Dante’s Slope

Dante’s Slope

By David Glenn Cox | Originally posted in: OpEdNews.com

Dante’s Slope

David Glenn Cox

I have been at loose ends now for two, clinic could it be going on three years? Without a phone or an address to call my own, I have access to these things but they aren’t mine. For the last six months I have been staying like Dick Cheney, in an undisclosed location. I wonder now, if I’ve become a gentleman of the road? I’ve been placing an ad in Craigslist offering to do day labor, I’ve built fences, stained decks, built brick retaining walls. No job application, credit check or testing needed. We talk, we meet, I do the job, I get paid and I go on my way.

I no longer have a sense of normality, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. None of my employers have tried to cheat me out of my time; no one has made the type of demands on me that conventional employers have made. No one has been disappointed in my work or made any complaints about either the caliber or quality. I could not have done this when I was living in Atlanta because in Atlanta, the economy there was prostrate. My ad offering labor for $12.00 an hour would have been ignored. It is only because I am in this enclave that there is work for me.

It is in a beautiful river valley, in a historic little town where the antique and boutique homes have been meticulously restored to an amazing degree. This is due to both the character of the people and the prosperity of the little town. It is both a bedroom community and tourist destination and as I jog through its tree lined streets I feel as if I am in Disney Land, it has a feeling of the unreal. It is all too perfect, my senses still can’t accept what my eyes see as normal because it’s not normal. It is an enclave and as I traveled out to meet another respondent to my ad I was reminded that it is an enclave. I saw in a little town just a few miles down the highway, the signs of which I was all too familiar with in Atlanta.

Empty buildings, for signs and for rent signs and then something which I saw almost two years ago in Atlanta. The people are selling off their toys, in the front lawns along the side of the highway are the littered remnants of their prosperity, boats, motorcycles and expensive riding lawnmowers . Like Dante’s vision of hell it re-awoke in me and reminded me not only how unreal my little enclave was but also how this economic plague continues on unabated. Seeing all the signs which I had lived with before was like the return of a recurring nightmare. Like a cloud of locusts or a tidal wave, of that feeling of knowing what was going to come next, but unable to do anything about it other than to just duck.

So I met with my customer, a divorced woman with three small children. Her husband’s business had failed, put out by Chinese labor and they had divorced. I could see the parallels in her story to my own story. She was down sizing, she had bought a foreclosed house out in the country and wanted to sell her house in town so as to live mortgage free. She had all the accoutrements of wealth around her but then, a few years ago so did I. There was a boat and a camper, but this house? This house was going to be a project and it contained all the signs of a Hail Mary pass. Of someone trying to hold on to what they have left, for me this looked like a perfect situation because my day labor comes and goes. Two days here, one day there and recently no days anywhere and cash is growing tight.

As I was returning to the enclave, there was a man at the highway exit begging. He held a handmade sign that read, “Lost my job, two kids, can’t pay my rent, family in crisis.” There was a time when I was a different person, when I was cynical and sanguine about the well being of others. Oh, I was introspective enough in the abstract, back when my lawn had a sprinkler system and my garage held a classic sports car. This is why I say that losing normality is not necessarily a bad thing.

My cynicism for government has never ebbed but my cynicism for people in trouble has all but evaporated. I understand intrinsically the mental machinations that it takes for a man to stand on a roadside and beg for money. The inability of a man to be able to support himself and his family after years of having doing so successfully. I have wondered if I could do it? In the abstract the cynic might say, “he’s conning you man!” But that was in the old America wasn’t it? In this America, who could doubt that an honest man had lost his job? In this America, who could doubt that he lost it through no fault of his own? In this America, who could doubt that he could not find another?

In this America, ask yourself just how hard on your self esteem it becomes to beg money from strangers on a roadside. This was no wino or crack head, this was a middle aged man sliding down Dante’s slope. As I look back over my own times on Dante’s slope I began to see all of the people that I have met and spent time with and how similar all of their stories are to each other. I gave the man $2.00 as we passed and was reminded of what Woody Guthrie had once said, “I ain’t never seen a poor man that wouldn’t share what he’s got and I never seen a rich man who wasn’t afraid someone would take something from him.”

