In these times, cities need to do more to help day laborers

LatinaLista — Though 80% of economists are saying the recession is over, for the thousands of people out of work that declaration is nothing more than wishful thinking.

Since layoffs began, we saw people with college degrees and professional careers band together in designated meeting spaces every morning to hear motivational keep-your-chin-up speeches, share a pot of coffee, network with their newfound friends and pour over job listings in the newspaper or want ads online.

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For people without a college degree, and some without even U.S. citizenship, they do the same thing — get up, go to a central location, mingle with their newfound friends and wait for a job to drive up and a willing employer who needs help with hard labor at a cheap, sometimes too cheap, a price.

Of course, the second description refers to day laborers. Across the country, groups of day laborers have grown. Once known primarily as an outlet for undocumented immigrants to offer their labor cheaply, it’s now a mix of both out-of-work citizens and undocumented labor.

That’s why a sting operation in Carlsbad, California of local day laborers, along with, other attempts across the country to keep day laborers from being able to earn a living in these hard times doesn’t make sense when people are trying to keep from asking for handouts and are willing to work for their money.

These are special times that call for humanitarian aid right in our own backyards — and cities can do much more than what they’re doing to keep day laborers safe while looking for jobs while keeping local business owners happy that day laborers aren’t waiting for jobs in front of their businesses.

From California to North Carolina, Florida to New York and all points in between, day laborers are under assault simply because these people are as desperate as anyone for any kind of job that will give them some needed cash to put food on their tables.

That these people would rather work than steal or beg should be commended. Yet, because it has been deemed that they are undocumented, they’re considered to be unworthy of surviving.

Now, that there’s a mix of both citizens and non-citizens in the day laborer pool, to conduct an immigration raid without probable evidence that there are undocumented immigrants present is the vilest form of racial profiling.

These are different times, and until immigration reform is passed, the charitable thing to do is for cities to designate certain areas of town for day laborers to congregate. Since many do not have transportation, the areas should be within easy distance from where the majority of day laborers congregate.

Those day laborers outside the designated areas would be subjecting themselves to a ticket but as long as they congregate with the rest of their colleagues, their assembly should not be seen as being any different than that other group who is lucky enough to have a pot of coffee waiting for them as they wait their turns for a job.

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9 Comments

  1. cookie said:

    So Marisa you think it is ok for these day laborers that are in our country illegally without the right to work in our country to stand on corners begging for work? Have you no respect for our immigration and labor laws as an American citizen?

  2. Alonzo said:

    “That these people would rather work than steal or beg should be commended. Yet, because it has been deemed that they are undocumented, they’re considered to be unworthy of surviving.”
    Indeed, all of them should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, as they’ve probably done as much for peace as Obama. Your statement about surviving is a false choice, as they can always return to their families in Mexico. I wouldn’t say that not stealing is commendable act, just not breaking the law and risking imprisonment. If not breaking the law is commendable, then every honest man should receive a commendation from our government. Don’t have a job, go home.
    Instead of asking the rest of us to take care of people who are here in contravention of our laws, do something yourself.

  3. laura said:

    Day laborer centers were created to help people come off the streets and have a safe place to connect with employers. How does a center help that asks people their immigration status and thereby excludes a large part of the people it should be serving?
    In addition, I wonder about the crime rate of a city where police are busying themselves with laborers’ immigration status, and even with the presence of laborers. Hopefully they are doing it because there are no crimes they should be pursuing. Or are they doing it because it is so much easier to “catch” an undocumented laborer than a robber or mugger?

  4. Alonzo said:

    “Day laborer centers were created to help people come off the streets and have a safe place to connect with employers.”
    Since employing illegal aliens is a federal crime, I presume that as an honest citizen, you concur that they should be excluded from these centers, but then of course we wouldn’t need such places, making my question a moot point.

  5. Tara said:

    the day laborers, their growing numbers, their visibility (not the most stylish groups!) is a stark, daily reminder that immigration is out of control. marisa, this country owes them nothing. they owe it to their future generations to return home and reclaim their countrie(s). don’t expect cash-strapped communities to provide anything until and unless they have provided for the income tax-paying citizen first.

  6. Marisa Treviño said:

    Tara, you’ve seemed to miss the point entirely but you acknowledge it in your reply — “cash-strapped communities.” It’s for that very reason why day laborers are still being picked up not just by business owners who need extra hands for a day’s job but even by your neighbors who need help moving furniture, or work on the house. Any cash-strapped person would rather pay someone $10/hr versus $20/hr. It makes common sense – you go with the lowest bid.

  7. cookie said:

    You go with the lowest bid even though by doing so you are breaking the law? And you’re ok with this, Marisa?

  8. Marisa Treviño said:

    I don’t ask people whether or not they’re a citizen. Where I come from that’s rude. I accept people on the basis of who they are and if I’m looking for labor, then on their skills. Determining whether or not a person is a citizen is up to federal officials. I don’t pretend to be one and when it comes to going with the lowest bid — if you pay the highest price then you’re an anomaly in this country, and I might say the world.

  9. cookie said:

    In the normal course of things I wouldn’t ask for a person’s status in this country either. However, you have the right and the obligation to ask for it if you hiring someone for a job. That is the difference Marisa because otherwise you are breaking the law and aiding and abetting in that case.

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