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Day laborers keep up hopes on Guadalupe Day

By: Ed Langlois, Staff Writer | 12/13/2011 | Source: CatholicSentinel.org

Day laborers keep up hopes on Guadalupe Day

Catholic Sentinel photos by Ed Langlois. During Guadalupe procession by day laborers, search Jesus Sanchez carries statue while Paul Riek, Matt Cato and Francisco Aguirre sing.

In the corner of a former Northeast Portland garage, day laborers on Dec. 12 lovingly pieced together a shrine with a two-foot-tall statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe. One worker with rough hands gently slipped a rose into a soda bottle and placed the flower beside the image, one of the most important symbols in Latin American Catholicism.

“It’s a very special day. It’s like my heart,” 29-year-old Marcos Alvares said through a translator.

A native of Michoacan, Alvares recalls celebrating the Dec. 12 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe as a boy — songs in a splendid church at midnight, steaming cups of cocoa and trays full of sweets. On this Guadalupe day, 17 years after he came to the U.S., he’s happy to huddle for warmth with other men hoping to be hired for manual labor.

Day laborers keep up hopes on Guadalupe Day

Laborers sing as they march past a neighborhood store in Northeast Portland.

Alvares, a member of St. Anne Parish in Gresham, once owned a small construction company. He would drive to this same tidy little garage — the VOZ Worker Center — to pick up laborers. After the crash of the economy and the failure of his business, Alvares himself is in need of work.

More than a dozen workers braved raw cold in the early morning Dec. 12 and processed for a mile with the statue, singing traditional songs in honor of Mary. On busy Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., curious motorists stared. One pedestrian, a young woman in a long wool coat, stopped and smiled as the men streamed past.

At Southeast 6th and Ankeny, a corner where laborers once waited for jobs before the center opened a few blocks away in 2008, the men waved to bicyclists and wished the riders “Buenos Dias.” The marchers invited a group at a nearby bus stop to join in the walk and return to the VOZ Worker Center for Mass and a plate of tamales.

Day laborers keep up hopes on Guadalupe Day

Juan Sop plays guitar as Angel Bueno sings during day laborer Guadalupe procession.

One of the walkers was Angel Bueno, 40. He comes to the center every day and sometimes is hired. On other days, he waits in vain until sundown. On those bad days, he says, he prays to Our Lady of Guadalupe for comfort and aid.

“Since I was a child, I’ve believed Our Lady of Guadalupe is very special,” says the mustached Bueno, a hood pulled over his baseball cap. “She helps me in my daily life.”

On occasion, groups of men would slip away from the singing to meet an arriving truck, an employer in need of help. Those left behind waved to their friends and wished them luck, all the while praying their number would come up soon.

VOZ is funded in part by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which parishioners support with a collection each November. A committee of laborers helps lead the center, located in a small lot on the corner of Northeast MLK and Everett.

Matt Cato, director of the Archdiocese of Portland’s Office of Life, Justice and Peace, marched and sang with the workers in the morning frost. Cato is aware that city officials have extended the Worker Center lease, but that VOZ organizers would prefer more stability.

“The hope is to convince the city to give them permanence here,” Cato says.

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Bad economy and San Jose’s budget crisis puts Silicon Valley’s first day worker hiring center on the chopping block

By Joe Rodriguez | jrodriguez@mercurynews.com | Posted: 12/11/2011 | Source: MercuryNews.com

Silicon Valley’s first hiring center for day workers might be forced to downsize or close at the end of the year, another victim of hard times that stretch from the streets to San Jose City Hall.

“I don’t know what I’d do,” Francisco Sanchez said recently at the Day Worker Center just east of downtown. The 58-year-old Mexican immigrant and “jornalero,” or day laborer, didn’t get a job that day, but he did get a free haircut, one of the many social services the center offers.

“I don’t want to join the guys standing in front of Home Depot,” Sanchez said. “I used to do that when I was young, but I’m not young anymore and the jobs don’t come as easy as they did.”

After the Great Recession, housing bust and financial crisis, the steady stream of contractors and homeowners who needed temporary help in flush times slowed to a trickle.

