Monday, October 17, 2005

Haley Barbour wants you to think that, after Katrina, affected areas of Mississippi were pretty much crime-free. I imagine he doesn't count this:

... Mr. Velazquez, 45, is one of 32 immigrants housed in three mobile homes who are being paid $8 an hour to tear Sheetrock for 10 hours a day. The men are among hundreds of illegal immigrants who entered the United States hoping to find work in the aftermath of the hurricane.

They are promised good pay, three meals a day and a place to stay, and some contractors make good on this. But the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, an advocacy group, says many do not.

"These workers are superexploited by contractors in horrible living conditions," said Bill Chandler, the president of the alliance. "People are working without any kind of inoculation - tetanus or anti-hepatitis - they don't have goggles, they don't have gloves, they don't have any safety protection at all."...

Arnoldo Antonio Lopez, 36, another worker in the group, said he paid $70 a month to live in trailer No. 10. He said he would have put up with the poor conditions, but the contractor who hired him did not pay him. "He promised me $7 an hour wages and good food," Mr. Lopez said....

"They hadn't eaten for three days when we got to them," said Vicki Cintra, the Gulf Coast outreach organizer for the alliance. "They had no blankets, nothing. They were sleeping on the floor. They had no money to buy food."...

It could be happening in Louisiana, too. In any case, illegal immigrants are also getting a lot of the jobs there:

Two weeks ago, Geremias Lopez was picking grapes near Bakersfield, but when he saw an advertisement on Univision, the nation's largest Spanish-language television network, for work on the Gulf Coast, he and a friend called the 1-800 number flashing on the screen and were soon aboard a Greyhound bus headed east.

Lopez and the 80-some other Mexican and Honduran immigrants in his crew are now earning $100 a day covering torn and mangled roofs with blue tarps until the roofs can be re-shingled and restored to some semblance of what they looked like before Hurricane Katrina struck six weeks ago....

The Louisiana Department of Labor says it has received requests from contractors to certify 500 illegal migrants. Agency officials estimate that the actual number of illegal migrants already working for contractors is far higher, because many employers are not bothering with the paperwork.

This is adding to the unhappiness of local contractors trying to re-establish their own businesses and hire local workers, after being evacuated or otherwise losing their ability to operate for weeks.

"The local people can't participate in their own recovery," said Jack Donahue, whose Mandeville, La.-based firm Donahue Favret Contractors Inc. specializes in such construction tasks as sheetrock and flooring removal and mold remediation.

Part of the problem, Donahue said, is that local construction workers scattered during the evacuation and are just beginning to come back. Many are returning to destroyed or severely damaged homes and have discovered that the hotels in the region are full of out-of-state workers, including migrants.

"There's no room for local people in the hotels," Donahue said....

Credit for this goes to that great conservative hero, George W. Bush:

Recognizing the demand for migrant labor, and to help speed reconstruction in the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security temporarily suspended rules mandating employers to prove that workers they hire are citizens or have a legal right to work in the United States.

In addition, President Bush suspended application in the Katrina-affected region of the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, under which employers must pay prevailing wage rates on federally financed construction projects -- in order, Bush said, to "permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals."

Most people aren't paying attention to this story -- and I wonder what Bush voters, in particular, would think if they knew any of this.

No comments: