“Day Laborers and Home Depot”

New York Times Editorial

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/13/opinion/13wed3.html?ref=opinion

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.

 

SPECIFIC RULES

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.

 

RELIABLE EVIDENCE

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.

 

FEDERAL POWER

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.

 

LICENSE PLATES

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.” 

http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/120562

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
By JAVIER C. HERNANDEZ

Published: July 12, 2008
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/12/nyregion/12shapeup.html?_r=2&hp&oref=slogin&oref=slogin 

 

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.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/12/nyregion/12shapeup.html?_r=2&hp&oref=slogin&oref=slogin 

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
Alicia.Ebaugh@GazetteCommunications.com
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

NEWSDAY.COM
BY BART JONES
 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.

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/nassau/ny-b5757243jul09,0,7827471.story

Unpaid Day Laborers Speak Out

 

 

ABC 7 NEWS

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.

http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0708/533930.html

Religious leaders speak out on of laborers

by Jake Krob · July 16, 2008

 

Cornell College’s chaplain joined faith leaders from across the state last week to talk about what they say has been worker exploitation and a disregard for immigrant families in Iowa. In a conference call with media from around the state, s they highlighted the issue in light of day-laborers in Iowa helping with Flood of 2008 recovery efforts and the May raid in Postville.

Christians For Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CCIR), patient a coalition of Christian organizations, convened the call.

The religious community is “taking the lead to shine a light on worker abuses,” said Patty Kupfer, manager of Partnerships with America’s Voice, an organization focused on increasing public and political support for immigration reform.

The Rev. Catherine Quehl-Engel, Cornell’s chaplain and an Episcopal priest, came face-to-face with immigration and labor issues in Mount Vernon the weekend the Flood of 2008 struck Iowa.

Quehl-Engel, who said she represents herself and not the college, spoke of the laborers who first spent nights in a Cornell dorm while helping with flood clean-up in Cedar Rapids and the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area. The workers, doing jobs for ServiceMaster, arrived June 15 and left June 22. Quehl-Engel said they were hired, many coming from Kansas City, by a temp agency known as SourceOne.

Quehl-Engel said she was “appalled by their ,” saying, for instance, that they were given debit cards for food that initially did not work, arrived without the proper gear to do their clean-up jobs, and started working without precautionary measures such as tetanus shots. She said workers reported not being paid minimum wage, and some said their paychecks had deductions for bus rides to work sites. When she and some Cornell College colleagues learned of such conditions, she said the business was presented and complied with a contract that, for instance, stipulated workers be paid minimum wage.

In fairness to the company that hired them, Quehl-Engel said the businesses were “overwhelmed” by the response needed to handle flood clean-up. Furthermore, she said they might have been treated better than other companies were treating their workers. Quehl-Engel said, for instance, that a person she met in Cedar Rapids, not with the business housing employees at Cornell, reported having to sleep under the bus that brought him to Cedar Rapids.

“These are the faces of Iowa’s flood crisis,” Quehl-Engel said.

Other religious leaders concurred. Also joining the call to media last week were Bi Alan Scarfe of the Episcopal Diocese of Iowa, Bi Steven L. Ullestad of Northeastern Iowa Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Bi Gregory Palmer of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, and Rev. Julia Rendon of the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ.

Scarfe said he and Palmer went to Cedar Rapids with Quehl-Engle, describing the flood-ravaged areas as “the belly of a beast” with bad smells, filth and noise. He said one man they talked to, brought to Cedar Rapids to work, “actually thought he was in Chicago.”

Scarfe said the message from the religious leaders is, “you’re not going to get away with this.” He urges legislation to “bring decency” to immigrants and those brought here to help Iowa clean up.

The religious leaders also addressed labor issues in light of the May 12 raid at AgriProcessors in Postville. Ullestad, who grew up in Postville, said religious leaders in Postville described the raid as an “invasion” with roads closed, military-style helicopters flying overhead, and federal agents heavily armed. He said Postville will likely lose one-third of its population due to the raid.

Ullestad pointed out that only 5,000 immigrants without college degrees are allowed into the country each year, but that there’s a need for 10 times that many workers. That led to general discussion about the immigration changes religious leaders believe need to be made.