I got the job and worked for a couple of hours and will begin work in earnest at the end of the week. The woman described me as “laid back” and she is the second person to describe me that way. If you had known me a few years ago you would laugh, Dave? Laid back? I had things to do back then, I had to cut the grass or wax my car. I had to preside as the President of my home owners association or I had to go to my job where I made my employer tens of thousands of dollars but he still treated me like I was stealing a paycheck. I had a form to sign that said that I had received my new company handbook and that I understood its covenants and conditions of employment.

That was my normality back in the day, back when I had things. I still had a house, cars, tools and lawn furniture but no real care or concern for my fellow man. “Tough break” or “That’s too bad” when really, all I meant was, tough break for you and too bad for you but I’ve still got mine! Oh, I cared in the abstract but not in the specific, I cared about the poor and the unemployed in a way which cannot ever be explained. On an emotional and intellectual level I cared, but those things I owned, they held me in their grip and my fear of losing them frightened me so into an emotional paralysis. I was tense all of the time and afraid all of the time. What if I lost my job? What if I lost all of these things? What if I lost my nice big house and my big screen TV with 200 channels?

Now I have lost all of those things and I haven’t been able to find stable employment for two, going on three years despite a good work record. Millions of you already understand what I’m saying, a gap in your work history? A poor credit score is seen as much the same light as having a criminal record. Recently, a friend of mine applied for an eight dollar an hour job at a convenience store, she was disqualified from this dream job by a credit card default. This is a very kind and sweet person but here, Equifax is allowed to do the hiring. Really? How are people ever supposed to recover? The bad debts and soured loans of the banks are covered and it’s business as usual, but for the American people it’s an economic debtor’s prison.

I’ve been through the first seven circles of hell and I’m not afraid anymore. I’m no longer intimidated by wealth or status or power. I still fear the police of course, because the less money you have the more likely you are to be jailed. That man begging for money would probably get more time than a drunk driver. You can go on TV and cry for the poor children in the name of Jebus but when you try to take care of your own children then it’s, “Book em Dano.” It makes you scratch your head in wonder. The ex-President of the United States creates phony wars of aggression and kills tens of thousands of innocents and the current President cancels the investigations into the criminal wrong doing.

Despite the obvious economic effects, both political parties plan to take a butcher’s knife to this country’s badly needed social programs. The party that feared death panels now wants to cut Grandma’s Medicaid and Mr. Hope and Change says, Ok, good idea.

I have been so changed by this experience, I have gone from a liberal Democrat to a revolutionary Sot. I think there is something cancerous and deadly wrong going on here. Beggars in the streets, millions made homeless, millions more made unemployed and the only answer from government is to cut even more still. To make more beggars, to make more homeless, to destabilize families with children, to shatter them and break them apart. To destroy the honor and self esteem of the honest and hard working by forcing them to beg in the streets.

I have come to understand that this is not a plague which is just affecting you or me. It is affecting us all at different levels, we are all at different rings of Dante’s Inferno and each day some rise and some fall. We are all in this torment together, young and old, white and black and brown. Christian, Muslim, Jew or Atheist, it no longer matters on which circle of hell you dwell because hell is hell. Each day more join us in their poverty and loss and each day the scales begin to tip as more as more Americans begin to understand that government is about protecting the people and not about protecting things. That the people of this country have value and that things do not, and when that becomes the consensus, the world will change, because the people will no longer be afraid of their government.

About the Author:

Born at the pinnacle of American prosperity to parents raised during the last great depression. I was the youngest child of the youngest children born almost between the generations and that in fact clouds and obss who it is that I am really.

Given a front row seat for the generation of the 1960’s I lived in Chicago in 1960. My father was a Democratic precinct captain, my mother an election judge. His father had been a Union organizer and had been beaten and jailed for his efforts. His first time in jail was for punching a Ku Klux Klansman during a parade in the 1930’s. I never felt as if I was raised in a family of activists but seeing it print makes me think, yes. That is a part of who I am.

We find ourselves today living in a world treed by the hounds of madness, a complicit media covering contrite parties. Multilevel media, giving more access to communication yet stunting actual communication. More noise, less voice, more sound less music, more law less justice, more less life.

