Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The morning crowd

This is an article in my local paper, the Sierra Sun about undocumented workers in my area. A good read. The author uses somewhat flowery language of the "It was a dark and stormy night..." variety which shows good youthful creativity and imagination and good for him.

This most likely goes on every day in your town as well.

The editor's intro:

Toward the end of 2011, former Sierra Sun reporter Jason Shueh took on his final assignment — an in-depth look at the large day worker population in Truckee and North Lake Tahoe.

Weeks of shadowing and interviews in both English and Spanish with the workers themselves, coupled with discussions with the public figures who work with the population and with those who are responsible for enforcement, revealed some clarifying facts regarding these members of our communities — along with an emotional anecdote that goes beyond your typical newspaper report.

It's brash and, at times, vulgar. But it's real. And it's a narrative worth telling.

Yes it is.

The day fills with a dry cold and they go bundled down Coon Street, down Fox Street and along the downtown bordering Lake Tahoe. It is a divided march through Kings Beach with the men moving in small bunches toward a 7-Eleven that squats among trailer homes, old motels converted into apartments and, of course, the lake.

Most opt to stand along the wood fencing, and the man with the shadowed face moves away to the edge of the roadway, between the 7-Eleven and the bus stop, where work trucks come with güeros — white men offering work — and so he waits.

The scene could be ritual, a type of stage play, a season populated in a climate of interactions that are condensed into a daily happening. Viewed from the car dashboard or across the street, it's a scene marked like a man-made sacrament, a tradition that comes out of necessity but without any church or doctrine. For there is a benediction sounding in car horns, in rumbling engines. And there is a choir that blasts cumbia, reggaetón and the trill of strumming mariachis crackling out of rusty truck radios.

There is even a reverence by the jean-suited clergy: conversations turning to votive whisper, whispers turning to silence as a truck cab opens and work is called out: “I need two to paint, I need one to dig.” And for the chosen, the lucky, the Eucharist of labor comes with a bread made of worn muscle and a wine of spilt sweat.

It's a process all routine and natural, and in this way, I watched the morning go.

The wind picked up and the day rolled on. Our conversation grew into many topics. Carlos told me how there were many undocumented who lived in apartments with three or four men to a room, how the foolish ones waste money on lottery tickets, alcohol or drugs, but the good ones, the best ones, work with a purpose, and most for their families. He said he could survive a week on a carton of eggs, and said he once worked on four hours of sleep a night for three days.

“We all want work. If I earn $70 in a day, I can send perhaps $50 home, and this will be something like 700 pesos. My family can live on that, and they'll be able to eat for a week,” he said.

Yet, lack of work is nothing compared to the danger of summers. Immigration operations usually occur twice in the season, Carlos said. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers come up in white vans to the 7-Eleven. Officers jump out and everyone scatters, with men running and hiding wherever they can, he said. A phone tree alerts illegals in the neighborhood. But the unlucky are grabbed. Usually they'll be offered a chance to collect belongings, but since most live four or five men to a room, this is impossible.

“How can we lead them to our friends?” Carlos asks.

The only advantage they have is the lake and the snow, he points out. The lake creates distance between Sacramento, and the snow halts traffic. Together, they form a persuasive deterrent, he said.

This is a long but not too long article and well worth reading.

Also see:

How does Truckee/Tahoe work with an undocumented labor force?

“I think we need to move past the notion that they are going to go away, because they are not,” Vaca said.

Much more.


wkmaier said...

Link doesn't work?

Fixer said...

It's the same here. When I go to Home Depot in the mornings, they're all hanging out at the curb by the delis, waiting for the landscapers and contractors to come by offering work for the day. My town is almost 60% Hispanic and a good portion of them are undocumented. They are hard-working, good people who I'm proud to call neighbors. I give damn if they're here legally or not.

Gordon said...

I feel the same way about them.

The link worked for me.