The 287(g) program was created in 2001 to grant local law enforcement the authority to enforce civil immigration laws.  The predecessor to the Se Communities deportation program, 287(g) sent a chilling effect through immigrant communities and sparked a series of on-going Department of Justice investigations as examples of racial profiling and abuse of power in…

Center for Day Laborers Opens in Centreville Shopping Plaza

Center for Day Laborers Opens in Centreville Shopping Plaza

Facility is culmination of four years of community organizing.

By Frank Klimko | Source: Centreville.Patch.com

Center for Day Laborers Opens in Centreville Shopping Plaza

Pedro DeLeon, try 50, one of the workers, said he was glad the center was opening. Credit: Anita Klimko

Organizers on Saturday opened the Centreville Labor Resource Center, an expansive facility that will provide an in-door gathering point for day laborers while they wait for jobs—getting them off the street.

The center is a culmination of a four-year effort by the Centreville Immigration Forum to provide the workers with a safe place to wait other than out-of-doors near the Centreville Regional Library. The center is in the Centreville Square Shopping Center, in a space donated by plaza owner and developer Albert J. Dwoskin, a longtime supporter of the center.

“This is a miracle that we were able to get this done,” said Ed Duggan, a Centreville real estate agent and member of the forum’s board of directors. “I’m sympathetic to a guy who will cross thousands of miles just for the chance to stand outside in the winter looking for a job.”

About 75 people attended the ribbon-cutting on Saturday, which was meant to show off the space to the community before it opens for business on Monday. In the crowd were a handful of the day laborers who will be using the center. Many of the workers are handy at remodeling and helped renovate the office space, said center Director Shani Moser, of Vienna.

It is privately funded and receives no public money, unlike other day labor centers, Moser said. The center will not set minimum rates for wages, which will ultimately be negotiated between the worker and his potential employer, she said.

Center for Day Laborers Opens in Centreville Shopping Plaza

Sully District Supervisor Michael Frey (right) with a volunteer at the ribbon cutting. Credit: Anita Klimko

The creation of the center has been met with criticism from some in the community. Dwoskin, of McLean, said he was glad that the organizers were able to see the project to fruition.

“Sometimes you are going to cause a little friction when you are trying to do something good,” Dwoskin said. “The ones who showed the real courage are the volunteers who saw this through. This is an example of a community coming together to do the right thing.”

It will be open from 6 a.m. until noon Monday through Saturday. Workers will sign up for jobs by specialty, many are expert drywallers or painters, and will be hired on a first-come basis by area companies who need the help. There will also be a general worker category.

Organizers anticipate that eventually about 40-60 workers a day will use the center. Centreville is home to a tight-knit community of about a total of 100-150 day laborers, most of whom are drawn from the same impoverished, rural section of Guatemala. As workers and employers learn about the center, organizers hope that the practice of hiring day laborers from the street will fade away.

Pedro DeLeon, 50, one of the workers, said he was glad the center was opening. “We are really excited and happy about it,” said DeLeon, a painter. “It will give us a safe place and will also give the contractors a safe place to hire us.”

Sully District Supervisor Michael Frey (R), a longtime advocate of the center, saw the opening as a win-win situation.

“It will eliminate the concerns of the workers who said they were sometimes treated unfairly,” Frey said, “and it will get them off the streets—which was a serious safety concern for the community,”


Phoenix, AZ

In September, Manu Chao ended his US tour with a ‘Festival de Resistencia’ free concert in Phoenix, Arizona, to protest against anti-immigrant policies that have made the state of Arizona a “capital of prejudice.” The free concert was held in collaboration with the National Day Labourer Organising Network (NDLON), whose ‘Alto Arizona’ campaign is part of an ongoing effort to bring visibility, recognition, dignity and to migrants who have been targets of hate in Arizona and around the world.


Last year, Arizona passed Senate Bill 1070, the beginning of a wave of the most anti-immigrant legislation the US has not seen in generations. The passage of SB 1070 Arizona dramatically expanded police powers to stop, question and detain individuals for not having proper identification, a move that encourages racial profiling and legitimizes intolerance.


