Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Undocumented workers are rebuilding New Orleans

Somebody has to do it.
Doesn't look as though our favorite sons and daughters are stepping up.
Who's left?

As the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina receded in September, roads filled with residents leaving the city, their cars, SUVs and moving vans jammed with what they had salvaged of their lives.But another mass movement was taking place on the other sides of the highways.

Thousands of men from Mexico and Central America were driving into the city. Word had spread throughout the Latino immigrant diaspora in America that the city had plenty of work, construction wages had doubled to $16 an hour and no one was asking for papers."It was like a Gold Rush," said Oscar Calanche, a Guatemalan immigrant who lived in New Orleans before the storm and returned as soon as the waters receded. "In one car there'd be three up front and three or four in the back, with suitcases and tools on top. It looked like a river of people from our countries."

Latino workers have gutted, roofed and painted houses and hauled away garbage, debris and downed trees. Undocumented workers have installed trailers to house returning evacuees at New Orleans City Park, their pay coming from FEMA subcontractors."

It's all illegals doing this work," said Rey Mendez, a FEMA trailer subcontractor from Honduras.

No one knows how many Latino immigrants are here, but John Logan, a Brown University demographer who has studied the city since Katrina, says "there must be 10,000 to 20,000 immigrant workers in the region by now, and the number is going to grow."

As the Senate debates new immigration laws and marchers demonstrate across the country, these immigrants offer another reminder of the country's reliance on undocumented labor from Latin America.

More at the LA Times LINK.

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