However, blaming illegal immigrants for coming here is asinine. You would do it, I would do it. I wouldn’t stay in a country making pennies with no future if I can cross an unguarded border and actually give myself and my children hope…
    All these posts here that say “I wouldn’t break the law… or come legally..or fix your own country” make me laugh. Come legally is not coming at all. Fix your own country? How? Obey the law and languish away in poverty while all the other men in your neighborhood send checks home to their sick mothers… Agri-business, construction, restaurants, garment,… all these industries continue to employ these workers. So US industry needs these workers, yet when they they have the GALL to get sick and go to the ER or “gasp!” decide to have children and send them to school everybody starts to see the social impact of uncontrolled immigration in closed ERs and crowded schools. This isn’t about making an example of this poor dishwasher by confiscating 11 years of his earnings… this is about our own government reforming immigration laws that don’t work.
    I apologize for calling you an idiot. My father is an electrical engineer and I have tremendous respect for all engineers. Obviously if its just “one” of your degrees you are an intelligent man albeit maybe one with blinders on?

  46. David O. said:

    John Oh,
    Your comments are reasoned and well written. Thank you for your insight.
    As for the twins, I would not put too much on their credentials.
    David

  47. John Oh said:

    Thanks David and that goes ditto for you and kingfelix as well. Very insightful and well reasoned.
    I’m a korean american who at one point had very similiar views to Frank but as a business owner who has hired illegals… this is quite a complicated subject. It is not black and white. It is not about following the law. It is about circumstance.
    I remember speaking to my father who immigrated here legally from korea in the 70s about it and he came down on me especially hard for my harsh views on the immigration problem which surprised me. He told me “those people” have more in common with him then I ever would and that hit me hard. I know how hard it was for my parents to immigrate to a new country, new customs, and new languauge. The sacrifices they had to make to give their children a chance they never had. These are common themes with any immigrant generation yet its sad how easily the next generation forgets.
    How anybody can not sympathize with Mr. Zapeta is beyond me. How anybody can turn a blind eye when eleven years of this man’s labor is stolen is beyond me.

  48. Horace said:

    “Come legally is not coming at all. Fix your own country? How? Obey the law and languish away in poverty while all the other men in your neighborhood send checks home to their sick mothers… Agri-business, construction, restaurants, garment,… all these industries continue to employ these workers. So US industry needs these workers, yet when they they have the GALL to get sick and go to the ER or “gasp!” decide to have children and send them to school everybody starts to see the social impact of uncontrolled immigration in closed ERs and crowded schools.”
    U.S. industry’s willingness to exploit cheap labor is no excuse for not enforcing our immigration laws. Where was private industry when the problem came into being? Were they so vigorous in their lobbying to change the law before it became their habit to break it?
    The Mexican government should pay for medical care and schooling for their children, including those in the U.S., and our government should demand that they do so. Economists say that it is well within Mexico’s power to thrive, but none of you demand that they do so. You’d just like the American people to take up the tab unquestioningly, like the rubes that you are. I need a back operation, just take up a collection and send me the money, the fact that I have insurance, notwithstanding. Mexico is in fact the richest country in Latin America. Why should U.S. citizens pay under the circumstances? You people are being conned by Mexico, and dont’ care.
    If Mexicans stood up for themselves instead of fleeing their homeland and leaving their landsmen to fend for themselves or depend on remittances from the U.S., then maybe Americans would respect them. Instead, they come here, enlist ethnocentrists and ignorant do-gooders in demanding rights for them and citizenship they are not entitled to. Yes, the law still means something to the rest of us. It’s so said that there are too many that treat the law as a convience to be exercised on whim. I, as a taxpayer resent Mexico’s elite in their strategy to foist their poor onto U.S. soil, and assert that their people deserve benefits, despite our laws to the contrary.
    If and when Mexicans get balls enough to fight for social justice in their homeland, then maybe Americans would show them some respect. A man unwilling to fight for his family in his home country isn’t a man.

  49. Horace said:

    “I remember speaking to my father who immigrated here legally from korea in the 70s about it and he came down on me especially hard for my harsh views on the immigration problem which surprised me. He told me “those people” have more in common with him then I ever would and that hit me hard.”
    I guess that your father was in the habit of contending with the rampant corruption in Korea at the time. Ask him about it. This is the problem with new immigrants who carry over their contempt for their own country’s laws to their adopted one. This is the hazard of importing people who circumvent U.S. learning curriculums (Civics 101) that teach honesty, obedience to authority and law. This is what we receive from Mexico.

  50. John Oh said:

    i cant believe you said that. you’re not an idiot, you’re an asshole with his head so far shoved up his “american” ass you cant smell how bad the shit you’re saying is. im done trying to have intelligent discourse with you. you would applaud authority and law while quietly watching a family starve. you would tell that family to file a petition with their local legislature and get signatures to allow them to work legally. starving is legal, working illegally is not. you have the luxury of such high minded concepts. you have a home, you have the law on your side, you’re kitchen is full of food, you don’t worry about a roof over your head or cloth on your back. your children have got every advantage in life and you sit in your plush comfortable sofa and worry about all these filthy lawbreakers who have no respect for the law coming into your country. you presume to think that because MY parents can SYMPATHIZE with Mr. Zapeta, they have contempt for our country’s laws.
    go to hell.

  51. Horace said:

    “…..you’re not an idiot, you’re an asshole ….”
    Isn’t this abusive language prohibited by the blogger’s standard?
    Do your homework, Seoul man. Mexicans aren’t starving in their homeland. Where did you get that idea? Our MSM people haven reported that. It’s a well known fact that Mexicans leave jobs for the U.S.
    News flash: Lou Dobbs just accepted an invitation to debate Vincente Fox. Lou will the the burrito bandito’s butt, based upon the facts.

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