Skip to comments.Immigrant Workers Risk Danger for Storm Cash[150,000 Mexican legal & illegals in Katrina areas]
Posted on 10/20/2005 7:16:37 PM PDT by fight_truth_decay
ATLANTA At the day labor pickup spot by the Home Depot on Sydney Marcus Boulevard in Atlanta, workers leave for the Gulf Coast every few days as contractors stop and offer them jobs.
They'll eagerly take work cleaning out maggot-infested food from refrigerators in New Orleans hotel kitchens and gutting homes and businesses containing asbestos and toxic sludge.
The huge, multibillion-dollar cleanup task on the Gulf Coast is a magnet for immigrant workers, legal and illegal. Although some are happy with their jobs, others find that the conditions aren't what they had hoped. Many immigrants have fallen victim to unscrupulous contractors and thieving co-workers. They also fear disease and deportation.
But there are many willing to take the risk.
Few ask questions before they hop into a contractor's van, and many don't know the name of the company they work for. They go on the promise of wages of $9 to $12 an hour.
At the Hispanic Community Support Center in Duluth, Ga., Maria de Socorro Perez Vargas, 40, of Mexico looked for another job after two weeks of hauling hurricane debris in Mississippi.
"I came back because I didn't like the place," Perez Vargas said. "I didn't like the way they were treating me." She was housed in a budget hotel in Pensacola, Fla., with two dozen other workers from metro Atlanta.
She said one of her co-workers stole $400 from her and that she didn't feel safe anymore. She paid $50 to take a Greyhound bus back to Atlanta. "I'm sorry I went," Perez Vargas said.
Nonetheless, she made $108 per day and wired money to her mother in Mexico, who needs it for food and other living expenses, she said.
Perez Vargas doesn't know whom she worked for. All she knows is that someone came to her apartment complex looking for people willing to do hard work.
Imelda Olguin, 43, sitting beside Perez Vargas at the day labor center, said she also signed up to go but then changed her mind.
"I was afraid of disease," Olguin said. "I saw the dead people on TV and I said, 'I'm not going.' "
The show of National Guard force in New Orleans also spooked some illegal immigrants, who doubted that being near so many police was a good idea.
While federal officials have taken little notice of illegal immigrants working on the cleanup, sheriff's deputies entered a Red Cross shelter in Long Beach, Miss., last month and demanded identification from dozens of people who looked Hispanic, according to news reports. They were concerned that the shelter was being used to house out-of-town construction workers.
Actually, many of the 50 or so Mexican-American men in the shelter were residents of Pass Christian, Miss., who had lost everything in the storm, said Remedios Gomez Arnau, consul general of the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta. They had sought refuge in the shelter and had been recruited to do construction work too, she said. No one was deported.
'Turning their heads'
Gary Warren, political director for the Louisiana Carpenters Regional Council, said many illegal immigrants are cleaning out sludge dust without proper protection.
"There are molds and funguses growing," Warren said. New Orleans was flooded with water that contained petroleum products, benzene, other chemicals and human waste. That left a sludge that dried and turned into dust.
"You have all of these particles that are going to be inhaled and are going to cause respiratory problems," Warren said. "They will manifest themselves later as allergies and asthma."
Warren said the Environmental Protection Agency, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Department of Homeland Security are "all kind of turning their heads" to the problem.
One subcontractor, Construction Management Services of Cartersville, Ga., requires its workers to use so-called moon suits and breathing masks. The company works for Belfor, a multinational company with many contracts for cleanup of private companies on the Gulf Coast. CMS will fire a worker who doesn't use the mask.
'They treat us like animals'
A young El Salvadoran at the Home Depot day labor spot said the company fired him for not using his mask. He thought it was overkill.
He didn't like the job anyway, he said, because there was nothing to do after work except sleep or watch TV. Biloxi, Miss., was nearly destroyed, and no stores were open.
In a New Orleans suburb last week, a group of about 30 Hispanic immigrants, many of them legal, said that another Belfor subcontractor, ITT of Charlotte, brought them in vans from Houston and wanted to let them go after only one day of work. Others said they were owed back pay.
"They treat us like animals," said Javier Frias, 20, of Houston. Many weren't sure how they would get home.
ITT seems prepared for such complaints. In workers' hotel rooms were handwritten signs in Spanish explaining that fired workers would get their checks at their home address.
Efforts to contact ITT's president were unsuccessful, but a supervisor who listened to the workers' complaints said some crew chiefs had not recorded workers' hours properly and that there were problems with the payroll.
The displaced workers said they wouldn't budge.
