The two faces of Obama on immigration

He stays some deportations even as he extends the draconian ‘se communities’. Will the real president please stand up?

Immigrant rights campaigners in Los Angeles, California

How can President Obama continue to portray himself as the champion of immigration reform to Latino voters, while at the same time deporting more people than any other president in United States history?

Two significant announcements this month offer a glimpse into an administration that appears to be playing both sides of a bitter debate over immigration reform.

The first occurred on 5 August, when the Obama Administration announced that it would unilaterally impose its controversial deportation programme known as “se communities” (also known as S-Comm) upon every city in the United States by 2013. The announcement stunned the immigrant justice community, which had spent the last year rallying against policies in Arizona that demonstrated to the world the dangers of using the local criminal justice system to engage in federal immigration law enforcement.

Burglars hit Hayward nonprofit agency over holiday weekend

By Chris De Benedetti | Source: Hayward Daily Review/ | January 4, 2012

HAYWARD — The Hayward Day Labor Center, a nonprofit agency hit by burglars over the New Year’s holiday weekend, is asking for help replace some stolen items.

The job-training organization — which provides a variety of social services to those in need in the greater Hayward area — lost computers printers, and gardening tools in the burglary, said Gabriel Herndandez, the center’s executive director.

The burglars also damaged a book-dispensing vending machine and stole soccer uniforms from Tennyson High School that Hernandez, the squad’s head coach, was storing at the center.

The estimated cost of the stolen and damaged goods was between $8,000 and $10,000, Hernandez said. The crime took place sometime between Friday and Sunday morning, when a delivery person discovered that the center had been robbed, police Lt. Roger Keener said.

Anyone wishing to donate to the center can write a check made payable to Community Initiatives, c/o Hayward Day Labor Center, and mail it to the center at 680 W. Tennyson Road, Hayward, CA 94544.

Rights center may be moving

BY TAMMY GRUBB, check | Source:

CARRBORO – The Chapel Hill and Carrboro Human Rights Center may have found a new home around the corner from its old neighborhood.The center put a three-bedroom, brick ranch house at 107 Barnes St. under contract Dec. 23 for $155,000, director Judith Blau said. County records show the 1,075-square-foot house was built in 1970 and is owned by Dorothy and Bernard Atwater. It is valued at $138,363.

They still need to close on the house, but after the goes through, Blau said they might improve the gravel driveway and build another room.

Interim Town Manager Matt Efird said the group first must seek a home occupation permit or some type of rezoning. The exact requirements will depend on the information center officials submit, possibly by early spring, he said.

Blau and center community organizer David Rigby said they couldn’t have found the home so quickly without the local NAACP and its president the Rev. Robert Campbell, Community Realty agent Bronwyn Merritt, Carrboro town officials and members of Occupy Chapel Hill-Carrboro.

The Abbey Court Homeowners Association voted Dec. 1 to give the center until March to move out of the two units it owns in the Jones Ferry Road complex.

Management officials said it had tried to work out liability concerns for more than a year. The center also violated homeowners association rules by serving “a public and commercial use” for large numbers of non-residents, they said.

Occupy protesters marched a few days later to protest the decision and support the center and Abbey Court residents, many of them Latino or Burmese refugees.

Rigby said Tar Heel Companies, which runs Abbey Court, contacted them after the march to suggest filing a petition to have the lease extended to May.

Day laborer center

Rigby said the move will allow the center to operate more effectively and make it clear that the services are for anyone who needs help. The house is near Royal Park Apartments and convenient for low-income residents in the surrounding neighborhoods and at Abbey Court Condominiums, Ridgewood Apartments and Carolina Apartments, Blau said.

The house also has room for a long-awaited day laborer center where people can wait in a safe place out of the elements; learn computer, ESL and other job skills; and get help with employment problems. Blau said they will ask the town for a sign at Jones Ferry and Davie roads, where the workers now wait for jobs, to direct employers to the new center.

The house is next to Wilkinson Supply Co., the former Mellott company property and a large tract owned by VAC Limited Partnership, a real estate company based in Richmond, Va. Two doors down, Waymond Ingram said he thinks the center will be a good fit.

Ingram has lived on Barnes Street since 2005 and watched the neighborhood grow more youthful as the longtime, older residents moved out. There used to be a lot of problems, but it’s starting to clean up a little, he said. While not too familiar with the center’s work, he said it might give young people a more positive way to spend their time.