New immigration center opens on West Side

New immigration center opens on West Side

Kate King, order Staff Writer | Source: StamfordAdvocate.com | Tuesday, case July 5, 2011

New immigration center opens on West Side

Jean Daniels teaches a English class on Monday June 27, 2011 at Neighbors Link Stamford, a new non-profit organization that provides a comprehensive resource center for recent immigrants in the Stamford, Connecticut area. Photo: Dru Nadler / Stamford Advocate Freelance

STAMFORD — There are three words painted in blue on the concrete walls of the newly opened immigration center in Waterside — educate, empower, employ.

It’s the mission statement of Neighbors Link Stamford, a nonprofit dedicated to providing resources for local immigrants. The program has been years in the making, and Executive Director Catalina Samper Horak said she still can’t believe it’s finally come to fruition.

“There’s so many people who feel a sense of ownership of this center,” she said one morning last week. “We made it. We finally got it.”

Horak said the nonprofit is intended to be a “point of entry” for Stamford’s immigrant population. The program is modeled after the Neighbors Link center in Mount Kisco, N.Y., which has provided adult education, tutoring, computer training and employment development to the city’s immigrant community for the past 10 years. Horak served on the Mount Kisco center’s board of directors for seven years.

Neighbors Link Stamford celebrated its grand opening June 12, after initial resistance from some who worried the program would encourage day laborers to loiter outside the Selleck Street location. Rick Allen, a member of the Waterside Coalition, a neighborhood group on the West Side, said he was at first skeptical of the new organization, but is now a full supporter.

“We had kind of started out on a negative note because no one knew what the center was about,” Allen said. “But over the last few weeks, members of the coalition have come down to visit the center and it is awesome. They need our support and we need their support, so we’re all working on this together.”

Horak said Neighbors Link Stamford will one day serve as a safe and se hiring site where workers can wait for employers while taking English and computer classes. For the moment, however, the center is focusing on an overwhelming need from the local immigrant population for English instruction.

“We are supporting every single person in the immigrant community no matter where they are on the spectrum,” Horak said. “But we’re not talking about (the day laborer) component right now because we’re focusing on the education aspect. So that’s our big emphasis right now. We’re all about integration.”

Neighbors Link provides free daily English lessons to local immigrants on a walk-in basis, Horak said. The classes are led by volunteer ESL-certified instructors. On-site babysitting is also available for parents while they participate in classes.

More than a dozen people showed up for the June 27 English class taught by Jean Daniels. The group sat at plastic folding tables in front of a large whiteboard, on which Daniels wrote the five vowels of the English alphabet.

“The idea is to give them enough English so they can go out and get a job,” Daniels said. “But they’re open to anything, so whatever you can give them, they’re very appreciative. I think it’s excellent. I think it’s a good resource for the community.”

Private tutoring is also available for more advanced students. Martha Cortes, who moved to the United States from Colombia 22 years ago, drives to Neighbors Link Stamford every day from Norwalk for English lessons. On Monday, she received grammar and pronunciation help from Sakshi Bhatnagar, a 17-year-old high school senior at the Academy of Information Technology & Engineering in Stamford.

“This program is very good,” Cortes said. “I’m coming here Monday through Friday to improve my English and practice my grammar, and in the afternoon I take computer classes.”

Cortes worked for an aerospace manufacturing company for 16 years before losing her job when the company relocated. She said she is now hoping to improve her English writing skills so she can begin a new career in the health care industry.

“That’s why I have to practice my grammar,” Cortes said. “Right now, my goal is to improve my English so I can find a job.”

Neighbors Link Stamford is run by volunteers and funded entirely through private donations from individuals, foundations and religious organizations, Horak said. The center works with other local nonprofits to ensure services are enhanced, rather than duplicated. Immigrants looking for help with mental health, mortgage or citizenship questions will be directed to the proper resources, Horak said.

Horak, the center’s only paid employee, immigrated to the United States from Colombia in 1981 and now lives in Darien.

“I can totally relate to what people are going through here, the difficulties of raising children in another culture,” Horak said.

She said the center’s location on the West Side makes it easily accessible to many members of the local immigrant population, who can walk or take a bus to the center.