NDLON is a national migrant worker organisation that has been seeking to bring relief  to the state of Arizona and challenge the spread of Arizona-style laws to other states such as Georgia and Alabama.  In Arizona, NDLON and local member organizations are asking the federal government to bring Maricopa County’s Sheriff Arpaio to justice by taking away his immigration law enforcement power and by concluding the three-year-old Department of Justice investigation into his civil rights abuses. The law is currently being blocked by a federal judge.


As the son of parents who fled Franco’s Spain, Chao can personally relate to the discrimination and displacement experienced under aggressive governance. “For the past year, we’ve carried the people of Arizona in our hearts as we witnessed them suffer under such ignorant laws” says Chao.


While in Arizona, Manu Chao visited the perimeter fence of the notorious jail facility known as ‘Tent City’, which was conceived by Sheriff Arpaio, and where inmates are forced to suffer degrading and to endure the extreme temperature range of the desert by living outside in tents.


Manu Chao, along with bandmate Madjid Fahem, serenaded the walls of the jail with a heartfelt rendition of his song ‘Clandestino’. This version was captured on film by filmmaker Alex Rivera, whose work strives to draw attention to the Latin-American community in the US. The footage was produced by the National Day Labourer Organising Network (NDLON) and can be seen on the ‘Alto Arizona’ site http://www.altoarizona.com 




29 de noviembre 2011. Phoenix, AZ

En septiembre, Manu Chao terminó su gira por EE.UU. con un concierto gratuito “Festival de Resistencia” en Phoenix, Arizona, para protestar contra las políticas anti-inmigrantes que han convertido al estado de Arizona en “La Capital de los Prejuicios.” El concierto se celebró en colaboración con la Red Nacional del Jornaleros (NDLON), que sostiene la campaña “Alto Arizona”. La campaña “Alto Arizona” es parte de un esfuerzo continuo para lograr visibilidad, el reconocimiento, la dignidad y la curación a los inmigrantes que han sido objeto de odio en Arizona y en todo el mundo.
El año pasado, Arizona aprobó la ley SB 1070, que marco el comienzo de una ola de legislación  anti-inmigrante. La más severa que se ha visto en generaciones en los EE.UU. La aprobación de la SB 1070 en Arizona amplio dramáticamente los poderes policiales para detener, interrogar y detener a personas por no tener una identificación adecuada, una estrategia que alienta la discriminación racial y le da legitimidad a la intolerancia.
NDLON es una organización nacional de trabajadores inmigrantes, que ha estado tratando de llevar alivio al estado de Arizona y frenar el avance de las leyes estilo “Arizona” a otros estados, como Georgia y Alabama. En Arizona, NDLON y las organizaciones locales miembros están pidiendo al gobierno federal traer ante la justicia a el alguacil del Condado de Maricopa, Joe Arpaio. Pedimos que le quiten el poder que tiene para ejercer leyes de inmigración y también pedimos que se le de una conclusión a la investigación empezada por El Departamento de Justicia hace tres años por sus violaciones a los derechos civiles. Actualmente, la ley está siendo bloqueada por un juez federal.
Como hijo de padres que huyeron de la España de Franco, Chao personalmente puede identificarse con la discriminación y el desplazamiento sufrido bajo tan agresiva gobernanza. “Durante el último año, hemos llevado al pueblo de Arizona en nuestros corazones, mientras somos testigos de su sufrimiento a causa  de estas leyes ignorantes”, dice Chao.
Durante su estadia en Arizona, Manu Chao visitó el perímetro de la notoria cerca de alambre del centro carcelario conocido como “Tent City”, que fue creada por el Sheriff Arpaio, y donde los reclusos son obligados a sufrir tratos degradantes y a soportar temperaturas extremas del desierto viviendo afuera en carpas.
Manu Chao, junto a su compañero de banda, Fahem Madjid, canto frente a los muros de la cárcel con una interpretación sincera y profunda de su canción ‘Clandestino’. Esta versión fue filmada por el cineasta Alex Rivera, quien con su obra se esfuerza por llamar la atención hacia la comunidad latinoamericana en los EE.UU.. El video fue producido por la Red Nacional del Jornaleros (NDLON) y puede ser visto en el sitio http://www.altoarizona.com ‘Alto Arizona’

Sheriff Baca Overruled in S-Comm FOIA Case


LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, the Los Angeles Superior Court rejected Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca’s attempt to block rights advocates’ request for information under the California Public Records Act. The Sheriff had sought to keep confidential information about the Sheriff’s participation in federal deportation programs.  The lawsuit was brought by the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).  Plaintiffs are represented by the Law Office of Sanjukta M. Paul.