The new center will serve various needs throughout the day, Blau said. From early morning to mid-afternoon, day laborers will come to find work. As they leave, children will arrive for after-school programs, and evenings and weekends, adults and children can take advantage of classes and other activities. Unfortunately, there’s not enough room for the soccer program, she said.

Beto Rodriguez, the center’s computer lab director, will live there, and Rigby will be on site to resolve any issues, register employers and build community bridges.

Fighting wage fraud

The employer registration program will fight the growing problem of wage fraud and other abuses, Rigby said. While most employers are “honorable,” a few hire the men and refuse to pay them later – at least two or three cases every week, he and Blau said.

Of course, some employers may choose to stop hiring day laborers if asked to register or if the center seeks out stolen wages, Rigby said. The day laborers understand that and are OK with it, because they need the money to support their families and those jobs don’t pay anyway, he said.

Rigby said they want the workers to be invested in the center. They are now drafting a code of conduct that will, among other things, prohibit drinking and people loitering outside. Many also have specialized skills that they can teach others, he said.

Rigby said he hopes the changes created there will ripple into the community.

“I have the highest hopes for this center that over the next two, five and 10 years … that we can do good things for the community around us and … for under-represented and under-privileged people,” he said.

Farmworkers in El Paso Glum About 2012

Farmworkers in El Paso Glum About 2012

January 1, 2012 | Source: Fox News Latino

Farmworkers in El Paso Glum About 2012

Close to 70 agricultural day laborers arrive every day at the Centro de los Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos (Border Farmworker Center) in El Paso in hopes of being hired to harvest nuts and red chilis, but with little hope at all for next year.

Around 1:00 a.m. the farmworkers gather in the street hoping that the overseers or farm owners will soon show up to hire them.

“The harvest season is almost over, which is why the overseers can pick and choose the workers they want. They always prefer the youngest and strongest,” Mexican laborer Roberto Miranda told Efe.

Once in the fields, he said, they put what they pick in baskets and get paid 80 cents for each basket they fill.

“After eight hours of work without anything to eat, they give me between $25 and $30. But some days I only earn $10,” Miranda said.

Many of his fellow farmworkers also complain about the meager pay they get for toiling in the fields, but are universally afraid to say anything about it in public.

Even in temperatures hovering around 40 F (4 C), the men remain in the street hoping to land some work in the fields.

They say the reason many of them sleep outside the Centro is so they can be at the head of the line for a day’s work.

“The Centro Agricola offers all of them a roof over their heads where they can shelter from the winter cold,” Alicia Marentes, director of social services for the non-profit organization, said.

Marentes said that when their day’s work is over, the farmworkers go to the Centro where they can shower and stretch out on air beds or blankets arranged on the floor.

The laborers receive a daily meal from the Centro, as well as legal counsel, English classes and other basic services.

“We have a television for their entertainment while they’re waiting for sunrise,” the director said.

Though most of these day laborers come from Mexico, all have legal documents for working in the United States.

“Every day we pass through an immigrant registration checkpoint. The officials get on our bus and check our papers in great detail,” said another farmworker who asked not to be identified.

“The next harvest season is in June – so how are we going to survive until our work starts up again?” Mario López, another of the workers waiting in line to be chosen by the overseers, said disconsolately.

Lopez said that for each day in the fields he earns $30, but that he has to pay $7 to the driver who takes him to work, and if he s a burrito to eat and a bottle of water, the money he has left to send back to his kids in Mexico is minimal.

“The future of farmworkers in the United States gets gloomier every day,” he said. “We have to ask God to lend us a helping hand so we can survive.”

Immigrant laborers inspire painting, donation from Morristown artist Ron Ritzie to Neighborhood House

Immigrant laborers inspire painting, donation from Morristown artist Ron Ritzie to Neighborhood House

Posted by Kevin Coughlin on December 22, 2011 | Source:

They sit with shovels and rakes and spades, waiting.

The faceless day laborers in Ron Ritzie’s painting, Waiting Game, are a face of Morristown that he cannot ignore.

“You see their images all around town, looking for work,” Ron said on Wednesday at the Morristown Neighborhood House, where he donated a signed giclée (digital ink-jet) print of the painting to Pathways to Work.

