L.A. adopts day laborer rules for home improvement stores

The law could require such firms as Home Depot and Lowe’s to build day-labor centers with shelter, drinking water, ed bathrooms and trash cans at new stores. Each site will be evaluated independently.

By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

August 14, 2008

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday requiring certain home improvement stores to develop plans for dealing with day laborers who congregate nearby in search of jobs.

The ordinance mandates that proposed big-box stores obtain conditional-use permits, which could then require them to build day-labor centers with shelter, drinking water, bathrooms and trash cans. 

Councilman Bernard C. Parks, who first proposed the ordinance four years ago, said that this was just the first phase and that he planned to address existing home improvement stores next. He said the businesses needed to be held accountable for their role in attracting dayworkers.

The vote prompted a standing ovation by dozens of day laborers in the council chambers. The move came after years of debate and negotiations among city leaders, Home Depot officials and dayworker advocates over who should be responsible for public safety and nuisance issues created by workers gathered in parking lots and on sidewalks and street corners.

“This is an important day,” said Councilman Eric Garcetti. “This is an example for the nation.”

Cities nationwide have taken different approaches to the issue. Some have tried to restrict where workers can gather, while others have built hiring halls.

Home Depot officials said they were disappointed by the L.A. council’s vote and said they shouldn’t be solely responsible for addressing the challenges presented by day laborers.

“This is a broader social issue that goes beyond Home Depot, and the solution is certainly more complicated than placing mandates on businesses,” said company spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher.

Nevertheless, senior manager Francisco Uribe pledged to work with city leaders to address the issue.

Dayworker advocates praised the vote, saying the action would make it easier to build worker centers at home improvement stores. There are currently eight centers in the city, each run by a nonprofit organization.

“We welcome it,” said Pablo Alvarado of the Los Angeles-based National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “We need it. The workers deserve it.”

Under the ordinance, stores making major renovations or additions could also be required to go through the conditional-use permitting process. The city plans to evaluate each proposed store independently. The city would have to make certain findings, including that there is an existing day laborer population in the vicinity, before requiring a company such as Lowe’s or Home Depot to create “operating standards” to deal with dayworkers.

Stores would not have to make a plan if the city determined that there were not significant numbers of day laborers in the area or that they were not expected to generate increased trash or noise or impede traffic. The ordinance would apply only to stores of 100,000 square feet or more.

The issue is also part of the wider debate over illegal immigration.

Marvin Stewart, president of the Minuteman Project, said the ordinance was another example of how the city condones illegal immigration. “All of this is flying in the face of what the city is supposed to be doing in terms of upholding the law,” Stewart said.

But Abel Valenzuela, a UCLA professor who has conducted extensive research on day laborers and supports the ordinance, said the city can expect to see even more such workers as the economy continues to falter. “This isn’t an immigration issue,” he said. “This is a labor market issue.”



Ordinance Seeks To Encourage Laborer Shelters


Los Angeles Business Journal Staff

Major new home improvement stores opening in the city of Los Angeles may have to build shelters for day laborers under a City Council ordinance approved Wednesday.

Under the ordinance, proposed by Councilmembers Bernard Parks and Ed Reyes and passed unanimously, all proposed home improvement stores of more than 100,000 square feet would have to obtain a conditional use permit from the city. Most Home Depot, Lowe’s and other big box home improvement stores would meet this threshold.

In order to obtain the permit, the developers of the stores would have to present plans to address the issue of day laborers congregating on the property and waiting to be picked up for jobs. These plans could include building shelters for day laborers that include bathroom facilities, though the ordinance does not specifically mandate that such shelters be built.

Several councilmembers said they also wanted to see an ordinance addressing day laborer issues at existing home improvement stores. Parks and Reyes said that issue would be dealt with at a later date, after the current ordinance is implemented.


A better day-labor market

Councilman Parks’ ordinance would improve conditions for neighborhoods and those who seek work outside home-improvement stores.

By Abel Valenzuela Jr.
August 13, 2008

The Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to vote today on an ordinance that would help mitigate community concerns over men searching for work at large home improvement stores. This ordinance, which The Times opposed in an Aug. 10 editorial, deserves support as an example of creative and thoughtful local public policy. It is a way to make certain that home improvement stores are a part of the solution by engaging the private sector in a community partnership.

Los Angeles has been at the forefront of effective and innovative policy interventions to address the day-labor practice, including establishing worker centers — gathering places sanctioned by municipalities that allow workers and employers to come together to exchange wages for work.

The proposed ordinance by Councilman Bernard C. Parks would neither mandate that home improvement stores pay for day-labor centers nor place a new burden on taxpayers. It would only require that if a conditional-use permit is awarded to a big-box home improvement store — which would be needed for new construction or major renovation — that a plan be in place to diminish problems that might arise when unemployed men search for jobs near the premises. One of the ways to do this might be to establish a worker center.

