You are here

WSJ: "Undocumented" workers face struggle to take American jobs

Chad Terhune and Evan Perez offer Roundup of Immigrants in Shelter Reveals Rising Tensions about an alleged raid at a Red Cross shelter in Long Beach, MS:

Last Wednesday, police and the U.S. Marshals Service swept into a Red Cross shelter for hurricane refugees here. They blocked the parking lot and exits and demanded identification from about 60 people who looked Hispanic, including some pulled out of the shower and bathroom, according to witnesses. The shelter residents were told to leave within two days or else they would be deported.
...Harrison County Sheriff's Department Capt. Windy Swetman said no one at the shelter was threatened with deportation, adding that law-enforcement officials wanted to make sure everyone staying at the shelter had been displaced by the hurricane. "We were concerned with the growing numbers of the Hispanic population and whether or not we had displaced residents of southern Mississippi from the hurricane or workers brought in from other areas using the shelter as base camp," he said. Contractors, not relief groups, are responsible for providing housing to workers, he added.
...The roundup at the Red Cross center underscores deeper social and economic tensions that are surfacing as areas battered by Katrina and Rita struggle through what will be a frustratingly long recovery. Some communities will need to house thousands of displaced storm victims for months at least, further straining government agencies and relief groups. Meanwhile, undocumented workers are likely to be a major part of the massive cleanup and rebuilding, competing for jobs against some non-Hispanics thrown out of work by the hurricanes.
...In the aftermath of the hurricanes, residents and immigrants have received mixed messages on how welcome the immigrant labor force, which likely will form a major part of the reconstruction effort, will be. In early September, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would temporarily relax its policies and not prosecute contractors who don't check the legal status of workers.
While not necessarily a suspension of immigration law, the department made the move "to make sure that people who are otherwise able to work, and now need employment, wouldn't be stopped from working," said Jamie Zuieback, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security. The measure expires in mid-October.
On Thursday, a day after the roundup, a senior federal marshal showed up at the Red Cross shelter in Long Beach, according to people who were there. "He told us that he had not given the officers permission to treat us that way," Mr. Rivera said, but he decided to leave anyway.