“It’s that neighborhood feeling,” Horak said. “It’s totally coming true.”

Staff Writer Kate King can be reached at kate.king@scni.com or at 203-964-2263.

New Documents Reveal Behind-the-Scenes FBI Role in Controversial Se Communities Deportation Program

Opt-Out Policy for Se Communities Set by Obs FBI Panel, Not by Law
July 6, 2011, New York and Washington – Documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic show that the controversial Se Communities deportation program (S-Comm), designed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to target people for deportation, is also a key component of a little-known FBI project to accumulate a massive store of personal biometric information on citizens and non-citizens alike.
According to the documents, S-Comm is “only the first of a number of biometric interoperability systems being brought online by the FBI ‘Next Generation Identification’ (NGI) project.” NGI will expand the FBI’s existing fingerprint database to add iris scans, palm prints, and facial recognition information for a wide range of people.
Jessica Karp of NDLON explained: “NGI is the next generation Big Brother. It’s a backdoor route to a national ID, to be carried not in a wallet, but within the body itself. The FBI’s biometric-based project is vulnerable to hackers and national security breaches and carries serious risks of identity theft. If your biometric identity is stolen or corrupted in NGI, it will be hard to fix. Unlike an identity card or pin code, biometrics are forever.”
The misrepresentations ICE used to sell S-Comm to states have been well documented and are currently the subject of a DHS Office of the Inspector General investigation. But to date, the FBI’s role in S-Comm has not been scrutinized, although the FBI has come under fire recently for adopting new, generalized policies that permit intrusive, suspicionlesssurveillance without adequate oversight.
Said Bridget Kessler of the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic: “These documents provide a fascinating glimpse into the FBI’s role in forcing S-Comm on states and localities. The FBI’s desire to pave the way for the rest of the NGI project seems to have been a driving force in the policy decision to make S-Comm mandatory. But the documents also confirm that, both technologically and legally, S-Comm could have been voluntary.”
Although the documents obtained raise many more questions than answers about the FBI’s involvement in S-Comm and S-Comm’s place in the broader NGI project, they do reveal the following key facts:
The CJIS Advisory Board, which oversees the FBI’s criminal databases, passed a motion in June 2009 to recommend that the FBI convert S-Comm from a voluntary to a mandatory program at the local level. At that time – and as much as one year later – ICE was still representing S-Comm as voluntary to state and local officials.
The FBI’s decision to support mandatory imposition of S-Comm was not driven by any legal mandate. In fact, the FBI considered making S-Comm voluntary, showing that it viewed opting out as both a technological possibility and a lawful option. The FBI chose the mandatory route not because of a statutory requirement, but for “record linking/maintenance purposes.” In focusing on mundane record-keeping issues, the agency failed to weigh any of the considerations that have driven states and localities across the country to withdraw from S-Comm, including the program’s impact on community policing, its association with an increased risk of racial profiling, and its failure to comply with its announced purpose of targeting dangerous criminals.
Both FBI and immigration officials have raised concerns internally that aspects of S-Comm may interfere with privacy and invade civil liberties. Notes from one meeting, for example, state that S-Comm “goes against privacy and civil liberties.” In another series of emails, FBI officials raised concerns that state and local users of the FBI databases would be surprised to learn that the FBI was using their data to perform searches that the users had neither requested nor authorized.
DHS may be using S-Comm to gather and store data about U.S. citizens, too. One of the newly obtained documents indicates that US-VISIT, a component of DHS may have considered storing certain information about individuals in violation of their own internal requirements and privacy laws. This may include the retention of data about the lawful activities of even natural-born U.S. citizens.
Said Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, “These revelations should disturb us on multiple levels: the lies, the shadowy role of the FBI, the threats to citizens and non-citizens alike, and the rampant potential violations of civil liberties. This goes far beyond the irreparable S-Comm program and opens a window onto the dystopian future our government has planned. With so much at stake, this process must at all costs be transparent going forward.”

To read our briefing guide and the related documents, please visit http://uncoverthetruth.org/foia-documents/foia-ngi/ngi-documents/. To read FOIA documents and information about the case NDLON v. ICE brought by CCR, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, visit CCR’s legal case page at www.ccrjustice.org/se-communities….