For more than 10 years, I’ve researched the day-labor market, including the efficacy of worker centers. My research shows that these centers are the most effective policy response to an otherwise unregulated day-labor economy. Worker centers are low-cost community assets that resolve local tensions while improving worker reliability and increasing worker safety. They help ensure that workplace rights are respected and that employers get the best and most reliable workers. They also involve communities in resolving a local issue that impacts them.

Some of the oldest and most effective worker centers are supported by and located in the city of Los Angeles, including the one outside the Home Depot store in the Cypress Park area north of downtown Los Angeles, and the one located at Exposition and Sawtelle boulevards in West L.A. The methods and programs to create the more than half a dozen worker centers in L.A. have been replicated in other cities because of the host of benefits to both workers and consumers, such as better wages, an orderly hiring process and more reliable workers.

Centers provide a safe place to pick up workers. My studies have found that injuries significantly decrease. And worker centers go a long way toward mitigating some of the misperceptions and tensions that arise over men searching for work in public spaces or nearby industries.

Often such centers have become a focal point in the volatile debate over immigration. But my research on day labor shows that there is an increasing number of U.S.-born citizens participating in this market, not only in Los Angeles but across the nation. This number can be expected to rise as unemployment increases and more workers of different backgrounds search for work through various outlets, including day labor. As our economy continues to falter, alternative employment searches will rise.

Searching for work in open-air street markets has a long history in the United States; think dockworkers, agricultural workers and now construction workers. Its current manifestation speaks directly to our national economy and the demands of employers who prefer temporary workers. As more unemployed workers search for jobs in this manner, policies that promote a fair and inclusive process must be applied to an old problem.

Worker centers are the best approach to alleviating some of the most difficult tensions that can arise when men search for employment at home improvement stores or elsewhere. The goal of resolving community conflicts over day labor requires that all stakeholders, including big-box home improvement stores that attract day laborers, come together and assume their responsibility as community partners.

Parks’ ordinance promotes a creative and humane alternative and ensures that future day-worker centers are created with public, private and nonprofit collaboration.

Abel Valenzuela Jr. is a UCLA professor and the director of the university’s Center for the Study of Urban Poverty.

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Council demands big box stores build day labor shelters

Contra Costa Times

By Rick Orlov, Daily News

Article Launched: 08/13/2008 02:05:38 PM PDT

In the first step to control day laborers at large home improvement stores, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a measure that could require big box stores to develop centers to provide shelter for the workers.

The measure, which several officials said was aimed at Home Depot and its 11 stores in the city, will apply only to stores of 100,000 square feet or larger that will be built – or if existing stores are undergoing major renovation.

The measure still requires the mayor’s signature. Most city laws take effect 30 days afterward.

But Councilman Bernard Parks, who spearheaded the four-year push for the measure, said he saw it as the first step toward requiring existing stores to create similar centers.

“Phase Two is aimed at those stores,” Parks said. “The city now is spending about $2 million a year for day labor centers – money that could be better used on police or streets or parks in the city.

“We should have the companies pay the costs of these centers.”

A Home Depot spokesman said the company is concerned that all home improvement stores be treated the same and their company not be singled out.

“We aren’t the only home improvement store,” spokesman Francisco Uribe said. “What we wanted was something where all stakeholders could be included and we discuss what is in this measure.”

But Parks and several other council members cited Home Depot as the source of the problem. 

“Let’s be honest here,” Councilman Richard Alarcon said. “The problem we have is with Home Depot – which has not managed a phenomena essentially created by their marketing and targeting of customers that need day laborers.

“I believe that is essentially what is causing this problem and I would love to take on Home Depot directly on this.”

Uribe said he did not agree with Alarcon’s comments and the firm is trying to work with the city on the issues.

City planning officials said they would be looking at existing nuisance laws to see if the city can require day labor centers in areas where there are problems.

Parks tried to diffuse some of the expected criticism, saying the measure had nothing to do with immigration issues.

“We are not using this to protect illegal immigrants,” Parks said. “This is about providing dignity for workers and controlling a problem we have where there are no shelters.”

Parks said his office has received complaints about workers congregating at sites and having no bathroom facilities or protection from the weather.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl used the debate to se an agreement from Uribe to have discussions about Home Depot providing a day labor center at its store in his district.

“This is the busiest Home Depot in America,” Rosendahl said. “They agreed to have community meetings to discuss what can be done.”

Rosendahl said he also is looking at using other city funds to create more day labor centers in his district.

“The truth is the way the economy is going, we are going to see more day laborers, not less,” Rosendahl said.

“We need to make sure we can provide a place for them where they can maintain their dignity.”

“Day Laborers and Home Depot”

New York Times Editorial


Published: August 12, health 2008
It’s rare, in the parched landscape of the immigration debate, to come across policies that are simple, realistic and humane. But here is one: The Los Angeles City Council is expected to vote on Wednesday on an ordinance requiring big-box home-improvement stores to protect order and safety when day laborers gather in their parking lots looking for work.

