Sunday, December 18, 2005

"We came to lift the city up."

Polimom pointed me to this Washington Post article about Hispanic workers in New Orleans, many of which are here illegally.

Polimom says…
What I can’t figure out (never could) is what Americans fear from these folks? I hear – all the time – about how they’re taking away our jobs. Really? Who among us is willing to live and work under such conditions, much less for these wages? I know I’m not.
These workers never paid into the system, so they expect far less out of it. American citizens have paid into the system, so expect more out of it. Unfortunately, the system is failing both.

Americans deserve decent housing and working conditions. So do migrant workers. New Orleanians deserve the right to come back and rebuild their community. They aren’t coming back or can’t get back to do that. Migrant workers are just filling in the gaps left by the government’s inability to craft a plan to return the residents they didn’t have a plan to evacuate in the first place.

Outside contractors are interested in making money. If they had to pay decent wages and provide decent housing, they wouldn’t make the crazy profits that justify their being here. So, don't expect them to help out the locals and *expect* them to take advantage of migrant workers.

For locals, just being here would be their justification. It would not be profit margin encouraging them to rebuild their own community.

Remember, that’s the goal: Rebuilding the community. And, as the WaPo article shows, we need someone to help:
Around midday, across from a church in eastern New Orleans, they spotted a woman in a garage, struggling with an armful of splintered wood. "I make you good price," Medina told her.

"How good?" Marie Croson responded.

Their first bite. Medina whispered something to Gonzalez and then blurted out, "Eight hundred dollars."

Then Croson was interested. She has been trying for weeks to get her house gutted. A church group from out of state had offered to do the work at no charge, but it backed off upon learning she had insurance, even though she has yet to receive a penny from her policy. A neighbor was demanding $4,000 to do the job, way more than she could afford.
We want to do it ourselves, but not enough of us are back. We want the government to help us, but it’s hard to get in touch with sometimes. The migrant workers are here and looking for someone to help. They are not taking anything away from Americans. If anything, they are giving something back.

And what do we do for them? Make life harder:
The House last night passed tough immigration legislation to build vast border fences, force employers to verify the legality of their workers and tighten security on the nation's frontier, but it rebuffed President Bush's entreaties to include avenues for foreign workers to gain legal employment.

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