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Sean Casey

If Mr. Wenning wanted to make a statement against undocumented workers, he could start by emptying his refrigerator, getting rid of his clothes, and any number of other products that almost guaranteed were manufactured, processed, picked, sorted, or transported by an undocumented worker at some point along the line.

Also, if he has had any remodeling, landscaping, construction or other labor intensive projects on his home or property, I'd like to see proof that all those that worked on it were documented and paid a fair wage.


um.... how about sticking to architecture on the architecture blog. leave the politics out.


While I find that Brian's piece here is a bit edgy and it is extending the field of discussion of design, it also seems we need to pay attention to the shadows of design and urban development in the rose city. I think it is naive to think it is possible or desirable to take the politics out of architecture or design?

Sean Casey

I think Charles has a good point.

All those beautiful projects, buildings and landscaping we like to talk about probably have undocumented workers working on them in some capacity. It's pretty ubiquitous.

Maybe too messy of a topic for Architects to think about... go back to your CAD, and let the Contractors handle it.

I'm sure they'll stay under budget somehow (wink, wink).

John Russell

But isn't that the American dream? Being able to sue anyone for anything, right?


There is a valid architecture angle here that Brian touches on(providing shelter), but this post has a decidedly political bent for the most part. He could have talked about illegal construction workers as well.

That being said, I'd chime in that the wages are low because they are illegal, at a legal wage these jobs could be filled by legal workers.

Sean Casey

My understanding is the standard starting pay that most workers (undocumented ones) ask for is $10/hour.

This contrasts with the minimum wage in Washington and Oregon ($8.07 and $7.95/hour respectively).

In other words, a day laborer will make $80 at the end of a 8 hour shift, and be paid in cash on the spot.

The legal minimum wage worker will make roughly $64 at the end of the day (before taxes), and have to wait 1 or 2-weeks to get paid.

Your employment preference?

M Brown

Brian, spot on. The misplaced outrage that folks like Wenning feel is justified in their minds under the "rule of law" argument. If you counter them, you are a lawbreaker, and he attempts to justify his presence at the center under that pretense - recording license plates on the presumption that people are skirting employment taxes.

However, my understanding of employment law is that you are not required to submit ANY documentation for workers that earn less than $600 a year from you, and that further if you are hiring on a project basis, you are essentially in a contractual arrangement and not a employer/employee arrangement. He can't even get his story right for what he is doing there - there is no information he is collecting (e.g., license plate numbers) that is useful to any law enforcement, INS, or IRS official, so the only reason for his presence is to incite reaction.

As to Sean's point, all of us would take $80 cash on the spot over $64 in 1-2 weeks (you left out the fact that the $64 is less due to tax witholding). But in reading the Tribune article, it should also be noted that for one of the workers interviewed, he was hired twice in one month. Put in that context, I think we might all take the $64...

Last, you can't unentwine architecture (design) and politics. While I would not want to see this blog become dominated by topics like this, it does seem somehow appropriate to explore the City's creation of a building and program at the center of one of our nation's hottest political topics.

- MB.

Brian Libby

If I had it to do over again, I would have written this post a little differently. I just was angered by what I read about this incident, and felt compelled to write something. Those who have cautioned against getting political on an architecture blog, I hear you, and this is not the norm. But I also think it is true that there's an aspect of architecture in this debate - not the design of shelter but its provision.

Sean Casey

I'll have to echo M Browns point. Politics and Architecture are already intertwined.

No building, park, or project gets off the ground without political approval at some level.

Then there's what goes in to getting the things built. The materials and labor.

Maybe it's time Architecture firms and Contractors take a break from all the back-slapping, self-congratulatory, LEED-this, eco-that, sustaina-blahblah, and make a
commitment to providing sustainable work and a safe work environment for EVERY level of the project. From PM, to the one digging the ditches.

Nike gets raked over the coals for sweatshops. Why should architecture firms be exempt?

That, in my opinion, is real Sustainability.

And Brian, since were "getting political", why not profile Dignity Village? It's architecture of a sort. I bet that place leaves a smaller carbon footprint than one office at a some "Green" firm.

...Actually, let's stay away from that topic. Too "political".

Now back to our regular programming of Koolhas, Cloepfil, & ZGF.