The ordinance is primarily aimed at Home Depot, which has 11 stores in Los Angeles and would like to open at least a dozen more. It would require new or renovating stores to have a plan for what to do when the day laborers show up, as they almost always do when Home Depot moves in.

Like any land-use law governing things like parking-lot lighting, curbs and sidewalks, the ordinance treats milling crowds of laborers and idling trucks as an integral fact of Home Depot’s business that should be managed before it becomes chaotic and hazardous. The solution is basic prevention, and could be as simple as setting up an area somewhere on store property with shade, toilets, drinking water and trash cans.

Opposition has erupted from the usual camps. Not all day laborers are undocumented immigrants or even immigrants, but a lot of them are, and the thought of doing anything that would make their lives easier makes some restrictionists howl and clutch their chests. “Lounges for Laborers?” one headline read.

The ordinance is as much for Home Depot’s customers and neighbors as it is for laborers. Nobody likes parking-lot free-for-alls. And lawlessness goes down, not up, when a hiring site imposes order on the ad-hoc day-labor market.

The immigration system, as it is currently malfunctioning, creates lots of problems. Solutions tend to be hugely ambitious and unrealistic — like restrictionists’ calls to lock down a 2,000-mile border and deport millions. Los Angeles’s proposed ordinance to require more orderly hiring sites for day laborers is a small measure that makes a huge amount of sense. We hope the Council approves it.

Reasonable Doubt Part III: Sweeps and saturation patrols violate federal civil rights regulations

Paul Giblin, for Ryan Gabrielson, East Valley Tribune

One Monday morning in December, health the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office sent several of its most highly trained deputies to arrest day laborers. The human smuggling unit, police dogs and even the SWAT team spent hours swarming the intersection of Thomas Road and 36th Street, a primarily Hispanic neighborhood in Phoenix. The sheriff’s office had conducted major operations there for weeks, using minor traffic violations as legal cover to stop cars that might carry illegal immigrants.

But the deputies’ work that morning, as with dozens of similar MCSO immigration patrols across the county, violated federal regulations intended to prevent racial profiling, a Tribune investigation found.

>> U.S. Department of Justice: Guidance regarding the use of race by federal law enforcement agencies (PDF)

Those regulations specifically forbid crackdowns like Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “crime suppression/anti-illegal immigration sweeps” unless there is “reliable, empirical data” that serious crime is taking place. That’s defined as 911 calls and crime statistics based on reports, among other things.

But the sheriff’s office conducts large-scale operations without any evidence of criminal activity. The sweeps are billed as crackdowns on general crime, primarily in neighborhoods where many Hispanics live and work.

That’s exactly what federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement rules are designed to prevent.

And although Arpaio and his top officers admit they ignore the rules, ICE says MCSO is following its federal contract.

Last year, ICE partnered with MCSO to make 100 of the sheriff’s detectives and patrol deputies — and 60 detention officers — sworn federal agents, too. The deputies now have broad authority to arrest illegal immigrants under federal law.

The federal power comes with strict rules, but sheriff’s officials say they don’t necessarily follow them, especially when the rules conflict with what Arpaio thinks his agency needs to be doing and what he thinks Maricopa County residents want.

“Our response to the public for violations of state law come before that contract,” said Deputy Chief Brian Sands, head of the sheriff’s law enforcement division.

But MCSO’s immigration arrests this year are increasingly for federal, not state, violations, reports that the deputies send to ICE show.

When asked about the way MCSO is using its federal authority, ICE officials say the deputies have followed every condition in the agencies’ contract. However, they won’t discuss ICE policy about when the federal authority can be used to make traffic stops. Instructions that local agencies are to follow were removed from the agency’s Web site earlier this year.

“In our determination, our partnerships — and that includes everyone beyond Maricopa County as well — our partners are within the bounds” of their contracts with ICE, said Vincent Picard, the federal immigration agency’s Arizona spokesman.



MCSO’s contract includes a section titled “Civil Rights Procedures.”

It explains that when local police officers act as immigration agents, they are “bound” to follow all federal civil rights laws and rules. Those rules bar agents from using racial stereotypes as justification to conduct major operations.

To illustrate the type of operations that violate the regulation, the civil rights field guide for federal agents describes an instance where local police, attempting to catch offenders, make a large number of traffic stops in a particular neighborhood.

“The choice of neighborhood was not based on the number of 911 calls, number of arrests or other pertinent reporting data specific to the area,” the field guide says. Instead, the choice was based on the residents’ race.

To make such an operation legal, the field guide says agents must have trustworthy evidence proving crimes are taking place.

That’s not generally the case in Maricopa County, where the sheriff’s office has conducted saturation patrols and immigration sweeps mainly in Hispanic neighborhoods or in areas where day laborers gather. Arpaio has said he chooses the areas because business owners or politicians have asked him to come in.