Palmer said some may wonder why religious leaders are addressing the issue when “you are not experts.”

He said their faith means caring for the most vulnerable and that they want to “lower the level of fear…that exists in any community.”

Quehl-Engel said she would like to see legislation that requires companies to be held accountable for the actions of any contractors they use to do their work.

Rendon said it’s “really a shame when our regulations and standards are ignored until casual passersby notice they’re being violate. We should not be depending on the good will of people whose job it is not to enforce (labor laws).”

Rep. Ro Foege, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, stepped in to help when questions about the of workers were raised in his community. He said when allegations were made that laborers weren’t being paid minimum wage, he called the labor commissioner.

He said he understands there are other concerns, such as workers being on the job for 15 or more hours a day. Unfortunately, he said, Iowa is an “at-will state,” and “if you want people to work 15 hours a day, you can if you get them to agree to it.”

The state will likely have a special legislative session to address flood-related issues. Foege said it’s unlikely the labor/immigration issues raised will be discussed.

But, he said he recognizes immigration matters need to be addressed by the state.

“It’s a huge, complex issue nationwide,” he said.

 http://www.mtvernonlisbonsun.com/article.php?viewID=3157

Group rallies against day laborer ordinance-Aurora,

Group rallies against day laborer ordinance-Aurora, CO, 9 News

 

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AURORA CO– The Aurora City Council has voted to postpone a vote that nonprofits say would keep them from offering help to day laborers.

 

 
Monday night, supporters of El Centro Humanitario, a group that promotes the rights of day laborers, came out to rally against the ordinance. The proposed ordinance would change the definition of a “temporary employment agency” to include nonprofits and charitable organizations. If passed, these groups would have to stay 1,500 feet away from employment agencies.

Supporters of El Centro say the ordinance would make it difficult to provide education and other services to day laborers. Aurora City Councilwoman Deborah Wallace says the ordinance is designed to protect businesses. She says that people sometimes congregate outside employment agencies for as many as 10-hours a day.The city council will take up the issue again in two weeks.

Day labor program tries to make it work

Day labor program tries to make it work

 

Day labor program tries to make it work By Shauntel Lowe

Article Last Updated: 07/13/2008 12:01:30 AM PDT

 

A three-block stretch of Hearst Avenue in Berkeley has become like an urban waiting room full of patients without appointments, all hoping an elusive will soon return to fix their wounds.

These are the wounds of poverty, family and ill-fated business plans that pain the bodies and minds of the day laborers taking their seats on curbs and corners along the avenue each morning with hopes of securing work for the day.

The Multicultural Institute, a nonprofit foundation in Berkeley, through its Day Laborers Program, tries to help by matching workers with contractors and homeowners in need of some construction, gardening or painting.

The program helped set up just under 300 jobs for laborers in fiscal year 2007, said Institute Associate Director Paula Worby. The Institute also has a program in San Mateo County. Many of the laborers came to the United States from Mexico and Central America in search of a for the ills of their home countries. But these days there is no — no money — on Hearst Avenue. The mortgage crisis and slumping economy have radically altered the industry dynamic. They come to Hearst Avenue from all over, some even walking from Richmond for the chance to work. And they wait.

On Wednesday morning, there were no contractors cruising for workers by Truitt & White Lumber Co. at the corner of Second Street and Hearst. It is common for day laborers to congregate in industrial areas and around construction-related businesses to try and score work.

One day last week, Rudy Lara, program assistant for the Institute’s laborers’ program, said he had only coordinated one minor job the previous day.

So minor, in fact, that he couldn’t remember exactly what type of work it was. He doesn’t see that changing any time soon. “Probably it’s going to get worse and worse,” he said.

Lara said just a few years ago people would find work easily from contractors and renovating homeownersNot now. “Everybody stopped (hiring) at the same time,” he said.Alberto Moran, 20, who also works with the program, blamed high prices and layoffs for the lack of work.”Usually in the summer, business picks up. (Now) with the economy, it stays where it is,” he said So they wait. Jose Corado, 49, stood near the corner of Fourth Street and Hearst geared up to paint in a white T-shirt and paint-splattered white pants and a lifetime of painting experience.