NDLON, et al. v. Baca

Over 20,000 people have been deported through Los Angeles County jails in the last two and a half years.  Through this lawsuit, filed in June 2011, NDLON, CHIRLA, and the National Immigration Law Center are demanding that Sheriff Baca comply with the the California Public Records Act and disclose information about the deportation programs operating in his jails, including Se Communities, 287(g), and the Criminal Alien Program.

Carrboro to revisit anti-lingering

By Susan Dickson, Staff Writer | Source: CarrboroCitizen.com

CARRBORO – Following claims that the town’s anti-lingering ordinance is unconstitutional, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen voted unanimously on Tuesday to take another look at it.

The board approved an anti-lingering ordinance for the intersection of Davie and Jones Ferry roads in November 2007 after residents of the surrounding neighborhood complained of public consumption, pharm public urination and garbage in the areas around the intersection. Day laborers, many of them Latino, often gather at the intersection in hopes that contractors will come by and offer them work. The ordinance prohibits waiting at the intersection from 11 a.m. until 5 a.m.

On June 16, the Southern Coalition for Social Justice sent a letter to Carrboro Town Attorney Michael Brough and the board alleging the ordinance’s unconstitutionality. The letter was also signed by lawyers from the N.C. NAACP, the ACLU of North Carolina, the N.C. Justice Center, the N.C. Immigrant Rights Project, the UNC Center for Civil Rights and the UNC School of Law Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity, as well as professors in the UNC Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic and UNC Civil Legal Assistance Clinic.

“While Carrboro day laborers often receive day-long employment between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m., many contractors and home-owners regularly seek laborers during the late morning and early afternoon hours,” the letter states. “The ordinance has interfered with workers’ ability to obtain employment during these times. Workers who have risked violating the law in an effort to put dinner on their families’ tables that evening have been subjected to humiliating herding off the street corner by Carrboro police officers and their cruisers.”

The letter also states that the ordinance is “overbroad and vague” and that the authors are “deeply concerned about the ordinance’s impact on the First Amendment,” citing a 2009 N.C. Court of Appeals case in which a Winston-Salem ordinance was struck down because “mere presence in a public place cannot constitute a crime.”

A group of residents came to the board on Tuesday to ask the board to repeal the ordinance.

“I understand that the anti-lingering ordinance was discussed at great length,” said Judith Blau, a UNC professor and director of the Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center. “You could not have recognized the increasing economic hardship that’s facing everyone in the nation, but most especially the day laborers, and it’s this downturn in the economy that has made employment opportunities more difficult.”

Alberto De Latorre told the board he has been working in Carrboro for 15 years, not always as a day laborer, but that as the economy has slowed he’s found himself more frequently looking for jobs from the corner.

“I am here because I’m against the ordinance,” Latorre said in Spanish, speaking to the board through a translator.

“The corner is part of Carrboro. It’s always been there, and we always know where to find a job there,” he said. “I feel frightened to be there and the police showing up at 11. … It feels bad.”

Mark Dorosin, an attorney with the UNC Center for Civil Rights and one of the letter’s authors, thanked board members for their recent efforts to work toward solutions for day laborers, but asked them to repeal the ordinance.

“We know you are looking at other issues related to workers’ rights and the day laborers, and we appreciate the consideration of those issues,” he said. “I urge you not to let this particular issue – the ordinance and the repeal of the ordinance – get unnecessarily caught up in other issues that you are dealing with.”

Advocates Decry DHS Advisory Committee As a “Sham”