But MCSO’s sweeps could be textbook examples in the federal field guide of what not to do. Arrest reports and e-mails sent regularly to ICE by deputies document that “reliable, empirical data” is nonexistent. Instead, deputies either don’t justify the operation or say it is in response to business owners’ complaints.

>> Human smuggling unit reports emailed to ICE detailing the saturation patrol in front of M.D. Pruitt’s in Phoenix (PDF)

On Oct. 22, for example, Arpaio sent the human smuggling unit to Fountain Hills.

The unit’s detectives had spent a year scouring rural highways in search of smugglers and their human cargo. But none of the smugglers’ known routes pass through Fountain Hills, where Arpaio lives. Most are on the other side of the county.

The operation was “based on information from local businesses in reference to the day laborers in the area,” Lt. Joseph Sousa wrote in an e-mail to Jason Kidd, ICE’s acting special agent in charge in Arizona.

Sousa, head of the human smuggling unit, went on to explain how deputies in patrol cars watched for vehicles that appeared to pick up illegal immigrants. Then, once they spotted a vehicle picking someone up, detectives in undercover cars “would establish probable cause for a traffic stop.”

Earlier that same month, MCSO dispatched deputies to do the same in front of M.D. Pruitt’s Furniture in Phoenix.

The store, at the southeast corner of Thomas Road and 36th Street, had long struggled with crowds of illegal immigrants that sed over from a nearby day labor center. The workers would loiter beside Pruitt’s parking lot, prompting customer complaints.

The store’s owners, Roger Sensing and his son, Mike, hired off-duty sheriff’s deputies after their negotiations with the day labor center and Phoenix officials broke down in early October.

Then, on Oct. 15, MCSO sent the human smuggling deputies on an operation to make immigration arrests there, reports show.

Immigrant rights activists soon followed to protest Arpaio and his anti-illegal immigration operations.

The sheriff’s office continued regular operations near Pruitt’s until January, announcing illegal immigrant arrest totals in news releases. Arpaio has since conducted similar operations in other parts of Phoenix, Guadalupe and — last month — in Mesa.

The Sensings did not respond to requests for an interview despite Tribune reporters calling them on the phone and visiting their furniture store.



In July 2007, the sheriff’s office opened an illegal immigration hotline that allowed people to call in complaints. MCSO officials say thousands of calls flooded the system, primarily about day laborers.

Arpaio says his office has not reacted to residents’ individual complaints about loitering illegal immigrants. But arrest reports show deputies have repeatedly responded with large-scale patrols when business owners call from Fountain Hills and Phoenix.

“Whether you call that evidence or not, I don’t know,” Arpaio said. “It’s intelligence we are receiving, so we don’t act on it all the time.”

Early this year, Guadalupe residents saw a marked increase in the amount of dealing in their neighborhoods, and pushed the sheriff’s office for more enforcement, said Santino Bernasconi, a member of the town’s public safety committee.

Instead, in early April, MCSO sent its human smuggling unit to the urban community of Hispanics and Yaqui Indians for a saturation patrol. Deputies stopped vehicles for minor traffic offenses in order to question the occupants about their immigration status, reports show.

“We got some calls on some of these violent crimes that were illegals. So I figured, ‘Wait a minute. We have a crime problem, illegal immigration probably, so let’s do suppression there,” Arpaio said.

Brian Sands, the MCSO law enforcement chief, said rising crime figures for the town justified the operation.

However, the monthly reports on criminal activity that the sheriff’s office provides to Guadalupe only show an increase in aggravated assaults and burglaries, not the kinds of crimes that officers would address through a sweep.

Then in June, dozens of MCSO deputies conducted a long anticipated two-day sweep through Mesa. This time, the operation came at the request of seven East Valley lawmakers who wrote a letter to Arpaio in April asking for immigration enforcement in their communities. One of the legislators was Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, who last year helped se more than $1 million in state funding for MCSO’s immigration work.

The Mesa sweeps were a favor to officials who helped the sheriff’s office, Arpaio told the Tribune after the letter was made public.

“I have a strange old philosophy that if someone does something for you, gives you resources, gives you money, I think if they want something back, we ought to do it,” he said.

Pearce said the quid pro quo of immigration enforcement in exchange for state taxpayer dollars was appropriate.

“That’s what they’re for,” said Pearce, a former MCSO deputy himself. “It was approved by the Legislature. I expect him to use those funds for what they’re there for — that’s enforcement.”

ICE officials declined to comment on Arpaio’s statements about the Mesa operations, during which deputies used their federal powers to apprehend 28 illegal immigrants.

“We don’t respond to a politician’s public comments,” Picard said.



In 1996, Congress changed federal immigration law to allow ICE, then called the Immigration and Naturalization Service, to partner with state and local police. The provision — named “287(g)” after the section of law that created it — certifies local officers as federal immigration agents once they’ve received training.

