Day labor and immigrant rights

The fifteen day travel throughout the south western part of the US came to an end yesterday when we arrived in Ames again. I met many wonderful people. We drove through seven states which gave me a taste for the radically different landscapes existing here. STA71965On our way home we stopped briefly at the Mesa Verde National Park to experience the Canyon landscape and the remnants of Ancestral Puebloan life, far before ‘white man’ came to this country. Until the late 1200s, ancestors of the Hopi and other pueblo tribes lived here in elaborated stone buildings in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls.

In Denver we joined Gabriela Flora, who works for AFSC in a voice-raiser event for immigrant workers. AFSC stands for the American Friends Service Committee, founded by the Quakers in 1917. The organization carries out service, development, social justice and peace programs throughout the world. One of their projects is Coloradans for Immigrant Rights, which allies in support of immigrant rights.

This is important because I learned that day labor – waiting on street corners to be picked up each day – is not a foregone phenomenon. Immigrant day laborers are a vulnerable group, often victim of exploitation by employers and harassment by the police. The various hardships they endure to sustain families back home were shown in a short film. The film followed the lives of a few of the mostly Hispanic day laborers in their struggle to make a living in highly insecure circumstances. One of the many problems for these workers is employers who do not pay at the end of the day or week. The AFSC helped immigrants to organize themselves in the now independent Centro Humanitario. The center provides education and help in many kinds. For example, through the center, the workers can ask for help in trying to trace employers and outstanding payments. After the film questions could be asked to the workers who figured in the film. They expressed a strong wish to be really (legally) part of the US one day, to be able to walk the street without fear, to be able to participate in the society as full members. Just like the stories of those working in the processing plants of the agro-industry, their stories show how much an immigration reform is needed.