Washington DC – Yesterday the Department of Homeland Security launched its advisory committee as part of the response to the growing controversy and resistance from states and law enforcement towards Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) “Se Communities” program.
When ICE announced cosmetic modifications earlier this month it promoted the advisory committee made up of law enforcement, ICE agents, and advocates as a body purported to issue recommendations in 45 days on how to “mitigate impacts on community policing,” “how to best focus on individuals who pose a true public safety and security threat,” as well as how to implement a post-conviction policy for traffic offenses.
Today advocates learned that in fact the commission is limited to recommendations about minor traffic offenses—a significant departure from ICE’s announcement. The commission also appears to be tangled in levels of bureaucracy —the advisory committee reports to another DHS committee.
Sarahi Uribe of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network said: “The advisory commission launched by DHS is a sham like the rest of the ‘Se Communities’ program. The more we learn about the commission the more we smell a rat. A committee tasked on whether they should separate and detain families pre or post conviction for broken tail lights is another embarrassment for the Obama Administration and its disregard for human rights in this country.”
“Forty-five days and a few short meetings is not enough time to truly examine a vast program like S-Comm,“ said Bridget Kessler of Cardozo Law School Immigration Justice Clinic, “ICE is once again spouting superficial talking points and band-aid solutions instead of confronting S-Comm’s fundamental flaws.”
ICE recently posted a document titled “Se Communities: Get the Facts” on its website. Advocates, questioning ICE’s “facts,” issued this response: http://tinyurl.com/4x7tnbn
“The Office of Inspector General of DHS is set to investigate the problems with Se Communities, including whether public officials were misled by the agency,” said Sunita Patel, Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “The advisory committee’s narrow scope ignores the concerns of public officials and civil rights groups. Advocates and community members have called for an end to Se Communities and the administration should listen.”
Last year ICE issued a document titled “Setting the Record Straight” in response to the release of data about S-Comm. The document, which outlined a procedure to opt-out of the program, was later taken down from the ICE website. “ICE’s ‘Get the Facts’ web posting is like ‘Setting the Record Straight,’ all spin without substance aimed at hiding the truth,” concluded Sunita Patel….

Carrboro day laborers may get center

By Sarah Glen
Updated:
6 hours ago

Randee Haven-O’Donnell remembers advocating for the worker movement in college as one of her most rewarding endeavors.

“You knew that you were supporting emerging populations that would make a difference to the families and the future of our nation, store ” she said.

As a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, Haven-O’Donnell and other local advocates are joining together to support the area’s growing Hispanic day laborer population.

Eager for work and clad in paint-flecked boots indicative of the construction industry, anywhere from 30 to 60 men stand at the corner of Jones Ferry Road and Davie Road each morning.

Come rain, sleet or snow, they wait outside for the glimpse of a potential employer driving around the corner.

Now, many believe it is time for them to move inside.

Molly De Marco, leader of the fair jobs and wages team at Orange County Justice United, said while labor center discussions are still in their early stages, the recent establishment of a relationship with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network is a step in the right direction.

“With at least 30 centers nationwide, they can help us a lot with funding options and making sure we engage workers in every step of the process,” she said.

In addition to providing workers with a safe place to wait for employers and access to restrooms, De Marco said a laborer center could ease tensions with neighborhoods surrounding the current informal pick-up location and even open up new opportunities to female workers.

While no concrete plans have been agreed upon, advocates are currently considering El Centro Hispano in Carrboro Plaza as a potential location for a laborer center.

Mauricio Castro, an organizer with the N.C. Latino Coalition and founder of El Centro Hispano’s predecessor El Centro Latino, said El Centro Hispano presents a promising opportunity because it could offer workers health or education services and access to a bilingual staff.

“Based on the conversations we’ve had with the workers, they are very excited about the possibility not only to look for work but also to be able to develop other skills,” he said. “Many were excited about the possibility of using a computer lab to check their mail, to send messages to their families or to learn how to use the computers.”

Castro also said the discussion of how to staff a center is important because opening a laborer center could allow for the compilation of a database of reliable workers and employers.

“There is less chance for having any mishaps in terms of trust that way, and that’s one of the reasons we think proper education on this issue is important,” he said.

For now, Haven-O’Donnell said discussions between parties will continue throughout July and all interested are welcome.

“I think that getting behind workers and advocating for workers elevating their status is something students at the University can really sink their teeth into,” she said.

Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

Published June 27, 2011 in Carrboro Board of Aldermen

Lakewood reflects emerging Hispanic presence

1:50 PM, Jun. 26, 201 | Written by Margaret F. Bonafide | Source: Asbury Park Press

Lakewood's day-laborer "muster zone" between First and Second streets and Route 9 and Clifton Avenue where primarily Hispanic men go to find work. The town's Hispanic population is foreseen by some as forming an influential voting bloc. / TOM SPADER/ASBURY PARK PRESS

LAKEWOOD — Juan Gonzalez is an honors student at Lakewood Middle School, a violinist who plans to study theology or architecture at Harvard University.