But ICE didn’t partner with a single police department until 2003.

The few that expressed interest in such partnerships never followed through, said Doris Meissner, INS commissioner during the Clinton administration.

At the time, much of the country opposed aggressive immigration enforcement, she said.

And INS outright prohibited its agents from targeting day laborers after the infamous “Chandler Roundup,” a 1997 operation in the East Valley city where the Hispanic population was growing quickly.

In July 1997, the U.S. Border Patrol teamed with the Chandler Police Department to arrest illegal immigrants. In one week, officers arrested 432 illegal immigrants and stopped hundreds of other Hispanic citizens.

The operation met with local and national outrage over the civil rights violations, and lawsuits soon followed. In a settlement stemming from the roundup, Chandler agreed to never again allow its police department to enforce federal immigration law. And MCSO has not conducted any sweeps in Chandler.

But other communities that had been hesitant to tackle immigration enforcement found themselves in a different situation after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“That changed after 9/11, when there was much more emphasis placed on the links between immigration and national security.” Meissner said.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement stepped up first.

Several of the terrorists who participated in the 9/11 attacks had lived in Florida with expired visas. The state agency wanted the ability to make immigration arrests if, in the course of regular police work, officers came across people in the country illegally.

The federal government was happy for the help. ICE is chronically understaffed, as was its predecessor, the INS, said Kris Kobach, former special counsel to the U.S. Attorney General.

In that job from 2001 to 2003, Kobach helped negotiate ICE’s first two partnerships with state police agencies in Florida and Alabama.

Alabama had only three ICE agents stationed there in 2003, Kobach said, when the state’s department of public safety applied to partner with the immigration agency.

Today, 60 of Alabama’s state troopers have the authority to make federal immigration arrests. The troopers do not conduct operations specifically targeting illegal immigrants, said Dorris Teague, a spokeswoman for the Alabama agency, but check the legal status of those they stop in the course of their regular duties.

Teague said her agency specifically does not do large-scale operations or raids.

“This doesn’t interfere with the troopers’ normal duties, but it does enhance immigration enforcement,” Teague said.

What Alabama is doing is what ICE had in mind when it first started partnering with local police.

Three years ago, a top ICE official told Congress the agency would prevent local police from undertaking the kind of work MCSO now does.

Paul M. Kilcoyne, then an assistant director of investigations for ICE, told lawmakers in July 2005 the partnerships were intended to assist the federal agency’s work.

ICE’s field offices would keep close watch on the local officers they train so “that we are not out there doing roundups or just general immigration work,” Kilcoyne said in testimony before the House homeland security committee.

MCSO’s contract with the federal agency supports that expectation. It stipulates that ICE agents will “supervise and direct” deputies when they conduct immigration operations.

But that’s not happening.

The sheriff’s office files reports to ICE when it makes illegal immigration arrests, but agents are not present. “We obviously don’t supervise them doing their operations,” said Kidd, the ICE agent who oversees the partnership with MCSO.

Lack of close supervision isn’t the only area where ICE isn’t making MCSO follow the rules.

In September, the federal agency said local police cannot use traffic stops to make immigration arrests.

That month, ICE released a fact sheet about its “287(g)” partnerships that details what local police can and cannot do under the program.

“Officers trained and certified in the 287(g) program may use their authority when dealing with someone suspected of a state crime that is more than a traffic offense,” the document said.

Since October, deputies have used their ICE authority to make federal immigration arrests on several hundred occasions during traffic stops for minor offenses, like cracked windshields and failure to signal a turn, MCSO reports show.

ICE officials declined to explain the discrepancy.

“I know this isn’t quite what you are looking for, but ICE has decided that we have provided sufficient input for your article,” Picard wrote in response to the Tribune’s questions.

The agency has since removed the September fact sheet from its Web site and replaced it with a document that does not discuss when local police can use their federal powers.



Sweeps and saturation patrols have generated the most public reaction — and media coverage — but roving patrols are MCSO deputies’ primary tactic for arresting illegal immigrants.

Throughout 2006 and most of 2007, the human smuggling unit used roving patrols alone to make hundreds of arrests under the state anti-human smuggling law.

Roving patrols normally begin after dark and concentrate on the largely empty roadways human smugglers use to enter and leave the county, MCSO arrest reports show. Deputies look for vehicles that might carry illegal immigrants — large vans and SUVs, particularly those with darkened windows or sagging rear bumpers.

The U.S. Border Patrol has used the tactic periodically for years, often attracting controversy.

Nearly every aspect of roving patrols point to racial profiling, said Marjorie Zatz, director of Arizona State University’s School of Justice and Social Inquiry.

“They’re trying to go after smugglers, but they’re picking up disproportionately Latinos, whether they’re smuggling or not,” Zatz said.

