Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rebuilding 'Nueva Orleans'

Check out this article forwarded to me bu my friend Danny Cortes, from Esperanza USA:

By Gregory Rodriguez, Gregory Rodriguez is a contributing editor to TheTimes and Irvine Senior fellow at the New America Foundation.

NO MATTER WHAT ALL the politicians and activists want, African Americans and impoverished white Cajuns will not be first in line to rebuild theKatrina-ravaged Gulf Coast and New Orleans. Latino immigrants, many ofthem undocumented, will. And when they're done, they're going to stay,making New Orleans look like Los Angeles.

It's the federal governmentthat will have made the transformation possible, further exposing thehollowness of the immigration debate. President Bush has promised that Washington will pick up the greaterpart of the cost for "one of the largest reconstruction efforts theworld has ever seen." To that end, he suspended provisions of theDavis-Bacon Act that would have required government contractors to payprevailing wages in Louisiana and devastated parts of Mississippi,Alabama and Florida. And the Department of Homeland Security hastemporarily suspended sanctioning employers who hire workers who cannotdocument their citizenship. The idea is to benefit Americans who mayhave lost everything in the hurricane, but the main effect will be tolet contractors hire illegal immigrants. Mexican and Central American laborers are already arriving insoutheastern Louisiana. One construction firm based in Metairie, La., sent a foreman to Houston to round up 150 workers willing to do cleanupwork for $15 an hour, more than twice their wages in Texas. The men -most of whom are undocumented, according to news accounts - live outsideNew Orleans in mobile homes without running water and electricity. The foreman expects them to stay "until there's no more work" but "there's going to be a lot of construction jobs for a really long time." Because they are young and lack roots in the United States, many recentmigrants are ideal for the explosion of construction jobs to come. Those living in the U.S. will relocate to the Gulf Coast, while others willcome from south of the border. Most will not intend to stay where their new jobs are, but the longer the jobs last, the more likely they will settle permanently.

One recent poll of New Orleans evacuees living inHouston emergency shelters found that fewer than half intend to return home. In part, their places will be taken by the migrant workers. Former President Clinton recently hinted as much on NBC's "Meet the Press" when he said New Orleans will be resettled with a different population. It is not the first time that hurricanes and other natural disastershave triggered population movements. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch slammed into Central America, sending waves of migrants northward. The 2001 earthquakes in El Salvador produced similar shifts. The effects ofHurricane Andrew may better foretell New Orleans' future. The 1992 storm displaced 250,000 residents in southeastern Florida. The construction boom that followed attracted large numbers of Latin American immigrants,who rebuilt towns such as Homestead, whose Latino population hasincreased by 50% since then.

At the same time, U.S. construction firms have become increasingly reliant on Latino immigrant labor. In 1990, only 3.3% of construction workers were Mexican immigrants. Ten years later, the number was 8.5%.In 2004, 17% of Latino immigrants worked in the business, a higher percentage than in any other industry. Nor is this an exclusively Southwest phenomenon. Even before Katrina, more and more Latin American immigrant workers were locating in the South, with North Carolina and Arkansas incurring the greatest percentage gains between 1990 and 2000. This helps explain why 40% of the workers who rebuilt the Pentagon after the 9/11 attack were Latino.

Reliance on immigrant labor to complete huge projects is part of U.S.history. In the early 19th century, mostly Irish immigrant laborers, who worked for as little as 37 1/2 cents an hour, built the Erie Canal, one of the greatest engineering feats of its day. Later that century,Italian immigrants, sometimes making just $1.50 a day, were the backbone of the workforce that constructed the New York subway system. In 1890, 90% of New York City's public works employees, and 99% of Chicago's street workers, were Italian. After Congress authorized construction of the transcontinental railroad in 1862, one of the most ambitious projects in U.S. history, Charles Crocker, head of construction for Central Pacific railroad, recognized that the Civil War was creating a labor shortage. So he turned to Chinese immigrants to do the job. By 1867, 12,000 of Central Pacific's13,500 workers were Chinese immigrants, who were paid between $26 and$35 for a six-day workweek of 12 hours a day. At the turn of the 20th century, Mexican immigrant laborers did most of the railroad construction in Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

Mexican workers were also essential in turning the Southwest into afertile region, which by 1929 produced 40% of the United States' fruitsand vegetables. They cleared the mesquite brush of south Texas to makeroom for the expansion of agriculture, then played a primary role in the success of cotton farming in the state. A generation earlier, German immigrants from Russia and Norwegians had busted the prairie sod to turn the grasslands of North Dakota into arable fields. The major difference between then and now is that neither the American public nor the government will admit their dependence on a labor force that is heavily undocumented. When Mexican President Vicente Fox offered to provide Mexican labor to help rebuild New Orleans - "If there is anything Mexicans are good at, it is construction," he said - the federal government ignored him. At the same time, some of theundocumented Mexicans who have cleaned up and begun to rebuild Biloxi, Miss., are wondering whether they deserve at least a temporary visa so they can live in the U.S. legally.

Last week, the White House said it will push its plan to allow illegal immigrants already in the U.S. to become legal guest workers. Good. Hurricane Katrina exposed the nation's black-white divide. Post-Katrina reconstruction will soon spotlight the hypocrisy of refusing to grant legal status to those who will rebuild the Gulf Coast and New Orleans.


At 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For your info:

If you know any young men age 18 and up and they are looking for
work, Bishop Eddie Long, Pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, is offering $32.00 per hour for a team of men willing to go to New Orleans to help with the disaster and damage done by Hurricane Katrina.

You can call the church at 770-696-9600 to sign up and for more information.


Construction company hiring 1000 people to help with hurricane
clean up. $10/hr, 80-90 hrs weekly, food, lodging, transportation to area. Starting immediately, the job could go on for 1-2 yrs. Anyone interested
can call directly to LVI Svcs at 713-991-0480, 10500 Telephone Rd,
Houston, Texas.

Charisse Williams
Social Work Department
212-263-8900 ext. 74954

At 10:20 PM, Blogger Gordon said...

Just visited your blog, it's great. I have a jobs seeking website which is informative and you can find info of different job natures, hope that it will be useful in your job seeking

At 1:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be prepared for the next hurricane charley or find another one that's similar. As the Boy Scouts say: "Be Prepared"!


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