 

Bad economy and San Jose’s budget crisis puts Silicon Valley’s first day worker hiring center on the chopping block

Directer Mary Mendez, left, talks with Martin Martinez, 52, an out of work dry waller who once made $54 an hour and now registers for day work at the Day Worker Center in San Jose, on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011. In the background are some of the computers available for job search. The first day-worker hiring center in Silicon Valley may fall victim to San Jose’s budget crisis. Started by a Catholic nun in East San Jose at the peak of anti-immigrant hysteria in California 18 years ago, the center, now located closer to downtown, on Story Rd., is scrambling for the $100,000 it needs to operate next year. (Karen T. Borchers/Mercury News) ( KAREN T. BORCHERS )

So did the grants, city subsidies or philanthropic donations that kept the hiring center humming for most of its 18 years. Its last, big funding source–a three-year, $300,000 grant from Home Depot funneled through the city–runs out Dec. 31. The nonprofit Center for Training and Careers, which took over the hiring center three years ago, knew the grant would expire but had expected to replace it by now.

“With the competition out there, it’s really tough,” said Lori Ramos a vice president and grants writer at CTC.

Councilwoman Madison Nguyen, who represents much of the East Side, said the city can’t afford to rescue struggling nonprofits anymore. Instead, she’s asking a private foundation to come to the rescue of the center.”Everybody needs money at this time, every nonprofit in the city,” she said. “Obviously, it’s a very unique center. We’re trying to save as many jobs as we can. They are part-time jobs, but they’re still jobs.”

The Day Worker Center and similar ones in Mountain View and Hayward were always more than just hiring halls. In 1993, California politics boiled over with Proposition 187, the “Save Our State” ballot initiative that called for draconian measures to detect, round up and deport undocumented immigrants. The measure passed a year later but eventually was ruled unconstitutional.

Sister Mary Peter McCusker, a Roman Catholic nun working in East San Jose at the time, came up with the idea of opening a hiring center. It would get jornaleros off the streets, match their skills with the needs of reputable contractors and homeowners, guarantee a day’s pay for a day’s work, and offer free English lessons, health screenings, hot meals and more.

Her first hiring center opened at the Tropicana ping center in East San Jose. After a few years, the St. Vincent De Paul Society agreed to operate the center and moved it to the Catholic organization’s office and warehouse complex near Coyote Creek and Story Road.

With the help of city subsidies, St. Vincent added computers for job searches, showers and laundry washing machines. Enrollment grew. However, St. Vincent decided to give up the entire complex and sold it in 2008 to the Center for Training and Careers.

Barring an 11th-hour rescue, the Center for Training and Careers will downsize its operations and move to a sparse classroom next door, or shut it down entirely. In either case, Mary Mendez, who is 66 and has led the center for 18 years, would be out of a job.

“Personally, it would be a big loss for me,” she said. “But don’t worry, I’m of retirement age. I can find something part time. I worry about the workers.”

Irene Macias, born and raised in Silicon Valley, is one of the newcomers. Widowed only last year, the 49-year-old mother of two young children comes in regularly to look for jobs cleaning houses or grooming pets. The family lives in a recreational vehicle.

“It would be really hard if they close the center,” Macias said. “If we lost it, I’d just have to do it on my own.”

Ruben Rodriguez, 53, is one of the old-timers. Born and raised in San Jose, he thought back wistfully to the best job he ever had, assembling mainframe computers for IBM.

“That was a great job out of high school,” he said. “I’ve had some good ones, but things happen.”

He arrived at the center 11 years ago after his last steady job ended. Rodriguez lives in his van and gets by with the moving and plumbing jobs he gets through the center.

“Right now it’s very difficult,” he said. “This place has been good for me. I’d hate to see it go.”

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Latinos Get Little Thanks For Rebuilding New Orleans

by Richard Gonzales | December 10, 2011 | Source: NPR.org

Part of a monthlong series

Latinos Get Little Thanks For Rebuilding New Orleans

Day laborer Yohanni Castillo from Honduras waits for work outside a Lowes home improvement store in New Orleans. Jobs are drying up, he says, and he hasn't worked in four days. Even when work does comes along, he says, he doesn't always get paid.

Since Katrina, the Hispanic population in the New Orleans metro area has skyrocketed by more than 33,000 people. That’s a 57-percent increase in the past decade, much higher than the national average.

They came for the construction jobs — and they’ve chosen to stay. Often, you can find about a dozen Latino men hanging out near a home improvement store looking for work near a mostly black neighborhood.

Yohanni Castillo, 38, a carpenter from Honduras, says he’s been here since the early days of Katrina.

“Carpentry, demolitions, any kind of construction,” he says. But lately, he says there’s been less work available.

