US: Immigrant Goes, $49 K in Savings Stays
After nearly a decade of washing dishes in a Florida restaurant, Pedro Zapeta had saved $62,000. He reportedly lived a frugal life, bicycling everywhere and denying himself all luxuries once he paid for his rent and electricity. No one questions that his savings come from his own hard-earned wages.
However, because the illegal immigrant failed to report his savings on the proper form before he tried to board a plane to return to his native Guatemala in 2005, customs agents confiscated his money and a federal judge decided that the U.S. government should keep $49,000 as a civil penalty. “The ‘crime’ he’s being punished for is not illegal immigration. It’s a bureaucratic technicality meant to catch drug dealers and smugglers, of which he is neither,” writes a Miami Herald columnist.
Zapeta’s situation, which has been reported by the Palm Beach Post and in a CNN broadcast, has ignited controversy. Many are outraged, but some opponents of illegal immigration say he got what he deserved, writes columnist Ana Menendez. Ironically, she notes, “most Americans are deep in the red” and Zapeta “may be the last man on earth who still embodies the great American ideal of thrift and hard work.”