Day Laborers Skeptical of ‘Doesn’t Solve Anything’ Reform

Day laborers are complaining that if the immigration bill ends up requiring people to show proof of continuos work history they will end up being excluded. “Everyone knows that they pay us in cash,” said one.  (Photo from Flickr, Creative Commons License)

Day laborers and domestic workers have responded to the proposed bill for immigration reform with skepticism and disappointment; they don’t believe it will help improve their situation if it gets passed.

“It doesn’t solve anything for us and it seems like they want to exclude us,” complained Roberto Menses, who has been working as a day laborer in Queens since 1991. “A work permit doesn’t guarantee us more work or even any benefits, and the requirements for obtaining residency or citizenship appear impossible for a day laborer to fulfill.”

Meneses was referring to the bill’s requirement that immigrants show a continuous work history in order to be eligible for a green card. Furthermore, they can’t apply for one until 10 years after the new reform has gone into effect.

“Everyone knows that they pay us in cash for our day’s work, and they don’t give us any pay stubs,” Meneses added. “In addition, it’s insulting when they tell those of us who have been working in this country for more than 20 years that we now have to wait another 10 to get residency.”

Marta Juárez, who used a pseudonym because she is undocumented, is a domestic worker by day. She maintained she doesn’t have a single document that proves she has been working and living in the United States for a decade.

“Why would I keep anything if I know that all those promises are not for us?” Juárez said while waiting for someone to hire her at the intersection of Marcy and Division Avenues in Brooklyn. “I wouldn’t be able to pay what they’re asking for, so I prefer to remain as I am, and if they send me to Mexico, I’ll go back and that’s that.”

Organizations that advocate for day laborers say they are still examining how the bill will really affect these workers. They are encouraging people not to lose hope since the procedure for passing a final bill has a long way to go, and there is still time to introduce changes.

“We have been fighting to ensure that day laborers won’t be denied legalization, and for the requirements to be as flexible as possible,” said Nadia Marín-Molina, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network’s representative for New York and New Jersey.

 “The best that all of us can do at this time is to raise our voices, and approach community and day laborer organizations to participate in the struggle, and make sure to include everyone,” she added.

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