Tom Wenning

Ow! This is NOT a compassion/bigotry issue with me. If it's a compassion issue for you, why do you have no compassion for Americans who compete for jobs with these illegal aliens? You prefer to import uneducated baby-spewing Catholic agrarians who sneak into our country? (Nothing against the uneducated, Catholics or agrarians - they just spew babies.) Jobs Americans won't do? Shame on you. Who do you think built this country? Give Americans a living wage and you'll have them lined up around the block to apply for any job you can come up with. It's bad enough our jobs are shipped overseas, now the jobs that are left are going to illegal aliens. I, and I imagine no one else, had a problem with migrant farm workers over the past decades, but today's illegal aliens have taken over the building trades. An American down on his luck could always get a job framing houses. Not anymore. Are you so calloused from decades of dealing with poor Americans that you must cast your attention to a foreign group of people to arouse your compassion? Have you noticed the abnormal percentage of illegal aliens who, among other things, drive intoxicated without insurance? Approximately 50% of male illegal aliens caught attempting to enter the United States have arrest records. What percentage of the illegal aliens at the day labor site have arrest records or worse? Don't know? Nobody does.
"Huddled masses yearning to be free", refers to illegal immigrants? Wow. Where did you get that? I thought the purpose of Ellis Island was to LEGALLY process immigrants. Our country has, and always has had, a political refugee program as well as, like every other country, a procedure for immigrants to legally enter our country and become citizens. To pander to immigrants who sneak into our country is to insult all foreigners who wait to enter our country legally.
There is no shelter for the illegals at the day labor site. The trailer is an office.
Don't talk to me about walking in these peoples' shoes. At points in my life I have worked as physically hard as a human can - I have the muscle to prove it - and I have been as poor as a human can be - think out houses and stealing tuna fish to eat.
I'm descended from LEGAL American immigrants. My ancestors did not steal this country from the Indians, we stole it from the British.
"Labor law" requires all employers to fill out a federal form I9, which documents the employee's right to work in this country. The form must be filled out at the time of hiring if the employee is to employed for less than 3 days.
The pictures I take of the "employers", their vehicles and license plate numbers are sent to the IRS, Oregon Dept. of Revenue and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. I have had positive feed back from the Oregon Dept. of Revenue that my pictures are being used to investigate these "employers."
I'm not suing to make money. I had to ask for a monetary amount to make the suit complete. What I'm after, other than the ultimate goal of closing this tax-supported illegal site - is publicity for the site. It's working, as you are now reading about it.
Please get off the $8-$10/hr., benefits/no benefits wage issue. Americans need a LIVING wage to support their families. I imagine if you sit in an office all day designing buildings while pulling down a sizable salary, you're not competing with illegal aliens to support your family. Please direct your compassion to America's poor before you seek out foreign peoples who sneak into our country and won't stay and fight for justice in their own corrupt country to give your sympathy to.

Sean Casey


Let's go over your post, point-by-point:

"why do you have no compassion for Americans who compete for jobs with these illegal aliens?"

Gee, I honestly don't see a lot of white americans applying for roofing and landscaping jobs.

"You prefer to import uneducated baby-spewing Catholic agrarians"

Hmmm... does this even need a comment? Are you saying you don't like farmers?

"Who do you think built this country?"

Last I heard slaves did most of the work for the first 300 years.

"Approximately 50% of male illegal aliens caught attempting to enter the United States have arrest records."

For what? trying to enter the US?

"At points in my life I have worked as physically hard as a human can - I have the muscle to prove it - and I have been as poor as a human can be."

Same here, what's your point?

"My ancestors did not steal this country from the Indians, we stole it from the British."

Indians or British, by you're admission, your ancestors are theives. They stole it by proxy.

Tom, I respect your right to say (and to a certain extent "do") what you feel is right. However, your bigoted comments really take away from any point you're trying to make.


"This is NOT a compassion/bigotry issue with me."


You go on to say..."You prefer to import uneducated baby-spewing Catholic agrarians"

That language is hateful, discriminatory and intolerant, and everyone on this site should be very offended.

Brian...I agree you should have proof-read that several times before you posted. There is a deep connection between the manual labor force and architecture. For all of us who have been on a job site, no matter the size, there are always day-laborers present (legal and illegal).

Politically, I will not comment...this is an architecture forum.

There should be no room for any type of discrimination on this site.

