Immigrant workers face wage theft, hazardous conditions in Florida
Rebuilding Flordia is destroying immigrants' lives with wage theft and unsafe conditions.
Hurricane Ian's wrath had hardly receded in Florida when ads for day laborers began appearing on phones across New York via online platforms such as Telegram and WhatsApp.
The messages in Spanish looked to be aimed at newly arrived immigrants and asylum seekers who were desperate for work and had nowhere else to turn.
And now, advocates are concerned that the migrants may become targets for fly-by-night firms looking to exploit individuals for hard labor and low compensation.“This looks and smells like human trafficking,” said Ariadna Phillips, a New York community organizer with South Bronx Mutual Aid.
“They recruit them with these very flashy photographs, saying, 'You're going to make a bunch of money' and 'We're going to give you this great apartment to live in,'" Phillips added. But when the workers arrive, they are shocked by what they find on the ground.
Phillips said she has already heard from numerous laborers whose earnings have been deducted to pay for their lodging and board less than two weeks after Hurricane Ian swept across Florida and wrecked dozens of villages. They informed her that this was not part of their contract with the corporation.
"I tell them to stay in New York because that's where they're going to be the safest," Phillips said.
"We're a sanctuary city, and Florida was already trying to send people to Martha's Vineyard."
The number of migrant children who cross the Darien Gap is now three times more than the number registered over the five previous years combined, according to #UNICEF. pic.twitter.com/Y0yVcbpNn5— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) October 13, 2021
Last month, Gov. Ron DeSantis flew two planes full of immigrants to the rich Massachusetts enclave as part of a mission to "transport illegal aliens to sanctuary destinations," according to Taryn Fenske, his communications director.
DeSantis claimed at a news conference on Tuesday that three of four people detained last week for "ransacking" villages after Hurricane Ian were illegal aliens who should be deported immediately. "They should not be here at all," he said. His office did not return a request for comment. DeSantis encouraged on Friday Florida debris companies to hire locally.
"Many Floridians in Southwest Florida have had their businesses and livelihoods impacted by the storm and are looking for work — the private sector can help them get back on their feet by hiring locally for the length of recovery, which will support the local economy for at least the next six months," he said in a statement.
According to experts, immigrants are significantly more likely to be victims of labor exploitation or to experience disproportionate economic damage in the aftermath of a natural disaster. "Not only are migrants the first to be affected by these extreme weather events, but they tend to be the first who try to rebuild," said Ariel Ruiz Soto, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute.
He added that immigrant workers from Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala have historically been the backbone of the recovery workforce that aids regions hit by natural disasters. In 2005, they helped to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey.
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According to a 2018 research co-written by Soto, 72% of 361 construction day laborers surveyed after Harvey were illegal immigrants, roughly half from Mexico and the majority from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Day laborers get an hourly average ranging from $12 to $14 an hour, and 26% of respondents reported wage theft in the month following Harvey. Many reported they never received information about job hazards or protective gear.
"These workers are more likely to be working under the table or for companies who are more likely to overlook rules," Soto said, exposing them to potentially dangerous work conditions.
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