Austin Auto Accident with Illegal Immigrant

2007 Honda Odyssey EX-L with navigation and dvd Sylvia was broadsided yesterday in her new (3 months old) honda odyssey by an Illegal Immigrant driver on Manchaca Rd. He had no insurance, no driver’s license, no proof of identification and didn’t speak English. The police came and wrote him three tickets. I’m surprised he wasn’t arrested, since he had no proof of ID. Luckily, the damage is cosmetic and the van is still drivable, but it was unnerving for Sylvia as she was 1 hour late to meet her buyers and was distressed that her nice new van is now damaged.

The funny thing is, the first thing I thought as I looked at the damaged side of the van was “I wonder if that’s going to cost more to fix than what we’re saving on the cost of building our new home?” Then I wondered why I thought about it like that.

The thing is, we all want the best value we can get when buying or building a home. As I make daily visits the jobsite of the home I’m building, most of the people working there do not speak English. I have no idea if they are illegal or not, and I don’t ask. My home is coming along well, the quality of the work is very good and I like the price I’m paying.

If a builder were to say “I can build your home with only English speaking workers and guaranty that only documented workers will set foot on your property, but it will cost $10 or $20 per square foot more”, I’d say “no thanks”. Knowing that, do I have a right to feel angry that an illegal immigrant just ran into my wife?

For all I know, this guy who ran into Sylvia is a skilled tradesman who works on new homes. He may be an excellent tile worker. [Edit: Sylvia tells me now that he is a painter] He’s not personally working on my home, but is representative of many who do. So I can’t simultaneously think “damn that illegal immigrant, sneaking into our county, driving on our roads and running into my wife” and 30 minutes later stand inside my new home and think “I sure do like how my new home is coming along and the great deal I’m getting on the construction costs”. I guess I could say that I wish all the illegals would get a drivers license and buy insurance, but I’m not certain that they can without proper documentation.

This is the paradox of the illegal immigrant debate. To those who say we should round everyone up and send them home, I’d ask “how much extra are you willing to pay for your new home, your lawn care and maid service, or even your meals at your favorite restaurant and your hotel stay?” I don’t condone law breaking, and I don’t want to pay more for these things either, so what’s the answer? Probably the answer is to allow more legal immigration and make the process easier.

Let’s imagine that a builder decided to build a 100% “documented worker” home. A certification could be made ala the “organic” label on food products, or the “green certified” classification on new homes, so that an anti-immigration buyer could feel good about the purchase – the same as an environmentally conscious person feels good about paying more for a “green” home.

If we believe polls that say Americans are angry about illegal immigration, this new product would provide those Americans with a tangible, honest way to truly answer the poll question. Would a person stridently against the influx of Mexican immigrants into Texas, who thinks they should all be rounded up and sent home, be willing to pay more for a “documented worker certified” home? I seriously doubt it.

So at first, I was angry at the guy who ran into Sylvia’s van, and my perception of who and what he represents, then I realized that feeling that way makes me a hypocrite. I can’t have it both ways. One thing affects another.

Last night a woman called, saying she was interpreting for the driver who caused the accident. He called to say he was very sorry and wants to pay for the damage instead of us filing an insurance claim. I’ll have to look further into the implications of dealing with it outside the insurance claim process, but it was good to know that the driver wants to make it right.

Tuesday we’ll get an estimate for the van repair and go from there. Later today I’ll be at my new house, saying “hola” to the workers as I walk through and check things out, and “adios” as I leave.

Posted by Steve
9 years ago

Steve is a Real Estate Blogger, Husband and Dad, UT Austin Grad, Runner, Real Estate Broker and owner of Crossland Team and Crossland Real Estate in Austin TX.

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TheElitest - 9 years ago

You really have to weigh this against how much illegals are drive up the costs of other services. Don’t you think your insurance is higher because of the thousands of incidents like this that take place every year? It makes me sick when I read about how much this country is bending over for these people all for the sake of being “politically correct”. How many of them are not paying taxes, Medicare or insurance? How many illegals have been treated at hospitals for free? How much of the cost do consumers bear for businesses to provide bilingual signs, menus, etc.? How many different ways are these people breaking our laws without any repercussions? How many illegal immigrants have died in Iraq or Afghanistan for this country?

If people want to come to this country in search of a better life, then by all means we should welcome them. But that doesn’t mean sneak across our borders and resort to living like some sub-class citizen. Come here legally, learn English, pay taxes and get an education. Make something of yourself and lay the cornerstones for your family to carry on bettering themselves… that is the American dream. And while they are at it, they should get a history lesson on Ellis Island so they can realize how bad they DON’T have it; those people were real immigrants.

Steve - 9 years ago

You make some really good points.

Jamie - 9 years ago

You say: “As I make daily visits the jobsite of the home I’m building, most of the people working there do not speak English. I have no idea if they are illegal or not, and I don’t ask.”

How do you know this guy was “illegal” ?

