Housing sub-contractor calls police on undocumented worker who demanded rightful wages

LatinaLista — One of the biggest fears and complaints from those who advocate for undocumented workers is employer exploitation.

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There are countless stories of unscrupulous employers who knowingly exploit their undocumented workers by not paying them wages owed to them. The most common scenario is that when an undocumented worker starts to complain about the deceit, the employer threatens to call Immigration agents on the worker.

It seems one employer made good on that threat.

Not sure how this story found its way on my desktop but early today I found myself scanning the Niagara County police reports for February 15, 2010 assembled by the staff from the Niagara Gazette.

The second report caught my eye. It happened in the Town of Lockport and it involved three undocumented workers, a housing sub-contractor and U.S. Customs/Border Patrol.

Casual readers of the report would have thought nothing of three undocumented workers getting caught on a worksite by Immigration agents and carted off to be deported. Yet to someone who understands that in cases between undocumented immigrants and an employer, there are always two sides to every story, this particular incident had so many red flags waving that it’s a wonder the story got out.

Rather than rephrase what happened, it’s easier to cut and paste the original report:

 

TOWN OF LOCKPORT

Workers detained after harassment call

Three Hispanic workers were taken into custody Saturday by the U.S. Customs/Border Patrol for being in the United States illegally.

The Niagara County Sheriff’s Department responded to a wage dispute at a house construction site on Rebecca Drive. A sub-contractor for Ryan Homes was allegedly pushed by a worker who was upset over wages he claimed he was owed.

Three other workers who were hanging drywall were interviewed, but the language barrier made it difficult to do so. The Border Patrol was called and Supervisor Chris Griffiths and agent Sal Caccamo detained and took Francisco A. Monzon, 30, and Oscar Vasques-Canales, 28, of Hyattsville, Md. and Jose Mauricio Pereira-Santos, 23, unknown address, into custody.

The sub-contractor from Quarryville, Pa., did not want to pursue charges against the worker who allegedly pushed him and who had proper paperwork.

A case of employer exploitation doesn’t get much clearer than this. A guy who was promised to be paid a certain amount gets upset when the boss changes his mind. The guy pushes the boss, or so the boss says, and the boss decides to call the police.

The police arrive and discover that the guy who did the supposed shoving, along with three others who couldn’t speak English, are all undocumented. Out of the goodness of the sub-contractor’s heart, he doesn’t want to press charges.

Why?

Wouldn’t that be assault? It would, if it happened and maybe it did. But who can blame the worker?

What’s unreal about this story is that no one is bothering to cite this sub-contractor for 1. Knowingly hiring undocumented workers — after all, if the police could ascertain their legal status in a short time, odds are the employer knew about it; and 2. Fining or jailing this sub-contractor for gross exploitation of this employee, and who knows how many others.

Another disturbing piece of this story is if there is any kind of Spanish-speaking population in this area, why don’t the police have access to translators to be able to ask those other workers what happened?

From this account, it sounds either like the word of this su-contractor is being taken indisputably over the word of these workers or simply because they are undocumented, the police immediately discounted their right to be heard or paid.

That is slave labor at its worst and by not pursuing the case against the sub-contractor the police appear to be aiding him.

The report ends by saying the sub-contractor didn’t want to press charges. It was definitely not out of the goodness of his heart. He called the police because it was a way to put this worker in his place and show the other workers that they don’t dare challenge him when it comes to their wages, but business-wise, it would be disastrous for him to press charges since that would bring his operations under scrutiny.

The report said that this guy was a sub-contractor for Ryan Homes. A spokesman from Ryan Homes had not heard about the case until Latina Lista brought it to their attention. They are in the process of investigating it.

Something else that didn’t quite make sense was that the report ended by saying someone had “proper paperwork.” How can the employer have proper paperwork if his workers were undocumented? Or do they mean the worker had proper paperwork?

Either way, the subcontractor seems to be absolved from all blame and allowed to resume business as usual — which evidently means exploiting workers to the point of turning them in to Immigration officials just to get a job done under cost.

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16 Comments

  1. cookie said:

    Bottom line the employer should be punished severely and the illegals deported. They are both guilty. Those immmigrants entering our country illegally and not willing to work within our immigration laws are just asking to be exploited. It has happened so many times that I don’t understand why they continue to come here anyway and allow themselves to be exploited. And no, for the most part they or their families are not starving in the homeland.

