Danny Fowler used to run a small construction company in California.
Unlike most of his competition, Fowler refused to hire illegal immigrants. But time after time, other contractors got the job because they had cheaper labor.
"When half your crew is illegal, you can underbid by 10 percent anytime," Fowler, 50, said.
On his visits to construction sites, he said, he saw illegal workers everywhere.
"They're there by the hundreds, not the tens," said Fowler, who's from Modesto. "It's pathetic. They're out in the open and nobody's doing anything about it. I don't blame [the illegal workers]. Everybody's trying to just get by."
So last year -- partially because of the economy and partially because of the competition -- Fowler closed his business and enrolled in a local junior college to become a family counselor.
"I would like to say, 'Yeah let's just lock up the borders, let's send everybody back and let's just take care of our own because that would be the easy solution," he said. "But I don't know we've already gone too far to ever come back to what we were as a nation. It's like the Pledge of Allegiance is gone, this is gone, that's gone. It's a different world. I've got kids coming up in this world, and I'm not too thrilled with it."
The immigration debate is once again surfacing in Washington, with President Obama saying he will soon make a big push for a plan. A major speech on the topic is expected in May, with working groups meeting this summer and legislation maybe by fall.
Among the options: creating some kind of amnesty program for illegal workers already in the country and allowing those workers to start down the path to citizenship.
But with many Americans worried about the security of their own jobs, Obama is going to face an intense debate on the issue, especially if the economy sours further.
And it's not just fear of illegal immigrants that needs to be overcome.
Marie works in the financial sector in the Northeast and worries about the Asian and Indian workers her company brings legally to the United States to work.
"I don't understand why we are hiring so many noncitizens when there are unemployed Americans of all ethnic backgrounds in abundance," said Marie, who, fearing reprisals from her boss, asked for anonymity. "When I've been on hiring teams, we do not receive resumes from HR for non-Asian candidates."
Marie has applied for several new jobs at her company, only to lose out to people from other countries.
"At least 15 to 20 of them have been brought in over the last year to jobs that would be considered a promotion for me," she said. "It changes the culture of the workplace. I respect diversity and working with different cultures but, basically, the American culture is being replaced with that of a foreign country."
But supporters of changing immigration law say that Americans have nothing to fear. They say that bringing everybody into legal work would raise wages and working conditions for all Americans.