While civil rights groups speak out against it, in 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that experienced border agents can make traffic stops based on “articulable facts.”

Those include the characteristics of vehicles and their occupants.

David Stoddard was the agent involved in that pivotal case and worked for the Border Patrol in Tucson for more than 20 years.

Evidence can come in the form of evasive driving or tortilla wrappers thrown out car windows, said Stoddard, who supports Arpaio’s operations.

“The officer on roving patrol categorizes these articulable facts and he can put down on paper to present in a court of law his reasons to make the stop, or make an arrest,” Stoddard said.

In interviews, top MCSO officials including Arpaio don’t seem to be aware of the Supreme Court ruling and the leeway it gave officers in the field.

Sheriff’s deputies don’t cite such evidence when making immigration stops. Instead, the human smuggling unit lists minor traffic offenses as probable cause during roving patrols as well.

“You can’t stop a car unless you have a violation of criminal or traffic laws,” Sousa, head of the unit, said.

Sands, the MCSO law enforcement chief, said deputies should be trying to come up with probable cause beyond suspicion of immigration violations.

“A lot of our guys have made so many arrests, our human smuggling people, that they are now experts in that field, although they typically don’t like to make contact without some kind of contextual reason to do that,” Sands said.

And the probable causes they do cite were little more than afterthoughts once they decide to make a stop, internal e-mails and interviews with MCSO’s human smuggling detectives show.

During 2006 and 2007, deputies cited license plate issues on nearly a third of the 71 traffic stops that led to human smuggling arrests, according to a database of the sheriff’s criminal immigration arrests. Burned-out license plate lights alone accounted for 10 percent of the deputies’ probable causes.

MCSO officials insist they do not racially profile and are operating within the law. “We’re very cautious. We’re going the extra mile on this,” Arpaio said.

But the fact that deputies must search for probable cause to justify traffic stops is, itself, the problem, said Marjorie Zatz, the ASU justice professor.

“They’re not looking for everyone who’s speeding, everyone who’s changing lanes and then saying, ‘Oh, some of these people are undocumented,’” she said. “They’re instead trying to find a way to go after as many undocumented people as they can. That’s what makes it racial profiling.” 


Chasing an American Dream,

Chasing an American Dream, They Gather on a Corner in Brooklyn

Chasing an American Dream, <a href= They Gather on a Corner in Brooklyn” width=”190″ height=”137″ /> NYTIMES

Published: July 12, 2008


The sun had barely pierced the indigo morning sky when Francisco J. Perez made the call. He gripped the street pay phone and spoke of his knack for spreading concrete, his expertise in carpentry, his love for painting. He paced and fidgeted, picking at his jagged, mud-encrusted fingernails, and then slammed down the receiver in triumph. 

On this day, unlike the week before or that day in March when the bosses tricked him into working without pay, he would make money.

By 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the street pageant of day laborers had begun. Dozens of burly men in dusty Timberlands joined Mr. Perez on the four corners at Ditmas and Coney Island Avenues in Brooklyn. They rolled up their sleeves and tightened their belts, hoping that a flash of brawn would bring passing construction vans to a halt. The less robust among them whipped out immigration papers, some on the verge of disintegration, praying that on this day, their legal status might give them an edge.

To watch the shape-up of day laborers at one New York City intersection is to glimpse desperation, entrepreneurship and clannishness take form and then dissolve in three hours — three turns of the clock in the corner Dunkin’ Donuts, 180 jumps of the minute hand on their scratched-up Casio wristwatches.

By 9:30 or 10, the construction vans were gone and only a dozen or so of the nearly 50 who had gathered actually got work. The unsuccessful began their tired walks back home, but they knew that the odds would still get them out of bed the next morning.

From the start, prospects on Wednesday looked dim. Traffic was light. The sun gave a hint of the afternoon’s heat. They stared as each car passed a construction supply across the street, waiting to jump at the screech of brakes.

Mr. Perez, a 22-year-old Honduran immigrant, sat alone in the shade, using his work clothes as a cushion.

That morning, at the recommendation of a friend, he had called a construction company to make his pitch and arrange for the pickup.

Within the group of day laborers that formed on this day, Mr. Perez’s success bred quiet jealousy. On his corner, men from Guatemala, Ecuador, and Mexico stood at a distance, chatting about the outrageous joke on the radio the day before, the good-looking girl in the supermarket, and how hard it was to get jobs.

Mr. Perez, electrified by the $85 in sight for 10 hours of work, was optimistic. A single man with skin darkened by his days in the sun, he said he looked forward to coming to the corner each day.

“For me, this is a good life,” he said in Spanish. “If I knew English, I would have a better job, but this isn’t bad at all.” At 6:45, the black construction van came and whisked him away.