  2. Karen said:

    Re: “The report said that this guy was a sub-contractor for Ryan Homes.”
    Notice too how the paper did not print the subcontractor’s name. Yet they had no problem disclosing the names, ages and hometowns of the arrested workers.

  3. allan said:

    “- after all, if the police could ascertain their legal status in a short time, odds are the employer knew about it”
    How so? The police have the option of calling ICE, while it isn’t typical for employers to do so.
    “Another disturbing piece of this story is if there is any kind of Spanish-speaking population in this area, why don’t the police have access to translators to be able to ask those other workers what happened?”
    This assumes facts not in evidence. Why would it be natural to assume that there are Spanish speakers nearby that the police could trust to be honest brokers? You jump to conclusions by making assumptions that may not be true.
    Employee, employer disputes over wage payment aren’t police matters. They are civil matters, subject to civil courts. If these people were legal workers they wouldn’t have put themselves in this position. Such are the travails of the illegal alien. I’m sorry, by I don’t feel their story compelling, as they put themselves in this position.

  4. Texan123 said:

    This story indicates that the worker who did the shoving was documented. He was probably standing up for the other 3 who were not paid.
    Using subcontractors allows big companies like Ryan to avoid legal problems. The sub himself, however, is still required to pay the workers what they earned. I’m pretty sure the Labor Dept. or Wage and Hour Commission would investigate a claim by the workers. Perhaps a complaint should be filed, and I am certain it can be done from Mexico. These guys have a right to what they earned.
    It is difficult to blame greedy employers when the illegal workers themselves provide false documents for work. The undocumented put themselves at risk when they use fraud and deceit to acquire a job they have no legal right to.

  5. Karen said:

    Re: “And no, for the most part they or their families are not starving in the homeland.”
    How would you know?! You need to tell yourself that, so you can continue to dehumanize and demonize these people as ‘criminal aliens.’ It’s harder to do that when you realize that they are fleeing from extreme poverty caused in large part by NAFTA.
    People risk exploitation, jail and death to work here because they are POOR. It’s called survival.

  6. Evelyn said:

    And no, for the most part they or their families are not starving in the homeland.
    ~~
    I agree, because for the most part someone in the household is working in the US. If they weren’t they would be starving.

  7. cookie said:

    Karen, are you playing Evelyn’s game of attributing other’s posts to me? I have NEVER called illegal aliens criminals. All I have said is that they are all guilty of entering our country illegally but I have NEVER called them criminals for doing so. I have NEVER posted crime stats in here on illegal aliens either. YOU AND EVELYN KEEP YOUR POSTERS STRAIGHT!!!
    There are stats out there proving that most illegals are not starving in their homelands and many even had jobs there. It is just that they can make a lot more money here. Survivalism does not include breaking the law.
    NAFTA also hurt American workers not just Mexicans so stop acting like it only affected Mexico. Both countries signed it so they are equally guilty of screwing their own citizens. NAFTA needs to be ended for the sake of both country’s citizens.

  8. Maria said:

    Evelyn….I agree, because for the most part someone in the household is working in the US. If they weren’t they would be starving.
    Evelyn, the lies that you and Karen speak of are refuted here:
    U.S./Mexico Border and Illegal Immigration: Policy Analysis
    An Honors Capstone Thesis
    Spring 2006
    http://honors.gallaudet.edu/Documents/Academic/Honors/Illegal%20immigration%20final.pdf
    NAFTA isn’t the cause and Mexicans are not starving. The major cause for the illegal migration lie with the Mexican government, the one these undocumented elected.

  9. Juan said:

    My wife Juanita and I read the Mexican papers regularly and we’ve found no evidence that anyone is starving in Mexico, even in these bad times, poor, yes, but not starving. Evelyn, would you please cite some evidence of this? I am a minister and I am interested in a mission to the extreme poor of Mexico, but I need a starting point. Thanks in advance.

  10. Evelyn said:

    It is difficult to blame greedy employers when the illegal workers themselves provide false documents for work. The undocumented put themselves at risk when they use fraud and deceit to acquire a job they have no legal right to while the federal government supplies them with an ITIN number to pay taxes and then just looks away and winks!
    Thanks for making an excellent argument for CIR.