Armando Miranda, 32, originally from Cuba, was among them. "I'm not leaving until I get my money," he said.
These contractors would have loved being plantation owners in the pre civil war south, same mentality. When these "people" complain about taxes killing their business, I will just tell them "Hey, since you freely break the law for your precious 30 peices of silver, I do not feel any obligation to vote for politicians that will help your tax situation".
If it wasnt for issues like abortion, multiculturalism and downright sanity, I would be voting for Democrats, but at this point, with some exceptions, I do not feel compelled to vote GOP, and if liberals do gain full control of govrenmnet, I would get a certain pleasure in seeing theese contractors taxes go though the roof.
I am just sick of "people" being free to break laws because they can buy politicians, no matter what the long term cost.
10,000 legal and 140,000 illegal
What is happening now in New Orleans is the equivlent if drug dealers were allowed to set up shop in malls and shoping centers with a full adverstisment budget.
If people do not call me a good "team player", then so be it, I am just fed up that certain business' are free to break laws.
In addition to being immoral to contribute to the ongoing creation of an underclass of Mexicans this is a good example of how the illegal aliens are stealing the propserity of every American.
Look at the description of the jobs being performed by these people.
American Citizens can do these jobs and they would do these jobs, however, not for $15 an hour! In our country there is nothing wrong with that either.
Pay an American what its worth to do this work, pay the taxes, the SS, the MC, the insurance, etc and the prosperity from this work would flow to Americans.
Let it be stolen by a used underclass Mexican and not only does the money from the work go out of this country, the underclass also bleeds us for our medical and social services as they perform this work. They take two dollars out of the economy for every dollar they put in.
There is a negative counterbalancing effect to our society overall when you allow this type of labor to come in and undercut the population of American Citizens. It does not stop with the Americans being displaced by the illegals either. It affects every one of us.
" Although some are happy with their jobs, others find that the conditions aren't what they had hoped."
How were the conditions compared to say....Mexico?
And what will your taxes do at the same time?
If Americans wanted these jobs, absolutely nothing is stopping them. NOLA needs workers of every description. If the Mexicans weren't there, recovery would take years instead of months. Glad to have the hard working Mexicans here and they are getting good pay for simple cleanup tasks.
I guess you are glad that contractors can commit felonies freely.
If only there was a way to get hundreds of thousands of illegals to head to a city BEFORE a hurricane instead of after.
"These contractors would have loved being plantation owners'
But at least plantation owners set up shanty shacks and allowed the workers to live on their property and they fed them too, these slime owners dont even do that, instead they pass these costs on to the middle class.
I agree I will be glad if the day comes the unfair business owners who are hiring under the table will be made to start paying taxes, and their workers too, like the rest of us have to, and if it takes liberals to do it, so be it If it takes conservatives to remove my taxes all together so I don't have to pay for illegal immigration, that would be better, but thats not going to happen.
As for our taxes going up, too ; as long these slime plantation owners are forced out of business, then at least we will have these jobs for US citizens and they would be run by reputable business owners who hire with honest business practices, and not under the table, , and maybe we could start sending are kids to public school again, and start using the emergency hospital care again and maybe be able to drive on our roads again without traffic, due to the million of illegal immigrants, in places like LA whom already are run by the liberals in the first place, so no big deal
If the choices for people in LA are; being run by liberals and illegal business, under the table wages and illegal immigrants or being run by liberals and no illegals , only honest business, the choice is duh! But like this scenario aint ever going to happen cause, California is history .
So you support the undermining of American citizens with an underclass of illegal immigrants? You think its a good thing to treat illegals like slaves?
No American is going to work for $15 an hour at this kind of work. It is beneath our standards.
Recovery would not take years instead of months if Americans were paid what the job is worth in America.
Why can the reporters find the illegals, but the Feds can't ? ( or wont ?)
treating illegals like slaves...
You have a good point, its a modern slavery, instead of chains and whips, its a virtual bondage. Our nation had defeated slavery, but nobody would have guessed, slavery would move underground as part of a hidden class and economy that is allowed to exist today.
This virtual slavery is defended under the premise on scare tactics, such that any control on business is left wing socialist. But to their extreme without any limits slavery is the next extension. Just as republicans demand smaller government, to an extreme it would be no government, so we all know that there has to be a limit as to how far to the right we go otherwise we become a nation that is not controlled at all by government, and run by business without limits who have no regard for civility, the fair treatment of humans, the responsibility to not destroy communities and the things that make a society worth living in return for being allowed to operate as fair and honest under limited government control.
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