The remaining men arranged themselves by region, Latin Americans in one spot, Pakistanis in another, Nepalese and Tibetans in their own huddle. Down the block from Mr. Perez, the group of Pakistani men began their morning ritual of smoking and snacking. They puffed cigarettes and picked berries from the mulberry trees, licking each morsel on their purple-stained hands. This was breakfast. “Eat,” they told each other. “Eat!”

Standing at a distance was the group’s reclusive, white-whiskered elder. They called him Beardman, and he tried to wave down vans with his hitchhiker’s . In the middle of the gathering stood Jacky Sing, a homeless man who seemed hopeful of getting a job, but in the meantime drank a Budweiser and showed off his overgrown toenails.

The eight Pakistani men talked about the hard life in America — how everything was fine until this year, when the construction jobs began to vanish. Mohammad Ejaz, 58, said he was getting about half the number of jobs he did last year. Zahid Shad, 41, said he had worked four days in the past two months.

Tariq Bukhari, 45, said he came to this country five years ago looking for a way to support his five children back home.

“People have a dream that America has big money,” Mr. Bukhari said. “You shake a tree and money falls. That’s a big dream. It’s not true.”

Across the street, 19-year-old Lucas Puac waited with three other Guatemalans hoping that youth and flexibility would make them stand out. Mr. Puac, an illegal immigrant, said he had built a reputation with several contractors and typically worked four or five days a week, usually painting or helping spread concrete. But he said he felt abused by the low wages, which amounted to $600 to $1,000 a month.


“The bosses know we’re illegal,” Mr. Puac said in Spanish, “but they don’t think we’re entitled to a decent living.” Around 8:15, a van pulled into the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, and Mr. Puac and his friends crowded around. It was a false alarm; they already had enough workers.

The intersection’s center of gravity lay cater-corner to Mr. Puac, outside the Three Star Food Mart. It was there that the rookies came to network and the old pros, eager to tout their expertise, flaunted paint-spattered T-shirts and saw-eaten jeans.

The food market is also a nexus of daily conflict. At least once a week, Shiraz Azam, a cashier who works the 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. shift, calls the police to break up the swarm gathered at the storefront. The crowds have become so rowdy, he said, that the store moved its fruit and vegetable stand inside.

“Sure, everyone needs a job,” he said. “But what do they do? They throw garbage and bother customers. Don’t interfere in someone else’s job.”

The two dozen or so laborers outside the store were primarily in their 20s and 30s, Central American, and illegal immigrants. A reporter’s notepad and camera aroused fears of an undercover immigration operation and sent some scattering to the back streets for a while.

Bryam Tax, a former schoolteacher who said he paid $8,000 to be smuggled into the United States from Guatemala last summer, was one of the few who did not get skittish. In Brooklyn, he shares a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with 12 other laborers and sleeps in a bunk bed. He dreads the morning routine, he said, but he has to support his wife and 2-year-old son.

“In Guatemala, we didn’t earn as much, but at least there was nice living space,” he said in Spanish, his metallic front teeth glistening. “It’s very hard work.”

On the same corner, Pasang N. Sherpa, 35, stood in a huddle of Tibetans and Nepalis. They helped each other with the foreign English phrases, passing them down their line, each one contributing a word or two of translation.

Mr. Sherpa, who tries to send money every three months or so to his four children and wife in Tibet, was pessimistic from the beginning. “There are no jobs,” he said. “No good.”

When Mr. Sherpa showed up at the corner at 6:40, he said he would leave no later than 9 if he did not get work. But as 9 came and went, his hopeful stare down Coney Island Avenue continued. “Just a few more minutes,” he promised. Then he would go home and sleep.

At 9:25, Mr. Sherpa decided there would be no job for him that day. He picked up his knapsack and turned his back on the intersection.

Tomorrow would be another day.

Day laborers find ample work in flood recovery

Day laborers find ample work in flood recovery

Day laborers find ample work in flood recovery By Alicia Ebaugh
The Gazette
CEDAR RAPIDS — Downtown, the rain hammers the dusty concrete before the sun comes up.

It’s 5:15 a.m. Thursday, and day laborers are gathering, hoping for a day’s work cleaning up flood-damaged property. Hundreds of workers, if not thousands, are employed now in the downtown, gutting and cleaning flood-damaged businesses and some homes.

About 10 job placement companies and labor brokers with names like Labor 4 Today are licensed to operate in Cedar Rapids, according to the city’s contractor registration list. It appears many others aren’t. Even Able Body, one of the largest providers of day labor in the area, wasn’t registered until Thursday morning. It has been operating here since mid-June.

Some of the workers are staying in the parking lots underneath the Interstate 380 bridge. 

On Thursday morning, a small group of men and women huddle quietly to wait for instructions, then walk away, pulling trash bags over their heads to ward off the rain. They will be picked up in 30 minutes for work.

The back door of a pull-behind trailer pushes open, and two men emerge, stretching, yawning. One sits in the doorway changing his pants while the other rummages in the truck. Police came down Tuesday night to clear out the mattresses and cardboard boxes that littered the parking lot, but clearly some day laborers are still sleeping there.