Jessica Karp of NDLON said, “Today’s decision is a victory for the people of Los Angeles.  We have the right to know how much of our tax dollars the Sheriff is spending to facilitate deportations that separate families and we will continue to pursue that right in this case.”


As Los Angeles County faces the likelihood of running out of jail space within the next month, the judge’s decision means that the Sheriff may soon be forced to reveal the number of inmates who are being held in county jail for purely civil immigration violations.  The Sheriff may also be forced to reveal the cost of the County’s participation in the federal Se Communities deportation program and the number of people who have been deported through the County jails.


Carl Bergquist of CHIRLA added, “As we have seen in similar cases, both locally and nationally, these attempts to withhold information from the public may be undemocratic but ultimately they prove to be futile. We have a right to know how and why our elected Sheriff – in a time of declining crime – is collaborating with the Federal Government to deport community members who in no way, shape or form are threats to public safety.”


After years of requesting public documents through the California Public Records Act, the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) in June announced that they were taking legal action to obtain information about the Los Angeles County’s ties to federal immigration enforcement efforts. The lawsuit, which names Baca as a defendant, charges that the sheriff violated the California Public Records Act by refusing to disclose information about his dealings with ICE.


“Whether foreign or native born, Angelenos deserve to know how the Sheriff Baca – an elected official – has chosen to use his precious resources,” saidMelissa Keaney, an attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “Information about the Sheriff’s law enforcement priorities should be made public to all those living within this county. We hope Sheriff Baca and his attorneys will promptly comply with the law and shed light on his department’s secretive practices with ICE.”


Plaintiffs’ counsel, Sanjukta M. Paul, said, “I am very pleased by the Court’s order today, which overruled the County’s motion on each and every issue the County raised.”



Helping the 99 percent — with less | La Raza Centro Legal

La Raza Centro Legal fights to address the issues raised by Occupy, and it needs support

OPINION – La Raza Centro Legal, an organization central to the empowerment of San Francisco’s low-wage immigrant workers, there finds common cause with the Occupy movement during a time when our programs combining legal services and worker organizing are in jeopardy. Our hour of need falls within a window of tough times, but heightened political awareness, and we are calling out to the community to join us in solidarity as members of the 99 percent.

La Raza’s resonance with Occupy shows on a bilingual sign printed for the movement. Under a day laborer’s face, the sign reads, “We are the 99 percent. I’m blamed for the economic crisis, but what about the Wall Street banks?” Immigrants pay more in taxes than they use in government services, generate revenue exceeding the services they receive, subsidize the Social Security system, and provide labor that supports entire industries.

Contrary to the red herring propaganda generated by the 1 percent, the scapegoated low-wage immigrant worker is not the cause of the financial crisis in the United States. Occupy has resuscitated public discourse with the plain facts of shocking economic inequity and the corruption of our democracy. Immigration debate can now rise to the surface after nearly drowning in the lies that spawned the recent legal abominations in Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia.

In the current political and economic climate, immigrant rights organizations face an intractable three-pronged challenge: dangerous policies born of anti-immigrant zeal, a crushing economic crisis that disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color, and dwindling funds from the government and foundations that used to support our work. The Obama administration’s Orwellian-named “Se Communities” deportation program creates an unprecedented stream of profits for privately contracted immigration detention facilities rife with human rights abuses. At the same time, employers take advantage of job scarcity to exploit low-wage immigrant workers. On the same days that our advocacy and services are needed more than ever, we’ve receive news that a grant that we depend on will not be renewed in the coming year.

Just like so many other members of the 99 percent, La Raza Centro Legal is in financial crisis. If the organization cannot find immediate support, some of La Raza’s programs that help so many people in the immigrant community could die. If La Raza is diminished, who will reunite a family unjustly torn apart, or take an employer to task for ripping off a day laborer so that the worker can feed his children? Who will organize the community so that, through La Raza’s Day Labor Program and Women’s Collective, low-wage immigrant workers can find their voice and build their own innate capacity for leadership in their community?