An impressive public speaker at age 13, Gonzalez addressed several hundred people at a Board of Education meeting about school concerns with gangs.

“I want to become a citizen and have the same rights as anyone to achieve my dream,” he said during an interview on the last day of the school year.

Juan Gonzalez, 13, in the Lakewood Middle School library. Born in Mexico, Gonzalez is a example of Hispanic immigrant children who want to pursue the advantages of U.S. citizenship. / TOM SPADER/ASBURY PARK PRESS

Gonzalez, who was born in Puebla, Mexico, is a member of group here reflecting a national trend: an emerging Hispanic populace which could wield considerable political and cultural influence in the relatively near future.

The 2010 Census revealed the Hispanic population here surged over the past decade, from 9,000 to 16,000 — a 78 percent increase. Lakewood’s population according to the 2010 Census was 92,843, edging Toms River as Ocean County’s largest municipality.

Nationally, Hispanics account for more than half of nation’s growth in past decade, according to the census results released in March. The Census Bureau predicts that the nation will be one quarter Hispanic by 2050.

Lakewood’s Hispanic residents are mostly Mexican, also a reflection of the nation’s demographic makeup, according to the Pew Research Center.

The majority of the children in Lakewood are educated in private Orthodox Jewish schools, but in the public school district the 5,500-student enrollment is predominantly Hispanic, said Puerto Rican-born Annette Maldonado, Lakewood Middle School principal.

The bulk of the membership of the Parent Teacher Organization is of Mexican descent and speaks only Spanish. The school board provided at one meeting a Spanish translator through whom parents spoke.

Many Hispanic students are children of immigrant parents who entered the country legally; entered legally but remained after their visas expired; or entered illegally. No matter the status of the parents, their children born in this country are U.S. citizens, noted Monica Guerrero, director of the Latino Community Connection, a for-profit business.

Roots of a voting bloc

“Most Hispanics I know do hard labor,’’ said Gonzalez, the honors student. “I want to have a good life.”

When he becomes a citizen — like his classmates who were born here — Gonzalez will gain the right to vote. He doesn’t have political aspirations but he wants to be like the “righteous leader” cited in the Bible’s Book of Proverbs, he said.

These children of Hispanic parents will be voting by the next census, said Mayor Menashe Miller, and become a formidable voting bloc along with the Orthodox Jewish and senior communities.“This is the land of the free and the home of the brave. I think it is fantastic that these children will grow up and become voters,” Miller said.

“And the mosaic of the Township Committee should be a representation of who is in the town,” Miller said.

A majority Hispanic students in the middle school and especially the elementary school were born here, Maldonado said. In civics class students learn about citizen duties and are preparing to become voting residents, Maldonado said.

“They are being educated to take a more active stance,” Maldonado said.

In a broader view, the recent trip by President Barack Obama to Puerto Rico shows that the Hispanic vote is sought-after, said Kathryn Quinn-Sanchez, 41, chairwoman of world languages and cultures at Georgian Court University.

“But it will take another generation to be a voting bloc,” Quinn Sanchez said.

And the Hispanic vote is not monolithic, Quinn-Sanchez said. There are a dozen nationalities grouped under the umbrella term of Hispanic, she said. Though categorized as the same, members of the different nationalities do not feel the same “homogeneity as, say, a group of senior citizens would,” Quinn-Sanchez said.

Role of education

Hispanic parents “have a dream for their children to be educated,” said Jose, a 30-year-old day laborer man who declined to give a last name.

And educators in the school district are intent on getting the students out of the mindset of staying within the four corners of their community and to see the possibilities and power in their future, Maldonado said.

When children are exposed to the world of higher education they can see beyond their parent’s walls, Maldonado said.

This past year middle school children visited colleges and universities, she said.

“They heard things like ‘yes, you can.’ They don’t hear that at home because the knowledge is not there” on how to work toward greater achievements, Maldonado said.

What the parents do know, though, is hard work, she said.

Maldonado said she hopes that the children will be politicians helping their community to represent the people of Lakewood.

