Tuesday, November 15, 2005

From the Party of Lincoln

This story disturbs me on many levels. First, the utter lack of surprise that events like this took place or are taking place here in America. Second, where is all that money? From the donations to FEMA reimbursement, show me where the money went.
Salon.com News | Gulf Coast slaves: "He says that Tovar 'kicked us off the base,' forcing him and other cleanup workers -- many of them Mexican and undocumented -- to sleep on the streets of New Orleans. According to Martinez, they were not paid for three weeks of work. An immigrant rights group recently filed complaints with the Department of Labor on behalf of Martinez and 73 other workers allegedly owed more than $56,000 by Tovar. Tovar claims that she let the workers go because she was not paid by her own bosses at United Disaster Relief. In turn, UDR manager Zachary Johnson, who declined to be interviewed for this story, told the Washington Post on Nov. 4 that his company had not been paid by KBR for two months.

Wherever the buck may stop along the chain of subcontractors, Martinez is stuck at the short end of it -- and his situation is typical among many workers hired by subcontractors of KBR (formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root) to clean and rebuild Belle Chasse and other Gulf Coast military bases. Immigrants rights groups and activists like Bill Chandler, president of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance, estimate that hundreds of undocumented workers are on the Gulf Coast military bases, a claim that the military and Halliburton/KBR deny -- even after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency turned up undocumented workers in a raid of the Belle Chasse facility last month. Visits to the naval bases and dozens of interviews by Salon confirm that undocumented workers are in the facilities. Still, tracing the line from unpaid undocumented workers to their multibillion-dollar employers is a daunting task. A shadowy labyrinth of contractors, subcontractors and job brokers, overseen by no single agency, have created a no man's land where nobody seems to be accountable for the hiring -- and abuse -- of these workers."
Third and most important to me so far (I stopped reading here to comment) is why are undocumented aliens on an active military base? I grew up on bases my whole life, even with my base ID it was difficult for me as a 12 year old to walk on base from the NCO residential area just offbase. I had to go through the gate, produce my ID, and sign paperwork. Every Saturday and Sunday I would walk on base, sign in and go to the library. They treated me like a criminal. In this day and age of "terrorism" why are nonmilitary personnel on military ground? Especially undocumented aliens.

Fourth, isn't slavery illegal? Fifth, it isn't like there aren't a whole lot of displaced poor people who would like the chance to clean up their homes and earn money. They need to create another subclass in America?
"Congress has heard a number of complaints recently about Halliburton/KBR's hiring practices, including the alleged exploitation of Filipino, Sri Lankan, Nepalese and other immigrant workers paid low wages on military installations in Iraq. And KBR subcontractor BE&K was a focus of Senate hearings in October, for the firing of 75 local Belle Chasse workers who said that they were replaced by "unskilled, out-of-state, out-of-country" workers earning $8 to $14 for work that typically paid $22 an hour.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who has been an outspoken critic of the use of undocumented workers at Belle Chasse and on other Katrina cleanup jobs, said in a recent statement, "It is a downright shame that any contractor would use this tragedy as an opportunity to line its pockets by breaking the law and hiring a low-skilled, low-wage and undocumented work force."

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., is also against the practice, citing its "serious social ramifications." As he told Salon, it devastates "local workers who have been hit twice, because they lost their homes."

Seventeen-year-old Simitrio Martinez (no relation to Arnulfo) is another one of the dozens of workers originally hired by Tovar, the North Carolina job broker working under KBR. "They were going to pay seven dollars an hour, and the food was going to be free, and rent, but they gave us nothing," says the thin Zapotec teenager. Simitrio spent nearly a month at the Seabee base. "They weren't feeding us. We ate cookies for five days. Cookies, nothing else," he says."
Arrgh! There are some people out there (hopefully few) that will say since they are illegal aliens they deserve what they get. That is like saying that because you wanted to help your community out during disasters means going to Iraq was a forseeable part of the bargain. Um, no not really. What it does show is a complete disregard and lack of respect for people who aren't major donors to the current administration. Seriously. The message that they send is that there are worthy people and not worthy people, usually determined by money, obligation and brown nosing, and if you aren't one of them you just aren't.

No comments:

Post a Comment