Day Laborers Dream of Deferred Action
Going to college and taking advantage of the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action policy remains a dream for many day laborers, reports Zaira Cortés of El Diario La Prensa. The policy is expected to benefit over 1.7 million immigrant students who are undocumented nationwide. The article below was translated from Spanish.
Many young day laborers dream of going to school and qualifying for Deferred Action, but without a steady job, reaching that goal becomes an even tougher challenge.
William Pintado, a 29-year-old from Ecuador, came to the U.S. as a teenager. Without parents or siblings to support him, he began to work in various industries and later joined a group of day laborers at a street corner in Woodside, Queens.
Under the shade of trees, Pintado waited for a contractor who needed an extra hand. He told his fellow day laborers how he always wanted to be a doctor, but poverty hindered him from achieving his dream.
“Sometimes I don’t even have enough to eat. I live day to day. I can’t pay to go to school. I don’t know how to register to go,” he said. “I heard about Deferred Action and I know that I would have a higher chance of qualifying as a student, but sometimes I think that it’s impossible to get an education because of my circumstances.”
Benjamín Alonso, 20, yearns to finish high school and continue his education. “I frequently don’t have money for transportation or having a coffee, but I really do want to go to school and get a work permit. I truly want that opportunity,” said Alonso. “I deserve a better life.”
Roberto Meneses, an activist with an organization of day laborers called Movimiento Independiente de Trabajadores (Independent Workers’ Movement), said it’s possible to find up to 300 men waiting for work on various street corners, but a small percentage of them are in the age of “dreamers.”
“Some young men prefer to stop being day laborers and look for work in restaurants. Many of our young men work long hours and they aren’t thinking about going to school,” he said.
Meneses explained that although some community organizations have offered informational workshops at their offices, it’s hard for day laborers to attend; they prefer to wait on street corners so they don’t lose a chance to find work.
“The workshops would be more effective if they happened outside where the men are looking for work,” said Meneses. “Although few of us are young enough to qualify, there are many workers with children eligible for Deferred Action, and they don’t have the information.”
On Staten Island, the demand of “dreamer” day laborers for accessible and free education that would help them qualify for Deferred Action overwhelmed social service organizations like El Centro del Inmigrante.
Gonzalo Mercado, the director, said that nighttime summer GED classes had reached the maximum capacity, and the organization would start another course in autumn.
“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that ‘dreamers’ aren’t only students. Workers and day laborers who qualify for Deferred Action need greater assistance,” said Mercado.