That program, now in its third year, matches workers with people seeking to hire casual labor.

Immigrant laborers inspire painting, donation from Morristown artist Ron Ritzie to Neighborhood House

'Waiting Game,' by Morristown artist Ron Ritzie. he donated a print of the painting to the Pathways to Work program at the Neighborhood House. Photo by Bill Lescohier

Pathways Manager Rosa Chilquillo said she was “escstatic” about Ron’s gift. “It depicts what Pathways to Work is is,” she said. “We work with anybody who is unemployed, who needs work.”

Immigrant laborers inspire painting, donation from Morristown artist Ron Ritzie to Neighborhood House

Morristown artist Ron Ritzie poses with 'Waiting Game,' his gift to Pathways to Work. Photo by Bill Lescohier

More than 500 members are enrolled, and more than 4000 work days have been brokered so far, said Rosa.

The program is supported by community groups and churches, and is affiliated with the nonprofit Neighborhood House, which has assisted immigrants and minority groups for more than a century.

There was extra joy at the Nabe on Wednesday. After Ron gave his artwork to Pathways, Rosa distributed gift-wrapped warm clothing to day laborers, courtesy of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship.

Ron, a 1977 graduate of Morristown High School, is working on a series of paintings about immigration.

“It touched me, because everyone is looking for work, to feed their families and start their own small businesses,” he explained.

Rosa Chilquillo and artist Ron Ritzie with his painting, Waiting Game. Photo by Bill Lescohie

Rosa Chilquillo and artist Ron Ritzie with his painting, 'Waiting Game.' Photo by Bill Lescohie

Immigrant laborers inspire painting, donation from Morristown artist Ron Ritzie to Neighborhood House

Day laborers pose with artist Ron Ritzie and Pathways to Work Manager Rosa Chilquillo at the Neighborhood House in Morristown. Ron donated a painting, 'Waiting Game.' Photo by Bill Lescohie

Illusions Of The American Dream Remain For Day Laborers

Illusions Of The American Dream Remain For Day Laborers

Dan Watson | December 21, order 2011 | Editor-In-Chief | Source:

“A day laborer’s life is a very sad one. A very hard one. They have this idea that when they come to the U.S. their problems are solved. They don’t realize, their nightmare is about to begin.” – Art Zepeda, CARECEN Day Labor Program Organizer

Carlos Vareli wakes up most mornings knowing he won’t find work.

Regardless, he still gets out of bed while most of Los Angeles sleeps. He might drive if he has gas money. A car allows him to pack his priceless tools, but it’s been awhile. Instead, these days he usually bikes or walks the three miles, leaving behind those tools, and his wife in their one-room apartment at Washington and Western.

At the downtown Home Depot parking lot, a last-gasp wilderness awaits.

At 7:30 a.m., the parking lot is brimming with hundreds of desperate men like Vareli; each hoping his spot will be the lucky one today. Scores of them are scattered throughout the lot, some along the driving lanes, others behind truck beds, more bursting out of the landscaped islands; every nook and cranny.

Vareli once was a professor in Central America. Today, in the U.S., he is a day laborer.

Among the jobless in Los Angeles, day laborers have been hit especially hard — “it’s never been worse,” Vareli says. While more than 26,000 L.A. County day laborers hope for a few hours of work every day, the housing crisis and recession have abandoned most to a fruitless search, made even tougher by anti-immigration sentiments, ineffective city-funded day laborer centers and an influx of Latin American immigrants, all competing against a much larger demographic than previously existed.

“I have not heard of positive signs for day laborers yet,” said Lynn Svensson of the Day Labor Research Institute. “I believe that day laborers may be the last to get the benefits of the ‘recovery’ because their wages are determined on the spot by employers.”

Illusions Of The American Dream Remain For Day Laborers

Still, they meet, and in record numbers. Most meet at strategic corners; maybe a busy intersection, or outside a that corresponds with their skillset. Others meet at day-laborer centers, where depending on whether the center is privately or city-run can differ drastically in service. No matter where they meet, the problems are escalating from all angles.

For a long time, day laborers have had to fight to simply solicit work from public corners. This year, in Redondo Beach, a federal appellate court struck down an anti-solicitation ordinance as being unnecessarily and overly broad.

Vareli hasn’t had a single job for four months now.