Sean Casey

One point I forgot to add:

"I, and I imagine no one else, had a problem with migrant farm workers over the past decades, but today's illegal aliens have taken over the building trades"

So as long as long as illegal immigration didn't affect you (except by keeping your grocery bill down), you didn't have a problem with undocumented workers?

Sort of a sliding scale of morality isn't it?

Tom Wenning

Wow, what a stretch. A bigot is a person who "holds blindly and intolerably to a particular opinion." Catholics spew babies. They are discouraged from using birth control - fact, not bigotry. The uneducated spew babies - fact, not bigotry. Agrarians spew babies - fact, not bigotry.
I don't mention race as an issue. Why did you say, "white Americans"? Aren't all legal citizens Americans, regardless of their race? Why do you need to differentiate between different American races?
Slaves built this country? What part? I thought slaves were used then, as recently, in agriculture (OK, the Chinese built our railroads). You're an architect? Of the millions of buildings in this country, how many were designed by slaves and illegal aliens?
The 50% of illegals attempting to enter our country at the Southern California border who were caught, have arrest records, primarily in California and Oregon, other than arrest records for attempting to enter the country illegally. Why not address my point that NOBODY knows the history of the illegal aliens at the day labor site?
You said, "I'd like to see this Bozo put in a hard day's work." That is why I replied that I have worked very hard in my life.
Everybody stole this country from someone else. The Vikings were here before the Indians.
If you're "going over my post point by point", why do you not address my points about illegals taking jobs from Americans and illegals holding down and even reducing the American hourly wage?
Why do you not address my point that architects don't have to compete with illegal labor (yet)?
If your clients, the builders, can't succeed by paying a living wage, maybe they should get out of the business instead of undercutting Americans' wage needs.
If you're so interested in this issue, why do you not show up at the day labor site and show your support? I would appreciate it if you would. You have a lot to learn about real life and this would be a good place for you to start the learning process.

Sean Casey


Let me ask you. Do you think childbirth is "spewing"? Sewage is "spewed". Babies are "born". As you were. It smacks of a weird psycho-sexual issue that I wouldn't even go into in this forum.

The issue about contractors paying a living wage is something I mentioned in an earlier post (and I would think something you would agree with).

And no, I can't make it to the day labor site tomorrow. I have to work. How about you?

M Brown

"Uneducated Baby spewing Catholic agrarians." Wow. Of course, you qualify it by saying "nothing against the uneducated, Catholics or agrarians.." So that must make it ok to say and prove you aren't a bigot.

What is amazing is how many times America has been through this. Few people remember the discrimination faced by German immigrants at the turn of the 19th Century, or Chinese in the late 19th Century. Go back and look at the laws passed and rhetoric used at those times in history. It's embarrassing. And it's the same conversation happening today, the same racist arguments recycled and repackaged.

Tom, there is no doubt that American workers need a living wage. On that single point, you and I agree. Villainizing those that are coming here to America for better opportunities and escape from abject poverty is an ineffective strategy to go about it, and employing bigoted rhetoric ensures that few will listen or take action.


I support Tom Wenning. Finally someone is doing something about these illegal aliens and their corrupt slave masters.

How dare you criticize someone for defending himself and his community and country!


It's your Blog, do what you want with it "political" or not. I can choose not to read it if I don't care for the topic.

The topic of offshore design houses replacing local input is worth further discussion here. Certainly this already occurs on major projects.

Brian Libby

I'm genuinely surprised to see Tom Wenning himself respond to this "Let's Deport Tom Wenning" post.

Tom, you have admirable levels of passion, and your concern about things like overpopulation and the rule of law are understandable.

But somebody who tosses around phrases like "baby spewing Catholic agrarians" is hard to take seriously, even if there are elements of truth there. You sound about as subtle as a sledgehammer.

Also, I don't think being a legal alien versus an illegal one immediately grants some kind of panacea of legitimacy, or that being an illegal alien makes someone a pariah. I also don't necessarily feel any more loyalty to a poor American wage earner than a illegal alien making the same amount here in the United States.

It's kind of like marriage, I think: I've lived with my girlfriend for 15 years and we're not legally hitched. Does that mean we love each other less than a married couple? No flipping way! But by the rationale you use with legal/illegal immigration, we should be condemned. Or maybe burned at the stake?

