November 30, 2009, - 5:47 pm
Remember how President Bush told us we need to give amnesty to illegal aliens because they “do the work Americans just won’t do.” It was bunk then, and it’s even more baloney now. If Obama uses that phony-baloney excuse, he’s clearly not paying attention to the developments throughout the American landscape during his “economy.”
El Toro Blanco:
Donald Thee & Other US Citizens Seeking “the Work Americans Won’t Do”
I feel for these people. They are clearly not looking for a handout and willing to do anything legal to survive. And, while not emphasized in this article, they are still competing against illegal aliens for work on U.S. soil.
When mechanic Donald Thee used to arrive at his job every morning, he would glance at the day laborers gathering across the street jostling for work when a pickup rolled by.
Over time, he befriended some, buying them meals from a taco truck when they were hungry.
Three months ago, he joined them.
“That’s how quick things can change, especially in an economy this poor,” he says.
Thee, 39, was laid off from the gas station where he worked and needed a way to make money. He applied for jobs at more than 100 businesses – “even McDonald’s, and they’re not hiring,” he says – and finally decided to try to get pick-up work as a day laborer.
Thee’s story, like that of other U.S. citizens who never expected to become day laborers, is one of economic desperation. Job openings are scarce, so the unemployed are starting their days at busy intersections and home improvement stores where, if they’re lucky, someone will drive up and offer work that could last a few hours or several weeks.
Landing a job as a day laborer isn’t easy.
As the economy has soured, fewer workers get picked up, says Andres Tobar, executive director of the Shirlington Employment and Education Center, which runs the day-labor site where Thee and about 100 other workers converge each morning.
About 10 to 15 workers land jobs each day, compared with 40 to 50 a few years ago, he says.
At the WeCount! Community Worker Center in Miami-Dade County, Fla., executive director Jonathan Fried agrees it’s hard for anyone to get work these days, regardless of their legal status.
More citizens are coming to the center seeking work, he says, including people who had previously offered jobs to day laborers. “About a year ago, we started seeing contractors coming into the center and trying to get jobs themselves,” he says.
“Everyone’s getting limited work right now because there’s not much out there.”
Marc Maida, a U.S. citizen, has been visiting the center a few times a week for two months. So far, he hasn’t gotten a day-labor job.
Maida, 38, has been working on and off at his father’s painting and pressure-cleaning business for more than 20 years. Over time, business has dropped off, he says. “This year is the worst of all,” he says. “People don’t want to spend money to keep their houses up.”
He lost the room he was renting about a year ago and has since been living with his parents or on the streets, and is trying anything he can to get work, including temp agencies.
“There’s so many people looking for work, they just don’t have enough work to get everybody out there,” he says.
In Arlington, Thee has earned a nickname among the day laborers as “el toro blanco,” or “the white bull.”
“As one of the largest and strongest, I’m one of the more favorable workers,” he says, waiting for work on a cold morning in jeans and a leather jacket.
The Arkansas native is at the hiring site seven days a week at 6:30 a.m. and lands a job about three days a week, he says. Among the jobs he has done: installing a lock on a door, mowing grass, working on a home under construction and helping people move.
Since Nov. 1, he has been living in a homeless shelter and remains hopeful he can land a permanent job. The competition is fierce, though, even at the day-labor site. “There’s more and more American citizens out here,” he says. “The way this economy is going, more of it is going to happen.”
Growing ranks of U.S. citizens are heading to street corners and home improvement store parking lots to find day-labor work usually done by illegal immigrants.
The trend is most pronounced in regions where hot construction markets have collapsed, says Abel Valenzuela Jr., a professor of urban planning at the University of California-Los Angeles.
“You had many, many unemployed construction workers who found themselves without any permanent or stable work,” he says. “Some of them have gone on to seek employment by standing on street corners alongside immigrant workers.”
Day laborers gather at high-traffic spots such as busy intersections and home improvement stores, looking for pick-up work such as painting, laying bricks or landscaping. Contractors and homeowners describe the jobs and negotiate pay on the spot.
Valenzuela estimates the proportion of U.S.-born day laborers has at least doubled since he released a report in 2006, when his research showed they made up 7% of the day-labor workforce. At that time, Valenzuela estimated 117,600 people were looking for or doing day-labor jobs on any given day. Illegal immigrants were 75% of the day-labor workforce; the rest were legal immigrants.
“It’s becoming more ethnically diverse. On the corners, I’ve seen white people, I’ve seen African Americans and a lot of Mexican Americans,” says Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network. “When unemployment benefits run out, I expect to see more.”
Among the communities seeing an increase in U.S.-citizen day laborers:
* Tucson. Staff members at Southside Presbyterian Church, which runs a center where workers can connect with people offering work, have been seeing more U.S.-born people looking for jobs in 2008, says church elder Josefina Ahumada.”We would say, ‘Hi, how are you?’ and we would learn that this is somebody who just got laid off.”
* Arlington, Va. Construction workers recently laid off are showing up at the day-labor hiring site run by the Shirlington Employment and Education Center, says executive director Andres Tobar: “We’re seeing people who hadn’t come to our center before who are legally here and U.S. citizens, and who are skilled workers and can’t find work.”
* Los Angeles. Citizens are replacing immigrant day laborers who had trouble finding work and returned to their home countries, says Antonio Bernabe, senior organizer of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
So, remind me again, what is the current chic excuse for legalizing millions of illegal aliens?
It better not be the work Americans are desperately seeking to do so that they can prevent themselves from becoming starving and homeless.
Tags: American economy, Donald Thee, El Toro Blanco, Illegal Aliens, Immigration, jobs, jobs market, Marc Maida