ARZ - 9 years ago

TheElitest, you really need to get more familiarized with the entire immigration system. Legal immigration is not working. And no one dare to fix it. That’s why illegals come here illegally, simply because there’s no legal way for them to come. Currently, there are only 3 way to legally immigrate to America – through blood, through employment, or through political refugee or asylum. All three categories have numerical limits and a super long line for people to wait. For example, if you want to bring your child to America (if you are US citizen or green card holder), you will have to wait at least 10-15 years. Employee based visa and green card process are mostly designed for high skilled workers (such as IT professionals, engineers, programmers, and scientists.) Even so, their waiting time are usually 10 year or more. Except political refugees, whose expense are paid by the rest of immigrants, most legal immigrants will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in fees to both the US government and lawyers. The only way for you to get a green card fast is to invest 1 million dollars into US or marrying someone who’s US citizen. So essentially, the US legal immigration system is broken down completely, and it’s not very “hospitable”.
Now, you said the illegals bring up the opportunity social cost (such as uninsured motorists.) Many independent studies often show inconclusiveness about these assertions. For instance, one study by AAA shows about 10-15% of all motorists on the road today are uninsured for various reasons. Only about 20% of them are actually illegal immigrants. In other words, you have just as a good chance of getting hit by a red neck who’s driving a car that hasn’t been registered or with expired state inspection stickers as a chance of getting hit by a “crazy Mexican”. So it is somewhat unfair to blame all the uninsured cost on illegal immigrant alone. In addition, most illegal immigrants would love to buy insurance if they can get a driver’s license. It’s possible for foreign nationals who are not immigrants to get a driver’s licenses, why not them?
There are actually quite a few illegal immigrants got recruited into the US military because recruiting officers lied to them and allowed them to file application using fake SSN#s. They even told them that once they served in Iraq, they can get green card fast. In turn they can get their family legalized immediately. These are all lies, but the recruiting officers are under enormous pressure to meet quotas. Here is a link regarding some examples:
US Immigration issue is a very complex issue. I know many of you guys have strong feelings about this. But I urge you to study these issues before speak of your mind. It’s really not as simple as “law breaking” as many far-right nut cases would want you to believe.

ARZ - 9 years ago

Also, I like the fact that you used example of Ellis island. For all the illegal immigrants, they are asking the same thing: where is our Ellis island?

You seem to generalize all the immigrants from the 18th and 19th even early 20th century are all the same. In actuality, they faced various harsh social resentment at the time. The Irsh, Italian, Germans, Russian Jews, just to name a few. Chinese was under “Chinese Exclusion Act” all the way till the mid 1940s. If you have a good sense of social history, you know that their road to assimilation was not as straightforward as you thought. After all, we are living in a melting pot. American social culture are really a mix of all kinds of culture those groups brought with them.

Steve, your thought on just let the illegals to become legal is a good idea but won’t solve the economic question of low cost. I believe the low wages are directly associated with the illegal status. The moment you grant them legal status, they are protected by law and must get the same treatment as citizens. This is a human right issue. In other words, they are now entitled to get livable minimum wage, health benefits, and some form of labor protection etc. All these will push the cost higher. The fact that these illegals formed a large underclass workforce made the low labor cost possible.

I don’t really see a way out. It’s like this American economy is dependent on this class of invisible (to law) labor force in order to maintain its level of growth. If you want to stop illegal immigration, you’d better prepare to live a much simpler live.

Steve - 9 years ago

> How do you know this guy was “illegal” ?

Well, I don’t know for a fact the the individual is an illegal, so it’s a judgement. English literacy and a basic understanding of the fundamentals of U.S. history and government are requirements for becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen though. This individual clearly has not accomplished at least the english speaking part of that requirement, so I think the assumption is a save one to make. Though it’s possible I suppose that he is a greencard holder who had not yet embarked on the education and language requirements.

ARZ: Your point that the cheap labor would become more expensive if legalization was easeir to accomplish has merit. I wonder though if making the process easier would not simply result in an abundance of even more labor, which would in fact lower the costs even further.

I worked one summer, in 1982 when I was 20 years old, building condos on N. Padre Island. At that time, half the workers on the average jobsite in Texas were from Michigan. They had fled the rust belt to Texas, which was in the midst of a building boom. That influx of good, skilled labor put downward pressure on construction wages. I’m sure an influx of legal Mexican immigrants would do the same.

I don’t know why our young Amercian boys are unwilling to consider the trades as summer or even permenant work. I know a couple of guys who own Landscaping businesses. One runs about 25 crews or 2 to 5 men per crew. He has a full time employee who does nothing but help the workers keep their paperwork in order and to make sure his company is in compliance with our hiring laws. Even then, they can’t scritinize fake paperwork, and he knows some of it must be fake. He tells me that he’s tried to hire young American boys, but they never work out. Often they simply don’t show up the second day.


ARZ - 9 years ago


I agree with you, the wage is purely based on the simple economic principle of supply and demand. However, I really believe people like “TheElitest” who have significant influence in American politics simply don’t care about that. All they are saying is 1- America is getting crowded, we don’t want anymore of you guys coming in. 2- Those who come here illegally, please pack and leave, or we will come and deport you!. This puritanical view will last as long as the Prohibition movement until it falls apart and made the society even less “formal” as they previously envisioned. In the mean time, the average people like you and me will just have to endure the economic consequences of such foolish simplistic approach.