“Eight years ago, the people came here, the constructors, and when I asked them how much they could pay, they’d say ‘Oh, I can pay 10 dollars per hour,’” Vareli said. “Now, It’s impossible. They say, ‘I can pay 7 or 8 dollars an hour,’ and many people say, ‘I can go.’”

Exploitation runs rampant

In one corner of the downtown Home Depot is a non-profit day laborer center run by the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN). Despite requiring a $10 minimum wage, organizers, like Art Zepeda, witness hundreds of day laborers in the parking lot getting exploited every day by people looking for cheap help. Many are paid well below that minimum wage, if not below the state minimum wage ($8).

The parking lot is a wilderness they can’t control.

“Carlos is trying to educate them, because he went to a university, he understands more,” Zepeda said. “He’s more developed in his critical thinking. ‘Don’t do this, they’re taking advantage of you!’ he says. But they can’t see it.”

There is nothing CARECEN can do except educate.

The numbers are lopsided, with the ever-increasing ranks of the unemployed laborers vying for the attention of fewer employers seeking their help. An estimated 136 day-laborer corners dot L.A. County, but only 16 centers offer a range of employment and social services, according to experts.

Despite the recession, workers continue to come from Mexico and Central America; a pattern Zepeda has seen escalate in the last two years.

“In Latin America, a lot of these employers are used to cheap labor and exploitation,” he said. “They feel if it’s happening over there, it’ll happen here.”

Walking around at CARECEN, Zepeda detects language dialects he never used to hear before, many Mayan. It’s a demographic they’re not really prepared for, he says.

“The poverty here would be equivalent to the middle class over there,” Zepeda said of Latin America, where one in every five children lives in extreme poverty. “That’s why they continue to come.”

Vareli won’t accept the lower wages. He feels his skills and tools make him worth at least minimum wage, if not more. But he’s seen the few available jobs go to those willing to accept the lowest amount.

Many centers try to prevent exactly this scenario.

“But they (employers) don’t come here,” Vareli says, pointing to CARECEN. “They go over there to Home Depot.”

Centers struggle to find workers jobs

It’s a problem many centers are facing.

CARECEN organizers try to pull in as many corner day laborers as they can, but Vareli readily admits that most people go to the center for the free food, English classes, and family environment; not to actually look for jobs.

Antonio Bernabe, a day laborer organizer for the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, is openly critical of the city’s system, which is different than the one run at CARECEN.

“They don’t know what to do with day labor centers,” he said. “They don’t realize it’s for the people to work. They open day labor centers because the community complains because they don’t want to see people at the corners.”

For 12 years, Bernabe worked at the city-run center in North Hollywood.

“The centers help the people to survive,” he said. “Some of them have some kind of food, and churches go to help the people. Many bring food during the morning. So, some people go to survive. But then they have to go to the corners, because they’re looking for work.”

The emphasis, many complain, is that the focus is on services, not getting the day laborers work.

Not all centers, however, are ineffective, according to Svensson, who authored the study “Comparing Solutions: An Overview of Day Labor Programs.”

In her paper, she differentiates between two main models of service: the social service agency model (like the one run by the city of LA) and the union-model (as run by CARECEN). The union-model keeps work the top priority.

“The characteristics of a union-model day labor center include self-funding through worker dues, focus on work (rather than social services), a fair and strictly enforced minimum wage, and rules and policy decisions decided by workers through consensus reaching member meetings,” she said.

Despite her endorsement, CARECEN continues to struggle. As did the former day labor center at the Home Depot in Glendale, which closed in July. According to city officials, the center failed to attract skeptical workers, who preferred to seek work at nearby curbsides.

But even at those curbsides and corners, there is no escape from the economy.

Meet L.A.’s Day Laborers

Illusions Of The American Dream Remain For Day Laborers

Fifty-year-old Michael Kembe, a professional cook and dishwasher, knows he's in the middle of a simple problem.

Illusions Of The American Dream Remain For Day Laborers

Oscar Chavez has gone from working for several years at a factory that made paper towels to eating a full meal once a day off a paper plate.

Demographics now tied to poverty, not ethnicity

Most devastating to day-laborers has been the real-estate crisis, followed by the recession, say center directors. Construction has long been their bread-and-butter. However, the real estate crisis killed construction of new homes, with many day laborers scurrying to pick up new skills, or getting left behind.