You also indicate that you're more educated about this issue because you've been present at the day-labor center and I haven't. But this whole argument has been about abstract concepts that transcend that particular building. I don't have to visit the center to know that I support the idea of giving a little shelter to people looking to pick berries for a few bucks for a day or two. Does that mean I shouldn't also be compassionate towards American citizens working hard and still facing poverty? Of course not. But those people don't seem to need as much defending from others attacking their right to seek the best life possible for themselves.

Pat Shearer

What I see a lot of you missing here is that if you don't think a law is just and fair, then you should work through the system to change it. As long as a law is on the books, you are required to obey it. The law clearly states that illegal aliens do not have any rights in this country. They are to be deported, not supported. The only thing the day labor center should be doing is verifying legal employable status of the workers and then either letting them get in line for a job or putting them in a holding cell awaiting deportation.

Taking the approach promoted by the day labor site and the Portland City Council, I should be allowed to break other laws without worry of consequences. If I choose to drive in excess of a posted speed limit, I should be given extra compensation, not a ticket by the city of Portland. However, that won't happen because the city chooses to enforce only the laws they agree with. Anybody who voted to fund the day labor center violated laws and therefore should be impeached.

Don't you guys see that by supporting the activities of illegal aliens, we ALL suffer? They don't pay taxes, so we all have to pay more. They don't have vehicle insurance so when they are involved in an accident, we have to pay more which raises our rates. When they use our education system and health care systems, our costs go up. All of this has a direct effect on our standard of living and yet you support it????

People who wish to come to this country have legal means to become citizens. It may require waiting or getting a work visa but it can be done. I have a legal immigrant son in law from Mexico. He did it the legal way and he strongly opposes the illegal aliens coming over the border. Our laws allow exceptions from the normal process for political asylum but in the case of these local illegal workers, they are not fleeing due to persecution but simply for economic reasons. By law, they must be deported!!!

Tom Wenning is an American citizen trying to wake up the government to stop the illegal activities supported by the City of Portland and therefore is a hero in my book. The ultra liberal whiners who support this illegal activity should use their rights under our constitution to change the laws if they think that would be better for our country. However, if they don't think that would be the best plan of action, then they should support Mr. Wenning's rights to bring this issue to the courts.

So until you start the process of changing the laws that you don't support, you should STFU!!! This country is based on a set of laws that apply universally to all citizens and nobody has the right to violate the laws. Persons who are not in this country legally have no rights or protections under our constitution and should be deported immediately.

M Brown

Interesting. The last two comments supporting Tom Wenning have admonished us for expressing views contrary to theirs - "...how dare you criticize..." or "STFU..."

You two, so big on rule of law, try going back to the ultimate law in this country, read the First Amendment, and then reconsider your comments. Beyond that, note that those you are arguing with here are not trying to muzzle you, but are pointing out that your rhetoric is bigoted, and that if you are employing rhetoric of this type, a legitimate question to ask is whether you are truly motivated by "rule of law" or simply using that as cover for racist attitudes.

I think I'm done with this topic.

- MB.


This is a tough conversation - if I could play devil's advocate (I'll probably hate myself for it given the tone of this discussion here...yikes!)

Why support illegal immigrants? There is a notion in the founding of this country that we should treat all people equally, and many people from around the world apply for immigration to the US every day. Could it be wrong to think that people who want some relief from illegal immigration are anti-immigration?

What is the experience of those who wish to immigrate legally? Often they're shut out - sometimes because there are no jobs here. Is it possible there are building tradespeople from, say, Prague and India who would love the chance to immigrate here legally and would be more than happy to roof and tile?

Business is the winner here. They're happy to hire a dishwasher from Mexico illegally for $6, when if they were to hire a legal immigrant they'd have to pay the proper wages and taxes. You don't think there are legal immigrants of every sort who aren't willing to wash dishes, or roof buildings?

This state has American citizens & legal immigrants who are jobless and hungry and people here think they aren't willing to roof or bus tables? Is it possible that this underground economy benefits business so much that there's no incentive to hire people who would be more than willing to do the work?

Poor Americans (or 'white Americans') are lazy and not willing to work at jobs that can only be taken by illegal immigrants might be an unfair characterization.

I wonder if its possible that the business with a restaurant or a roofing company see's someone who's willing to do the same job for less money and just goes with that, regardless of whether or not there's a legal immigrant who is willing to do the work.