We aren’t giving up. Because the Occupy movement has pushed into public consciousness the well-established but long-ignored truth of how the status quo is hurting us all, it offers incredible hope. An October 20 community meeting kicked off a new fundraising drive for La Raza. San Franciscans and the city must join us in solidarity to help us find ways to support community nonprofits in declining economies and increasing civil rights abuses — which is when they are needed most.

Kate Hegé and Kate Deeny work in the Workers’ Rights Program at La Raza Centro Legal. For more information about how to help, contact Genevie Gallegos, Executive Director of La Raza Centro Legal at Genevie@lrcl.org.

Carrboro aldermen repeal anti-loitering rule Critics said rule hurt laborers

Carrboro aldermen repeal anti-loitering rule Critics said rule hurt laborers


Carrboro aldermen repeal anti-loitering rule Critics said rule hurt laborers

Steve Dear, left, and minister Robert Campbell lead a gathering at Jones Ferry and Davie roads in Carrboro in late October to protest the town’s anti-loitering ordinance.

CARRBORO – The Board of Aldermen’s unanimous decision last week to repeal a 2007 anti-loitering ordinance won’t change how police respond to the intersection of Jones Ferry and Davie roads.Officers will continue to respond “proactively” when residents call, Chief Carolyn Hutchison said, although “in a perfect world, we would like additional personnel to respond to that corner.” The department also will continue to build community partnerships with residents, day laborers, and groups such as the Human Rights Center and El Centro Hispano, she said.

The anti-loitering ordinance has reduced the number of people at the corner but has done little to reduce crime in the area, Hutchison said. It prohibited people from standing at the corner – a popular pickup spot for day laborers – between 11 a.m. and 5 a.m. and was passed in response to complaints of harassment, trespassing, drinking and public urination.

The ordinance’s critics were jubilant after Tuesday’s vote. Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center director Judith Blau said the group is focused now on leaving Abbey Court for a house nearby, where it can operate existing programs and possibly a workers’ center.

Since summer, members of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network also have been working with a local task force to site a permanent day laborer center with access to water, restrooms and help with employment issues like wage theft.

Most of those who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting said the anti-loitering ordinance was discriminatory, unconstitutional and reflected poorly on Carrboro’s reputation as a progressive community.

“I would oppose this ordinance if it were applied to my street or anywhere in town,” said resident Steve Dear, who has been eating lunch with other people at the corner every day since asking the board to repeal the law at its Oct. 25 meeting.

Dear said he decided to take action because he was disappointed with himself for not doing more and after hearing how the ordinance had affected the workers and their families. Mayor Mark Chilton said police did not stop the gatherings, because they were constitutionally protected political protest.

Some affected workers told the board how the ordinance limits the available jobs, since employers and residents often don’t seek help until later in the day, especially in winter. That leaves them with very little money to food and to provide for their families, they said.

Day laborer Santiago Hernandez said through an interpreter that he respects the police and respects the community but would like to be able to wait longer for work. Others echoed his request, and Jose Francisco Gonzalez said they also would like help with employers who refuse to pay.

Other residents who spoke said they were concerned that the neighborhood would return to its former state if the ordinance was repealed.

Bill Madden, who lived in Abbey Court before the ordinance and now lives on Fidelity Street, said he never felt threatened, but his female co-workers were hesitant to walk through the area, even to catch the bus.

“What I saw at the corner was that a lot of men would be drinking when they couldn’t get a job, when all the employers would leave in the latter portion of the morning, and the cops would chase them around Ridgewood, Abbey Court, behind the wooded area along Alabama [Avenue] and up and down Davie Road,” Madden said. “The community needs to take better action in self-policing. That if you see somebody out of line, call the cops, call 911.”

Sexual harassment, as well as drinking and public urination, were among reasons for the 2007 decision creating the ordinance. Alderwoman Jacquie Gist recommended the town find a way to pay for a community resource person and work next year to strengthen the anti-harassment ordinance so that lewdness directed at women would be considered hate speech.