The only thing missing was a job.

“It’s not established anything. It’s temporary everything,” he said.

Corado said it had been weeks since he last had a job, even with the Institute staff out every day trying to set him up.

Lara painted a picture of a kinship between the Institute and Truitt & White, with the lumber company’s patrons hiring many of the program’s day laborers.

But Dan White, co-owner of Truitt & White, said that has not been the case over the past 15 years.

White said the company conducted a survey of its customers several years ago.

“The universal response was that the contractors that here almost never use the day laborers,” he said. “Pretty much they’re just standing out there all day.”

Lara said right now, remodeling homeowners are laborers’ best bet for securing work, but even that is slow. Moran said some people try to take advantage of the perceived desperation of the workers — 75 percent are undocumented, according to one major study — and “try to get them for cheap.”

Institute associate director Worby said the program recommends a wage of $12 to $15 per hour for most work, noting that it does not contract with anyone but tries to connect laborers with employers free of charge.

“We’re not taking a cut of the money,” Worby said. “We recommend a wage.”

Jorge Solano, 45, said he came here from Guatemala 10 years ago to make money to send back to his sick wife and four children and hasn’t been back yet.

“They gotta come because over there they make so little,” said Solano in Spanish with Moran translating.Lara and Moran said times are very difficult now, but they will keep coming out and stand with those still waiting. ”You can only hope for the best,” said Moran.

Social activist led fight for day laborers’ rights

Social activist led fight for day laborers’ rights

Social activist led fight for day laborers’ rights

FREEHOLD – Advocates for and members of Freehold Borough’s Latino community are mourning the loss of a person they called a leader in the fight for workers’ rights.

Alejandro Abarca, s 32, who lived in Freehold Borough between 2003 and 2007, ed died two weeks ago in Mexico from injuries he sustained in an automobile accident eight months ago in Mexico.

Frank Argote- Freyre, who chairs the Monmouth County chapter of the New Jersey Latino Leadership Alliance, remembered Abarca as the person who came forward and “pushed for the lawsuit” that was filed against the borough when municipal officials shut down a day laborers muster zone on Throckmorton Street on Dec. 31, 2003.

Earlier that year, Abarca, who was born in Mexico, had helped to form Casa Freehold, an advocacy organization for Latinos. Argote-Freyre said Abarca can be considered to be an “important figure historically in the area.”

Argote-Freyre said members of the alliance are mourning Abarca’s passing.

“He was a leader of the workers and fought for workers’ rights,” Argote-Freyre said. “It is a tragedy to lose someone like that.”

Steve Richter, of Philadelphia, and formerly of Freehold Borough, said Abarca was involved early on in the fight to reopen the muster zone.

“When our darkest hours were upon us, Alejandro was one of the first to come forward,” said Richter, who was an advocate for Freehold Borough’s Latino population. “He gave strength to others and made it easier for others who wanted to help the Latino community by laying the groundwork for them.”

Rita Dentino, a member of Casa Freehold, said she had been in contact with Abarca since his accident. She said he had undergone a number of spinal surgeries and died from complications of the most recent operation.

Dentino called Abarca a “leader” of workers in the area and a “social activist.”

According to Dentino, Abarca was a medical in Mexico. As a member of Casa Freehold, in addition to teaching English to immigrants, Abarca was responsible for teaching medical health issues to members of the Latino community.

“He was a person who wanted to unify everyone in the fight for social justice,” she said. “Although he was most visible to us in Freehold, Alejandro was involved in many social causes in other states as well. He helped to raise the level of awareness and education among people so that they would understand their

rights.”

Dentino said Abarca was instrumental in helping to organize an alternate employment site for Freehold’s day laborers in 2004, following the closing of the muster zone.

A Mass was celebrated at St. Rose of Lima Church on June 26 and a memorial service remembering Abarca’s life was held on July 1. Abarca left the United States about a year ago to rejoin his wife in Mexico. He is survived by his wife and a 5-year-old son.