The latest nation-wide study on day-laborers, done in 2006, just before the real-estate crisis, found 49 percent employed by homeowners and renters, and another 43 percent by construction contractors.

And while the necessary skills are changing for the professional day laborer, many new unskilled day-laborers are being forced into centers in a last-ditch effort to find work.

Before the recession, most day-laborers identified themselves as such; it truly was an identity, a profession.

“Most of the participants we had were day laborers, like 95 percent. It’s a living, a way of life,” said Mario Lopez, supervisor for the city-run Downtown Community Job Center. “The caricature that defines a day-laborer is someone that comes to this country looking for jobs and becomes a day-laborer and they don’t change because they like it.”

The demographics no longer lend themselves to that caricature.

They’re in and out. They’re white, black, Asian, or Latino. They’re often unprepared.

They’re all desperate for work.

“The wages are decreasing,” said Lopez. “It’s really tough right now. They’re getting less and less jobs and there’s more competition, especially from people that weren’t day laborers before.”

In 2005, the Downtown center would see 30-to-35 day-laborers every day. In 2011, that number has climbed to about 60, Lopez said.

“Right now, we know people that are losing everything; jobs, transportation, they sold their tools,” Lopez said. “It’s horrible. They are acclimating to that, but it’s horrible. It’s really sad.”

Lopez has to turn away a fair amount of people whose skills don’t match what the center offers, or who find the work too harsh because of their former job.

“Imagine someone that was an accountant or a professional working in an office and then they go to work in a warehouse loading and unloading boxes,” Lopez said. “Sometimes, people can’t see themselves doing that.”

For many, the physical strain experienced at the jobs, and desperate daily search for work is brand new. Whereas, before the recession, 83 percent relied on day-labor work as their sole source of income.

“We have a job lined up in a few minutes, where I’m going to send out four workers,” Lopez said. “I believe this crew is going to have a couple Latinos, one African American and another white guy. The African American and white guy have never done this job. So, they go with those who know so they can see how the job is done.”

Poorly done jobs hurt the professionals.

“I’ll say ‘Hey, we need a painter, Does anyone know how to paint?’” said Zepeda. “And everyone raises their hand. But out of those 20 people, only two know how to paint.”

Getting to America, and staying

For day laborers from Mexico, Central or South America, the sacrifice to reach America — and the “American Dream” — can be huge.

Trying to cross the border, undocumented immigrants can be held ransom and killed if their families do not wire money. If they do get across, they often owe “coyotes” between $5,000 to $7,000. When they do get established in Los Angeles, and find work, “they are often seen as criminals,” Svensson said. Theft of wages is common, as employers threaten to turn them in to immigration.

“The recession has, in fact, forced the wages down, as has the anti-immigrant movement,” said Svensson. “Bosses wrongly feel that workers are undocumented and wrongly think that this means workers have no rights.”

Day laborers are helpless, said Vareli.

“Contractor say ‘Hey, if you put a warning for me on Labor Commission, I’ll tell immigration.’

“People live in fear,” he said.

Holiday Season in America

Many people from Latin America also live wanting to return home, if only to see family members they left behind to chase the American Dream.

At CARECEN, no matter the dire circumstances, day laborers from all countries have, to a certain extent, a home.

“Everyone identifies with everyone else,” said Zepeda. “Everyone’s undocumented. They identify with that. Everyone speaks Spanish. They identify with that. Everyone struggles. Everyone’s poor. You create this brotherhood.

“We’re all in this. We’re all suffering, and I’m not the only one.”

With the arrival of the holiday season, the harsh realities of life in America, away from family members left in Latin America, amplify.

“We tell them, we understand you’d rather be home with your family, but unfortunately, the economic situation in your country forced you to come here,” said Zepeda. “We’re as close a thing to your family as you’re going to get. A lot of them will start talking about how ‘I want to be with my son. I haven’t seen my family in years.’

“There are a lot of emotions for a day laborer. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are a lot of tears.”

Zepeda calls himself a “trans-national parent” to the day laborers.

“They came here because they don’t want their kids to day labor,” he said. “We replace that. I do. I become a family member to them. A son.”

This Thanksgiving, Zepeda helped serve turkey to hundreds of day laborers at CARECEN, including Vareli.