“In any language, grabbing your crotch and saying, ‘You want some of this,’ I don’t think that that’s part of any culture,” Gist said. “That is a physical threat, and it is hate speech in the same way as, ‘I’m going to bash your head in because of your ethnicity.’ ”

The board voted unanimously to support Gist’s proposal and also to pursue Alderman Dan Coleman’s suggestion that the town collaborate with community partners to find the money for a full-time staff person at the corner.

Grubb: 336-380-1325

Entrevista a Yoshua Okón - “Pulpo”

Entrevista a Yoshua Okón – “Pulpo”

por Mabel Téllez | Source: Codigo06140.com

Click here to view the embedded video.

El proyecto Pulpo, stuff de Yoshua Okón, ed uno de los artistas mexicanos con mayor proyección internacional, se exhibe actualmente en el Hammer Museum. Fue este el motivo, aunado a la importancia de su trayectoria artística, el que nos llevó a platicar con él acerca de la obra y de sus próximos proyectos.

¿Cómo se gestó la idea para desarrollar un proyecto como Pulpo?

El punto de partida fue la combinación de El arte del asesinato político, escrito por Francisco Goldman, y la experiencia de contratar a trabajadores en el estacionamiento de un Home Depot en Los Ángeles. Goldman, un neoyorkino hijo de madre guatemalteca, cubrió la guerra civil de este país como periodista durante los años 80 y 90. Su libro, además de narrar el asesinato del obispo Geraldi, presenta el panorama de la guerra incluyendo el hecho de que la dictadura guatemalteca fue instaurada, financiada, dirigida y sostenida por EEUU para beneficio de sus intereses económicos. Después de que Arbenz, presidente electo democráticamente, fue ilegalmente derrocado por la CIA, el nuevo presidente, un militar, fue llevado al palacio de gobierno en un avión militar estadounidense.

A lo largo de mi estancia en Los Ángeles, en numerosas ocasiones contraté a trabajadores indocumentados. Éstos normalmente se juntan en el estacionamiento del Home Depot esperando que alguien los contrate. Como coincidencia, el Home Depot, que está cerca de la casa donde vivía, es donde los miembros de la comunidad Guatemalteca Maya se reúnen para buscar trabajo. De esta forma me di cuenta que quienes contraté para un trabajo de albañilería, son algunos de los protagonistas del libro que estaba leyendo: ex guerrilleros o ex militares indígenas Mayas de la región alta de Ixcán en Guatemala, la zona más afectada por la guerra. En ese momento surge la idea de la pieza.

Tiempo más tarde, ya de vuelta al DF, fui invitado por el museo Hammer de Los Ángeles para realizar una residencia de investigación y fue entonces que decidí profundizar más sobre el tema. Finalmente el museo me invitó a producir y exhibir la pieza.
En Pulpo, relacionas la situación actual en la que viven los inmigrantes guatemaltecos en EE.UU, con la situación que vivieron bajo el monopolio de United Fruit Company, ¿qué tanto han cambiado sus condiciones?

Creo que entender una obra de arte en estos términos puede ser muy engañoso. La pieza no es sobre la condición de los inmigrantes guatemaltecos ni sobre la dictadura en Guatemala; ese sería el papel de algún estudio socio-político. Más bien conecta ciertos puntos para así mirar desde un ángulo distinto. En el contexto de EEUU, estos trabajadores no solamente subsisten en terribles condiciones y llevan a cabo los trabajos más pesados por muy poca remuneración sino que también son maltratados y discriminados por no tener papeles. Si le preguntas a cualquier persona el por qué de su presencia, la gran mayoría te responderá que están ahí porque aspiran a ser gringos, porque quieren ser como ellos: la intervención, la destrucción del tejido social de sus comunidades por EEUU, el hecho de que estén ahí por necesidad económica, nada de eso entra en la ecuación.

En ese sentido, Pulpo no es una pieza sobre Guatemala, más bien es una pieza de sitio específico sobre EEUU y sobre percepciones generalizadas que se tienen del aquí y ahora en Los Ángeles.

Entrevista a Yoshua Okón - “Pulpo”

Dentro de la video instalación, realizas una simulación de la guerra civil guatemalteca, cuál fue el proceso para establecer una dialéctica entre ficción, realidad y documental?