  11. Karen said:

    Re: “Survivalism does not include breaking the law.”
    Oh please. Read a history book. Our nation was founded by people who committed genocide and slavery. They did these things to increase their own wealth, so that they wouldn’t have to return to Europe where it was harder to survive.
    So give me a break with your moral superiority.

  12. Evelyn said:

    Maria
    I agree with you that the Mexican government is half to blame for Mexicos poor having to migrate to feed themselves and their families. What I dont agree is that Mexicos President is elected by undocumented, documented or even Mexicans. These ruling Mexican elites are propelled into power by American Corps. and the American gov, proof
    is “Here” and “Here”
    At first I was skeptical to accept the use of a students Honors Thesis as expert on why Mexicans are forced to migrate from their home land in order to feed their families and better themselves.
    I gave the report the benefit of doubt and read it anyway. In all fairness it was a very well written Thesis and the student did quote an expert in all things pertaining to immigration. His name is Douglas S Massey and he is the director of 2 institutions that research Mexican migration and migration from Latin America to the U.S. I hesitated when I saw a few quotes by the racist hate group FAIR — I didnt find them relevant so I continued.
    What you have managed to do is prove yourself wrong and Karen and myself right by using this thesis. The following paragraphs were taken from the report you thought would prove different.
    quote
    The economic situation in the U.S. and Mexico causes the Mexican nationals to head to areas of higher industry and opportunity. At the same time the lower economic position of Mexico entices U.S.industries to see less expensive labor and they have done so by setting up establishments and factories just south of the border. This movement south of the border was further enabled with the implementation of NAFTA.
    This exploitation takes form of the Coyotes that take the their money in order to aid them in their trips across the border; business or agricultural institutions that lure them to the U.S. and hire them illegally, often times only paying the undocumented workers low wages; and lastly, the U.S. in general through their policies with the Mexican government and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
    In 1994, the United States established the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada to compete with the European Union, but unlike Europe, the United States was not willing to offer all the benefits that the Europeans permitted in their union. The United States expected to be able to have a flow of trade goods stream across the borders, but not have a flow of workers at the same time. Economists and Sociologists warned that “the consolidation of the North American market will promote, not preclude, emigration from Mexico,” but policy makers did not heed their warnings (Massey, 1998).

  13. Evelyn said:

    Juan :
    My wife Juanita and I read the Mexican papers regularly and we’ve found no evidence that anyone is starving in Mexico, even in these bad times, poor, yes, but not starving. Evelyn, would you please cite some evidence of this? I am a minister and I am interested in a mission to the extreme poor of Mexico, but I need a starting point. Thanks in advance.
    Like I answered this statement.
    And no, for the most part they or their families are not starving in the homeland.
    ~~
    I agree, because for the most part someone in the household is working in the US. If they weren’t they would be starving.
    I do have a home in the central part of Mexico where I would be willing to accommodate you and your wife and show you places in Mexico where your ministry could make a world of difference at my expense of course sometime this coming summer or even spring. If you are interested let me know and we can get in touch through Marisa.
    My in laws support an orphanage where much help is needed. Just a thought.

  14. Alonzo said:

    “I agree, because for the most part someone in the household is working in the US. If they weren’t they would be starving.”
    Do you have any objective evidence that this is fact? If so, please submit it to us. I haven’t heard anything in the mainstream media to support your contention. And the report someone referred to didn’t mention that as fact. I haven’t seen anything in the Hispanic blogs to support your assertion either.

  15. irma said:

    Have any of the nay sayers BEEN to Mexico? I am not talking about the resorts in Cancun and Cozumel.
    I am talking about where the real Mexicans live. All you have to do is
    walk behind the National Cathedral in Mexico city . There you will find people living without running water, and sharing a toilet which is usually not working. My family came from just this kind of poverty. In fact, my father grew up with without electricity – and without water in the house. The family was starving because the local rancher controlled the natural water supply (local stream). So, it became impossible to even grow food.
    So my father and his brothers left their home in the countryside and swam across a narrow part of the Rio Grande river in search of a better life.
    In the early 1900s the political instabilty in Mexico, destroyed its economy and drove many people out the country. The same thing is happening today. It wont stop until
    Mexico ceases to be a third world country.

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