Castillo says the main problem is that employers want workers who have the papers to prove they’re here legally. Right after Katrina, no one really cared. The other problem, he says, is that sometimes he doesn’t get paid the wages he’s been promised.

And everybody here can tell you the same story, Castillo says, because it’s happened to everyone.

‘Hurricane Chasers’

Demographer Alison Plyer says the Hispanic influx since Katrina should surprise no one.

“There’s actually a phenomena demographers call ‘hurricane chasers,’ where, whenever there’s a hurricane in Florida or along the Gulf Coast, Latinos will go because they know there will be debris removal work and home repair work, and then they assume that they will stay just a little while and they will go somewhere else,” Plyer says. “But here that work lasted for several years and so folks stayed.”

It’s common to hear the immigrants say they know they played a major role in rebuilding the city when no one else would do the dirty work. Jordan Shannon is the spokesperson for Puentes, an advocacy group that formed following Hurricane Katrina.

“The city really owes a debt that it is not always so quick to acknowledge, but it nevertheless has really been rebuilt on the back of Latino labor,” Shannon says.

Of course, not everyone agrees.

David Stroder, an unemployed African-American dishwasher, says there’s no denying there’s some resentment in the black community here towards Latinos.

“They don’t like the fact that they’re coming in and taking all the jobs. Just like me, I’m trying to find a job, but I don’t build houses though. I can’t do that. If I could do that, I’d be making some money!” he says.

‘A Future In The U.S.’

But the work can bring some Latino immigrants closer to the attention of immigration authorities. Just last August about 30 workers were gathered in the parking lot of an apartment complex in nearby Kenner, La. They had just wrapped up a job raising the elevation of several homes.

“These workers spent two weeks of hard work and were expecting to get paid,” says Jacinta Gonzalez, an organizer for a group called the Congress of Day Laborers. She says collectively the workers in Kenner were owed over $100,000.

“Instead of getting paid, they had a raid. Immigration Enforcement had coordinated with three law enforcement agencies,” Gonzalez says. “This happened on Aug. 29, 2011, the anniversary of Katrina.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Orleans confirmed that ICE detained several individuals that day as part of an investigation of the company, Louisiana Home Elevations. Its owner and an employee have been charged with seven counts of harboring undocumented immigrants and money laundering.

Latinos Get Little Thanks For Rebuilding New Orleans

Methodist Pastor Oscar Ramos conducts English classes for Latino immigrants in New Orleans. The majority of the immigrants say they arrived after Katrina to work in construction and intend to stay.

Despite the pressure from ICE, many New Orleans immigrants say they intend to hang on.

On a recent workday night in a local Methodist church, about 40 immigrants were attending English classes. The pastor, Oscar Ramos, called for a show of hands as he asked a series of questions. How many people arrived after Katrina?

Everyone raised their hand. How many have worked in rebuilding the city? A majority. Then he asked: How many people have been ripped off? Not paid the money they earned? Virtually every hand shoots up.

Later, Hugo Torres, a 37-year-old construction worker, says it happens because they’re undocumented. But then he says he doesn’t begrudge Americans who say he has no right to stay in New Orleans.

“I mean, the word undocumented, I do understand that. I mean, what part of the word undocumented we don’t understand? Of course, undocumented means undocumented. I do understand, but,” Torres says with a sigh, “with all this violence in Latin America like in Mexico and Central America, it is very difficult to live there. And I think the only way where we can see a future is in the United States.”

But what no one can yet say is how long New Orleans will see its future in these new immigrants.

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Amidst Calls for Arpaio’s Resignation, NDLON Calls on White House to Take Action

As the call for Sheriff Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona to resign grows, Pablo Alvarado of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network issued the following statement:
 
“We are pleased attention has properly returned to Sheriff Arpaio and we agree he should resign. However, the White House role in Maricopa’s crisis deserves greater scrutiny and requires immediate action. Sheriff Arpaio’s mishandling of crime cases is the direct result his out-of-control and discriminatory focus on immigration; focus he’s able to implement through federal contracts
President Obama’s contracts granting immigration authority to the Sheriff fueled his conversion into a Frankenstein and the President’s refusal to pull the plug continues to enable Maricopa’s monstrosity. 
The process to bring Arpaio to justice should be swift. The President and Secretary Napolitano have a moral obligation to ensure it begins with cutting the Sheriff off from federal immigration enforcement contracts and concluding the delayed Department of Justice investigation.”

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