American youth are still working in the summers, but not as hard as before. Physical labors are giving away to those jobs in fast food and malls. Those jobs are paid better, less demanding, and require almost no skills whatsoever. I bet when you were young, people who work at local drugstores and department stores, restaurants are actually grown ups and making decent income with benefits. Young kids back then cannot compete with them in that market.

Also, I must commenting on the “they don’t pay tax” argument. They do pay tax, believe it or not. Many of them use fake or stolen SS#. The direct result is that their paycheck are deducted 14.5% each time and that money went to the social security fund and disappear for good. They can’t claim benefits since the SS# is not theirs. I don’t know exactly how much the government gets from this pool, but it has to be a big chunk of change. Moreover, IRA actually came out told all the illegals that IRA will NEVER share information with the Homeland Security department due to information act. However, with a track record of tax paying each year is a good evidence for them once the government pass some form of amnesty (on average, American government issue some sort of amnesty every 10 years or so in the past 40 years.) So a lot of immigrants do apply for a tax ID and file their tax returns yearly. Of course they can’t pay much, since they make little, but still it’s unfair to say that they never pay tax.

Rusty - 9 years ago

“I don’t know why our young Amercian boys are unwilling to consider the trades as summer or even permenant work. ”

It is because our schools are failing us. Schools are so interested in test scores, including SATs and ACTs. While that is all well and good, not every student is going to go to college. Which means that those test scores basically provide no clue about what kind of productive citizen the high school is graduating. I have two sons, one in college and another headed there in two years, but if they weren’t going to college, they certainly wouldn’t have any skills from all those years in school to go into a trade.

Whatever happened to Vo-Tech? When I was in high school 30 years ago (yeah, I’m old!), every student was required to take a ‘life skill’ elective. Back in those prehistoric days, it was generally home ec for girls and wood shop for boys. Although it was an either/or proposition really. How many teenagers today have ever held a power saw or built anything?

And for those high school students who were not heading to college, they had the option of doing Vo-Tech in high school. They would spend the morning with math, english, social studies, whatever, and then get on a bus at lunch to go to a trade school – plumbing, carpentry, auto mechanics, hairdressing, etc. etc. Businesses gained a lot of employees from vo tech schools, and actively recruited them. A high school diploma is a great thing, but for those who wanted to go to work right after high school and not go on to college, they also had the benefit of learning a trade. All these darn test scores don’t mean a thing. Are we graduating kids with potential? Not every kid is going to go to college. What else do they have to offer a future employer if they don’t?

As for the illegal/legal immigrant thing, if we gave all illegal immigrants amnesty, and opened our borders to more immigrants, there wouldn’t be any more cheap labor. Trust me. I am not saying it’s good or bad either way, just saying that you can’t have it both ways. Illegal immigration costs taxpayers millions of dollars. Legal immigrants will cost consumers millions of dollars. There is no painless solution for us.

Andy - 9 years ago

Just for the record…immigrants, using fake SSN numbers, are probably bolstering social security to the tune of about 7 billion dollars, and they will never collect on it, at least according to this New York times article and a few others I’ve seen. Plus, they’re paying sales tax (which is significant in Texas), plus any licensing or other commercial taxes and fees. I think the economic upheaval of keeping more immigrants out is a lot bigger than people realize.

Matt - 8 years ago

I agree the system is broken, but I agree the English language issue costs us unnecessary money, and I’ve never seen a complete and non-partisan, so to speak, accounting of whether they are a net gain or loss on our fiscal economy (for the average citizen, I’m absolutely certain that they are profitable for farm owners and construction companies). I do know that when I travel the globe, from the Middle East to Southeast Asia, everyone I meet talks about waiting for their LEGAL visa. These people speak perfect English, they want to integrate, they are not criminals, have a hard work ethic and most have a college degree. What’s ironic, not only are they well educated, but they also are willing just to be a waitress with a college degree to come to America. The argument that we need workers from Mexico, who don’t speak English, are largely uneducated, and are mixed with a large criminal element is false. If we simply up the legal visas, we will get english speakers, well educated, willing to pay to fly themselves to America. These people WILL work low wage jobs despite their education. Most are already doing so under absolutely deplorable conditions.

It may sound racists to say that these people are better than the Mexican labor we are getting, but it is simply a large reality. We get the uneducated and criminal element from Mexico. From other nations, we would be getting an educated populace that is lower in crime and as a side affect will build clean ethnic neighborhoods during their integration period. They will speak English and want to integrate. Let’s face it, educated people generally add to society and take care of their neighborhoods, increasing the value of the area they are in. These people are coming from a culture where education and hard work is valued, and people are taught to have a nice and clean home that is beautiful, despite low income and value their children getting an education and or starting businesses. Not exactly the border elements we are used to. Perhaps we would corrupt many of them anyway.

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