Me interesó hacer una recreación de la guerra con un alto nivel de abstracción. Apropiándome de métodos y estrategias militares, utilizo un conjunto de movimientos coreográficos que van dando forma al conflicto. Abordo el fenómeno de tal manera para que la obra se desarrolle desde diversos ángulos y promueva tensiones entre éstos: ficción y hecho histórico; acción y locación; recreación y registro, así como un espacio en el que se detonan situaciones propias al conflicto y que no pueden ser anticipadas por completo.

Por ejemplo, la locación se transfiere a suelo estadounidense, en un Home Depot, y la acción se lleva a cabo el 31 de marzo, misma fecha del golpe de estado guatemalteco (tradicionalmente las recreaciones de guerras se llevan a cabo en el mismo campo donde se libró la batalla original y en fechas que las conmemoran). Otra estrategia fue hacer que la producción fuera lo más discreta posible y sin permiso del local, para no perturbar el funcionamiento cotidiano del estacionamiento; con la finalidad de que compradores y empleados se comportaran como lo hacen normalmente y para que no se tuviera un control total de la situación generada. Así, escenas altamente escenificadas ocurren dentro de un contexto caótico y ex-combatientes de la misma guerra recreada, ocupan una posición liminal entre ser actores y representarse a sí mismos.

En este sentido, como bien lo planteas en tu pregunta, la ficción y el documento se mezclan de tal forma que es difícil distinguir entre ellos. Esta es una estrategia que utilizo a menudo y una clave para entender uno de los intereses principales de mi práctica. En el momento en que la mente no puede registrar de manera clara lo que está observando, pero al mismo tiempo se siente atraída, el mecanismo natural es indagar y analizar; como resultado, el espectador termina en una posición activa/creativa en la que formula sus propias interpretaciones.

¿Cuáles son tus próximos proyectos?

Este año tengo varias exhibiciones individuales y un par de colectivas. En la galería Kaufmann Repetto, en Milán, mostraré Hipnostasis, una instalación de 6 canales de video que hice en colaboración con Raymond Pettibon. Además, para esta misma exhibición, estoy preparando una versión distinta de Pulpo, donde utilizaré fragmentos de pequeñas casas prefabricadas de plástico, combinadas con proyecciones de video y pantallas planas. La estética de éstas, que normalmente son utilizadas para guardar herramientas de jardinería, simula el estilo de casas seriadas de suburbio y, como en el caso de Home Depot, la utilización de estas casa alude a la expansión mundial del modelo corporativo. Finalmente, la exhibición incluirá una serie de dibujos bastante grotescos basados también en la metáfora del pulpo como símbolo de la expansión del modelo Neoliberal.

Entrevista a Yoshua Okón - “Pulpo”

Entrevista a Yoshua Okón - “Pulpo”

Fotos: Cortesía de Andrea Belmont y Okón Studio

Hasta el 6 de noviembre.
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA.


A place where Guatemalan day laborers are survivors of war

A place where Guatemalan day laborers are survivors of war

November 24, s 2011 | 1:30 pm | Source: LATimesBlog.LATimes.com

A place where Guatemalan day laborers are survivors of war

REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY — A day laborer outside a Home Depot hardware store in northeast Los Angeles is riding in a bright orange ping cart in the store’s parking lot,  peering through imaginary binoculars, as if he were on patrol in a dangerous jungle.

Others are crawling under parked vehicles as if squeezing below barbed wire, or diving and body-rolling as if evading gunfire. Before a display for storage sheds, two men lie still on the asphalt, their legs spread, as if dead.

The laborers are undocumented immigrants from Guatemala, and in an unsettling video installation by Mexican artist Yoshua Okon on view at a university gallery in Mexico City, they are war survivors playing themselves.

Before Okon’s cameras, the migrants are reenacting their days fighting in Guatemala’s long and catastrophic civil war.

The four-channel video piece, called “Octopus,” is Okon’s latest and possibly most provocative video in a career in which he frequently pushes against viewers’ comfort zones with the use of improvising non-actors.

A native of Mexico City, Okon has also lived part-time in Los Angeles. He bought a house in L.A. and came to participate in a rite of passage for many new U.S. homeowners in the last decade — hiring day workers.