Soon, cars and trucks with Florida, California and local license plates roll into the lot, carrying workers in twos and threes. A bus emblazoned with the logo of Able Body Labor pulls up to the curb.

The workers crowd around Able Body’s signup table at 6 a.m. They are handed bags containing boots, hard hats and gloves. They go to stand in line.

“I wanna get out here and make some money,” said Debra Oliver, a hotel housekeeper who walked downtown Thursday morning from her home in northeast Cedar Rapids to find work. “The hotel pay is slow, so I took a month off to do this.”

On this morning, all those seeking work get it. One woman, though, said she’d only been selected for four days of work in the past three weeks.

City officials admit to lax enforcement of the local ordinance that requires all workers and companies in the flood zone to be registered with the city. It’s a matter of manpower.

“Our primary focus of enforcement is making sure our residential people don’t get ripped off,” said Jim Thatcher, Cedar Rapids fire marshal in charge of code enforcement. “It’s sad to say, but businesses should be smarter than that.”

No citations have been issued to companies or workers that are working without certification in the flooded downtown, Thatcher said, but code enforcement officers have been patrolling residential neighborhoods and giving warnings.

“The word has gotten out, and every day we’re seeing people who weren’t registered before going to get certification,” he said.

Some of the day labor companies pay workers in cash at the end of the day or week.

Able Body prints checks for everyone, available after 4 p.m. the next day — mainly to encourage workers to return. Their people are paid about $10 an hour to work 10- to 12-hour days.

None of the companies answered messages or phone calls for comment, and Able Body supervisors in town refused interviews. Mainly, they cite “negative press” focusing on rumors that the companies hire illegal immigrants or bring outsiders in to do jobs that local people should do. But that obviously hasn’t stopped people from wanting to work for them — or from requesting their services.

Without day laborers, flood recovery would take years, said Chad Reichert, general manager of ServiceMaster 380, which is providing cleanup services to residents and downtown businesses.

“There is no company large enough to handle all this work by themselves,” Reichert said. “We want to be able to get to our customers quickly and get them ready to get back to business as usual, and almost any contractor here is using temporary workers to do that.”

Reichert estimated that all of ServiceMaster’s flood projects across Iowa would be completed by the end of next week, leaving its customers ready for remodeling.

Hofstra housing discrimination suit can proceed, judge says

 July 9, 2008 

A federal judge yesterday ruled Hofstra law school can move forward with a federal housing discrimination lawsuit alleging Farmingdale engaged in a campaign to drive Latinos, including day laborers, from their community.

Judge Denis Hurley of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York handed down the ruling, the latest development in the long-running battle focusing on an apartment building that for years was the heart of Farmingdale’s “Little Latin America.”

Hurley denied a motion by the village to dismiss the lawsuit, filed by the law school’s housing unit on behalf of former tenants at 150 Secatogue Ave.


Unpaid Day Laborers Speak Out




It’s an issue that rarely is talked about but now the problem is getting bigger. Day laborers doing weeks of work for contractors but not getting paid.

Some Guatemalan day laborers say they were hired by northern Virginia contractors who didn’t pay them for as much as two weeks of work. “They promise you’ll get paid on Friday and then you don’t get paid and you count on that money coming in, ” said day laborer Juan Aguilar.

Aguilar says it’s happened to him three times in the last six months. “It’s a great injustice because we are all just humans, sick ” he said. Since the day laborers are paid in cash and are in the country illegally, treat they have no recourse. “The only thing I want is for them to pay me because I actually worked,” said Nelson Dominguez.

“I think it’s disgusting for someone to take advantage of the most vulnerable people in our society,” said Realtor George Torres, a friend of the workers. “They know these people have no rights.” Torres befriended the men and was shocked to hear their story. “Yeah, they shouldn’t be here, but there’s a need for them, there’s a niche. If there wasn’t, they wouldn’t be here,” he said.

ABC 7’s Andrea McCarren went to see contractor Mike Caso. He allegedly owes Juan Aguilar $2,000 and Aguilar’s brother Rolando $700. ”I have no knowledge of it,” Caso said. Caso says he spent the $2,000 getting a friend of Juan’s out of jail. He says now he tries to hire only Americans. McCarren also ventured to the home of E2E Enterprises, where the owner’s sister said the workers were lying. “Whoever you’re talking about, I have no idea,” said Carol Whitehurst with E2E Enterprises.

When asked if the company hires illegal workers, Whitehurst responded, “I’m not giving you the details in what’s going on. I know what’s going on but I’m not telling you.” Juan Aguilar showed some photos of his family to McCarren,”This is my wife and this is my two kids. That’s why I’m here.” The day laborers said to cross the border into the U.S., they clung to the side of moving trains and walked for miles. Now, the day laborers say they just want to go home.