Already, said Guerrero of the Latino Community Connection, Hispanic residents feel more confident about their place in the community and are working hard to show their best side.

Laborers seek permanent site

BY MARK SCHULTZ, Staff Writer | Source: ChapelHillNews.com

CARRBORO – National day laborers organizers planned to meet with local workers this weekend to discuss establishing a permanent space where they can wait for work.Chris Newman and Francisco Pacheco of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network visited Orange County to learn more about the problems local workers have and to discuss the benefits of an official day laborers center.

El Centro Hispano (The Hispanic Center) is exploring using part of its space in Carrboro Plaza for a center. El Centro is a member of the community organizing coalition Justice United and is working with that group, the towns of Carrboro and Chapel Hill, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce and others.

Two meetings have been held with local day laborers, or jornaleros, who mostly come from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador but also include black citizens, said Mauricio Castro, an organizer with the N.C. Latino Coalition.

The workers have expressed concerns about wage theft (not being paid for a day’s work) and safety at the corner of Jones Ferry and Davie roads where they gather for work. The site also does not have a bathroom.

The Carrboro day laborers spot is small compared to most across the country, Pacheco said. But the problems workers are having are not unique. It’s estimated that up to half of the 120,000 day laborers in the United States at any one time have not been paid for at least one day’s work, said Newman, the legal director for the laborer network.

The organizers said they are not here to tell local leaders to create a permanent gathering spot or take any other action.

“We’re coming as a resource,” Newman said. “Obviously Carrboro needs to decide what Carrboro wants to do.”

Read more about this weekend’s meeting with day laborers coming Wednesday in The Chapel Hill News.
mark.schultz@nando.com or 932-2003

Unfair working conditions: Blame greed,

Unfair working conditions: Blame greed, not the economy

June 24, 2011 | 12:51pm | Posted in the LA Times

Unfair working conditions: Blame greed, __fg_link_3__  not the economy In Friday’s pages, Harold Meyerson sheds light on the inhumane working conditions many undocumented immigrant workers face. Take day laborer Josue Melquisedec Diaz, for instance:

Diaz was put to work in a residential neighborhood that had been flooded. The American workers who were involved in the cleanup, he noted, had been given masks, gloves, boots and sometimes special suits to avoid infection. No such precautions were afforded Diaz and his crew of undocumented immigrant workers. “We were made to work with bare hands, picking up dead animals,” he says. “We were working in contaminated water,” tearing down and repairing washed-out homes.

Stop and think about that. You may resent undocumented immigrants for taking jobs away from Americans, but you can’t possibly think they deserve to be treated like they’re subhuman and expendable. And, anyway, shouldn’t we reserve our contempt for employers skirting the law by hiring cheap labor? Meyerson continues:

Last week, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and California Reps. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) and George Miller (D-Martinez) introduced legislation (the POWER Act) that would give workers like Diaz provisional “U visas.” The visas were designed to provide temporary legal status to immigrant victims who come forward to report violent crimes, and the proposed legislation would expand the protection to those who come forward to report workplace violations. Such legislation, Menendez pointed out, would not only protect immigrants but keep unscrupulous employers from lowering labor standards generally.

The July/August issue of Mother Jones also takes on the issue the unfair working conditions. Take, for example, Martha’s story:

Unfair working conditions: Blame greed, not the economy

Of course, undocumented immigrants aren’t the only ones being squeezed for all they’re worth. The heart of Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery’s Mother Jones article, “All Work and No Pay,” describes the culture of the new American workplace — one that places value on flashy buzzwords like  “productivity,” “multitasking” and “offloading,” all of which really mean working employees to the bone. And though people may be inclined to shrug off intense working conditions as a temporary phase during a down economy, they shouldn’t:

In all the chatter about our “jobless recovery,” how often does someone explain the simple feat by which this is actually accomplished? US productivity increased twice as fast in 2009 as it had in 2008, and twice as fast again in 2010: workforce down, output up, and voilá! No wonder corporate profits are up 22 percent since 2007, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute. To repeat: Up. Twenty-two. Percent.

If your blood isn’t boiling yet, these charts will do the trick.

–Alexandra Le Tellier

Illustration: Mark Weber / Tribune Media Services