The men he found at the Home Depot store in the Cypress Park district, it turned out, were indigenous Maya from Guatemala. They spoke a Mayan dialect and very little Spanish or English. They had escaped Guatemala’s war in search of work in the United States.

Some fought for the U.S.-backed military government and others for the leftist guerrillas. Some, he said, showed him scars of bullet wounds. Now, as laborers at the bottom of the U.S. social ladder, they fight for scraps of work in the slumping construction market.

“They’re more afraid of immigration than about talking about the war,” Okon said during a visit this week to the exhibition space in Mexico City’s Roma district. “To me, that’s what the piece is about. It’s the United States. The war is not over. The war is over there.”

Okon, 41, has made films with wanna-be Nazis in Mexico City, an isolated family in California’s high desert getting drunk on “White Russians,” and Mexican police officers who agree to make bawdy sexual gestures they probably shouldn’t in uniform.

While these works usually elicit in viewers a mix of chuckles and creeps, “Octopus” is different.

The new video is guided by a polemical stance, not self-parody. Home Depot customers amble past the bizarre scenes playing out with hardly a blink, showing that workers who build homes in the United States have “always been invisible,” Okon said.

The artist also had to work guerrilla-style in some form himself. He filmed on the store’s parking lot without proper permission. “I had to constantly negotiate with the security guards, until they finally kicked me out,” he said.

Over two days of filming in March, Okon said the men from Guatemala gradually stopped giggling through takes and began to seriously inhabit — or re-inhabit — their roles. ”It felt like a job,” one of the workers later told the LA Weekly. And indeed it was; Okon said he paid the men a double day-rate for their time.

“Octopus,” commissioned by the Hammer Museum at UCLA, will show at the Casa Jose Galvan exhibition space in Mexico City through January. Next year, Okon plans to take the piece toProyectos Ultravioleta, an arts space in Guatemala City.

A single-screen version of the 18-minute piece is viewable here. In one shot, as seen above, a motorist drives past Okon’s cameras with a bumper sticker that reads, “Voter for a new foreign policy.”

The shot was not staged.

– Daniel Hernandez

Photo: A screen-shot from “Octopus,” a video installation by Mexican artist Yoshua Okon. Credit: Yoshua Okon studio.

Labor Resource Center To Open Dec. 5

By Bonnie Hobbs | Wednesday, patient November 16, s 2011 | Source: ConnectionNewspapers.com

For a long time, members of the Centreville Immigration Forum have worked to provide a safe place where the community’s day laborers could connect with employers to find jobs. It would take the laborers off the streets by the library and ping centers and make sure they’d be paid fairly for an honest day’s work.

And now, the once-distant vision of CIF President Alice Foltz, the CIF members and local day laborers is finally reaching fruition. The Centreville Labor Resource Center will open for business Monday, Dec. 5.

“It’s an exciting time and the fulfillment of a dream,” said Foltz. “This shows that problems can be resolved if people work together with open minds and open hearts.”

The center is at 5956 Centreville Crest Lane, beside Brick Pizza, on the lower level of the Centreville Square Shopping Center. It faces Route 29 and the Route 28 on-ramp. It’ll be open Monday-Saturday, from 6 a.m.-noon. CIF volunteers will participate in the day-to-day operation, under the guidance of a full-time, professional director, Shani Moser.

“I want this to be a place of confidence, security and stability that becomes part of the daily routine for the immigrant community,” she said. “I also want to show the [Centreville] community the benefit of having this center and that their support is well-founded.”

Al Dwoskin, who owns the Centreville Square Shopping Center, initially proposed the idea for the center, donated one of his storefronts for it and will pay for utilities. Funding for salaries and other items comes from grants and private donations.

Two upcoming events will introduce it to the public:

* Friday, Dec. 2, from 4-7 p.m. – Open House for tenants of Centrewood Plaza and Centreville Square businesses. CIF members will host the event, serve refreshments and greet the businesspeople who stop by. Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) will speak at 4:30 p.m. For more information about the CIF, go to www.CentrevilleImmigrationForum.org.

* Saturday, Dec. 3, from noon-4 p.m. – Open House for the community, with refreshments and a ribbon-cutting at noon. Frey and other local leaders will be on hand at 2 p.m.

For more information, call the center at 571-278-1961 or e-mail info@centrevilleimmigrationforum.org.