NDLON in the News

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A place where Guatemalan day laborers are survivors of war

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

A place where Guatemalan day laborers are survivors of war

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The shot was not staged.

– Daniel Hernandez

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


Labor Resource Center To Open Dec. 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two upcoming events will introduce it to the public:

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

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

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


Jornaleros hispanos dan vida al ‘Café Chicago’

Se trata de una cooperativa que importa café orgánico de Nicaragua.

Por Agencia EFE | 2011-11-01 | Source: La Raza

Café. Foto: Archivo archivo

Café. Foto: Archivo archivo

Chicago (EFE) – Un grupo de jornaleros latinos ha creado Café Chicago, mind una cooperativa que importa café orgánico de Nicaragua, lo procesa y vende de manera creativa y exitosa para mejorar sus condiciones laborales, económicas y sociales.

“Buscábamos una forma alternativa para hacer negocios y el modelo vino de América Latina”, dijo Eric Rodríguez en una entrevista con Efe.

Para ello, inmigrantes procedentes de Ecuador, Colombia y México, y algunos puertorriqueños como Rodríguez, unieron recursos y conocimientos para enfrentar el mercado laboral sacudido por la crisis económica y “demostrar que somos capaces de la auto-suficiencia”.

“En nuestros países de origen la experiencia cooperativa ocupa lugares destacados, y creemos que Café Chicago puede sostenernos a largo plazo”, dijo Rodríguez, quien ha trabajado desde 2002 en la organización de los jornaleros de esta ciudad con la Unión Latina.

Rodríguez, licenciado en administración de empresas sin fines de lucro, cree en el “comercio justo” que se puede realizar a través de una cooperativa para favorecer a los sectores “más vulnerables”.

Uno de los ejemplos a seguir es la Fundación Entre Mujeres (La FEM) de Nicaragua, una cooperativa que produce y exporta café y además se dedica a la educación, salud y promoción de los derechos femeninos.

La FEM está ubicada al este de la ciudad de Managua, en el departamento de Estelí, donde la mayor parte de la tierra se dedica al tabaco pero igualmente hay espacio para que 132 mujeres produzcan desde 1996 un café de excelente calidad.

Cada dos meses llegan a Chicago 1,500 libras de café en grano verde, que los cooperativistas de Café Chicago procesan en una tostadora prestada que aprendieron a usar, empaquetan y venden a $15 por libra, o $40 por tres libras.

Al promocionar el producto en su página en internet la cooperativa menciona el trabajo de Tony e Iván en el tostado del café, a Norberto que recorre comercios en busca de clientes o Marisol que procesa los pedidos.

Pero también están Manuel, Pablo, Patricio, Salvador, José, Armando, Héctor, Jorge, Elisa, José Louis, Michael y David, cuyos apellidos prefieren mantener en reserva para evitar posibles problemas con Inmigración.

“Café Chicago” se presenta como una cooperativa de café de trabajadores inmigrantes, unidos en un nuevo modelo de creación de trabajo, capacitación y acción social, cuyos beneficios se dedican a apoyar a la Unión Latina.

“Creemos en la justicia en cada paso en el proceso del café, y vamos en serio”, afirman.

La Unión Latina surgió en 2002 después de una huelga masiva de jornaleros que detuvo el funcionamiento de 75 agencias de trabajo denunciadas por abusos contra los trabajadores temporales.

Los jornaleros hicieron una huelga de hambre que obligó a la Asamblea Legislativa de Illinois a aprobar la Ley de Servicios Laborales Diarios, modificada tres años después para permitir que esos trabajadores se organizaran y abogaran por sus derechos en el lugar de trabajo.

El gran problema de cientos de hombres que todas las mañanas se reúnen en esquinas de la ciudad a la espera de un trabajo en construcción, pintura, jardinería, carpintería, mudanza o remoción de escombros era el robo de salarios, el acoso de la policía y la exposición a las inclemencias del tiempo durante el invierno.

En diciembre de 2004 la Unión Latina abrió su primer centro para jornaleros de la construcción en el Medio Oeste, en un local del barrio Albany Park, como alternativa al tradicional “contrato de esquina”.

Quienes buscan ayuda van al centro, discuten el precio y firman un contrato con el jornalero y la ayuda de intérpretes, de ser necesario.

Según la Unión Latina, las denuncias de robo de salarios se redujeron al 1% y el salario promedio aumentó 50%.


Barrio Defense: On the Rise in Alabama – NY Times.

Alabama’s ruling class has dug in against the storm it caused with the nation’s most oppressive immigration law. Some of the law’s provisions have been blocked in federal court; others won’t take effect until next year. But many Alabamans aren’t waiting for things to get worse or for the uncertain possibility of judicial relief or legislative retreat. They are moving to protect themselves, and summoning the tactics of a civil rights struggle now half a century old. – NY Times 11.13.2011


ICE Appeals in Se Communities Case; Continues Effort to Hide Program’s Legal Basis

Late yesterday, defendants in the case NDLON v ICE filed an appeal and emergency stay to block a court order requiring the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to make public a legal memorandum detailing the agency’s rationale for converting Se Communities into a mandatory program.


Federal district court Judge Shira Scheindlin had ordered ICE to produce the memorandum by November 14.  Advocates will continue to argue for immediate release of this key memo.  It is the only document produced to date that, although heavily redacted, appears to comprehensively describe the legal authority claimed by ICE in support of its position mandating state and local participation in the program.


Said Jessica Karp of the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (NDLON), “While ICE has sprinted to implement S-Comm across the country, they’ve done the opposite to comply with court orders that would bring transparency to the program.  The fact that the agency is fighting so hard to prevent the public’s access to this key document forces the question of what ICE is hiding.”


Instead of complying, ICE is challenging Judge Scheindlin’s October 24 Order which stated, “Once an agency has adopted a legal analysis as its own…that analysis becomes the government’s ‘working law,’ and the public ‘can only be enlightened by knowing what the [agency] believes the law to be.’”


Said Center for Constitutional Rights attorney Sunita Patel, “ICE’s on-going strategy of delaying release of important Se Communities documents must be stopped.  Lack of transparency continues to prevent needed scrutiny of Se Communities. The public deserves access to the program’s full scope and underlying rationale.”


Said Sonia Lin of the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at the Cardozo School of Law, “States and localities around the country have opposed Se Communities and sought ways to limit the impact of the program on the safety and security of their communities.  The public needs the truth about this massive deportation program now.”   


The lawsuit was originally brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law with the law firm of Mayer Brown LLP on behalf of the National Day Laborer Organization Network.


Visit CCR’s NDLON v. ICE case page or the joint website, UncovertheTruth.org, for the text of the FOIA request,  the lawsuit filed in the Southern District of New York, and all other relevant documents.



The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. Visit www.ccrjustice.org; follow @theCCR.


The mission of the National Day Laborer Organization Network is to improve the lives of day laborers in the U.S. by unifying and strengthening its member organizations to be more strategic and effective in their efforts to develop leadership, mobilize day laborers in order to protect and expand their civil, labor and human rights. Visit www.ndlon.org


The Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law was founded in 2008 to provide quality pro bono legal representation to indigent immigrants facing deportation. Under the supervision of experienced practitioners, law students in the Clinic represent individuals facing deportation and community-based organizations in public advocacy, media and litigation projects. Visit www.cardozo.yu.edu/immigrationjustice