Tom Wenning

I regret using the term "uneducated baby spewing Catholic agrarians" although it is an accurate, not bigoted, description. It is, I admit, not a politically correct description. My regret is based solely on the fact that some people can't get past that description to get to the meat of the issue.
I had no problem with migrants coming to Oregon to harvest our agricultural crops. The farmers were happy, the migrants were content and the locals didn't care. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Now with 12 million illegals in this country, the farmers aren't happy because the illegals don't want to do the harvesting anymore, they want the higher paying jobs only found in urban settings. The locals aren't happy because the illegals are taking their jobs and driving down hourly wages. The illegals are the only winners here. The day laborers at the day labor site aren't hired to "pick berries." They're mostly hired to do construction.
I don't give a rip about you shacking up with your honey. It's not against the law and it's nobody else's business, as long as you aren't using tax dollars to set up your love nest. (You're right, I'm not subtle, but I consider that a good thing.)
You honestly think that you know so much about the day labor center that there is no need for you to visit it? You're way wrong. Let me give you two facts I've learned at the day labor center that I wouldn't know if I had never visited it:
1) Any illegal alien whose goal is to become a United States citizen does NOT support this day labor center. Any upcoming amnesty program will require that illegals seeking citizenship have to, among other things, prove that they have already been employed in this country for x number of years. The day laborers cannot prove this because their pay is under the table. There is no paper trail of the illegal alien having ever worked.
2) On the 15th of this month a well-muscled and very angry American approached me at the day labor site. I thought, "Uh oh." It turns out this American wasn't there to assault me, he had come to get the address of the day labor site so that he could report it to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He had just been laid off from his construction job but yet his co-workers, all illegal aliens, had not been laid off. I got the distinct feeling this gentleman was very close to committing violence against the day labor center and its clients. (I did not call the police because this gentleman soon left.)
Speaking of the 1st Amendment - I was exercising my 1st Amendment rights at the day labor center when I was attacked, twice.
Isn't a premise of modern architecture "sustainability?" Doesn't inviting in 12 million uneducated baby-spewing Catholic agrarian illegal aliens run counter to that premise?


Tom et al., don't hate the player - hate the game.


I am surprised that Tom Wenning is even wanting to converse with us...considering this is a public forum (am I correct?). I am sure his lawyer would rather him not comment on here, especially using hateful language.

I have worked alongside dozens of day-laborers. Whether legal or illegal, most of the ones I have come across have had trouble with the law one way or the other. Because you have a record, that does not make you a bad person...you just made some bad decisions.


It is regrettable that more than a few people here are using hateful language because there are some good points on both sides. It makes it very difficult to have a meaningful honest dialogue.


"Catholics spew babies." - Tom Wenning

As a Catholic, color me offended, Tom. I haven't read anything that stereotypical in a long time.


I don't see anything wrong with having a day labor site. I could go there myself and work for the day if I needed $80 cash. And I probably would if I needed it.

I don't totally agree with Tom nor do I totally disagree. He has valid points and is standing up for what he believes in. There are a lot of things that are broken in this country and could use fixing. I think we should have tuition-free university so everyone can have an equal chance. Same with health care. You shouldn't have to worry about if you're covered or not. Even if you have insurance, you still can be fucked-over by the company. Much of Europe is this way and it is proving to stimulate their education levels and economies. Sweden even offers tuition-free university to FOREIGN people - all the way up to a PhD. Imagine that! Along with it comes health care coverage and a work permit. I'm currently studying Swedish so I can enroll in engineering school, which is not one of their fully English-taught programs.

What's my point? I don't know. No person or country is perfect.


Just think....if Mexico were a better place to make a living, hispanics wouldn't have to be illegally crossing the border into the U.S. in such great numbers in order to provide for their families.

If U.S. drug addicts weren't helping to make an illegal industry one of, if not the biggest Mexican industry, better ways of making a living in that country might be more available.

It's unrealistic to imagine people will quietly sit on the other side of a superficial border watching their families starve to death when the means to provide for them is available in the country next door. Which brings up the border wall being built on the Mexican/U.S. border. Given that this is an architecture related forum, the significance of that construction should be considered in the context of this discussion.

In all respects, the wall, fence, or whatever it's being called, is an offense. From an architectural perspective, it's an offense to the eye, the senses in general, and the beauty of the landscape. On a humanistic level, it's little different than the Berlin Wall. It's a shamefully desperate testimony to the inability of this country to humanely resolve a problem shared by it and one of its neighbors.

sean mullins


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