Day laborers feel effects of Arizona's new immigration law
PHOENIX (KGUN9-TV) - In the seven months since SB 1070 was signed into law, Arizona's controversial new immigration enforcement law has spurred protests, boycotts, debates over racial profiling, and several lawsuits. Although it's easy to forget amid all the uproar, some parts of the law are still in effect. One of those provisions takes aim at illegal immigrants trying to find work in the day labor market. KGUN9 set out to find out how effective the new law has been so far.
9 On Your Side reporter Joel Waldman traveled to an area of Phoenix known to be a popular spot for day laborers looking for work. One man, who wanted to be known only as "Trinidad," said SB 1070 has had a huge effect on day laborers.
"In reality, I will be honest, sometimes I make nothing. Today, I didn't even have gas money, my car barely had gas. How do you think I feel? I feel frustrated," Trinidad said through an interpreter. He covered his face with a bandana for his interview with KGUN9, saying he's afraid Maricopa County's Sheriff Joe Arpaio might come and scoop him up.
Trinidad came from San Luis, Mexico, ten years ago. He never got citizenship papers. Until recently, he never had a problem finding work as a day laborer. But, it appears SB 1070 has changed all of that.
"In reality, it is very difficult to find work because there are a lot of police and cop cars that are set up in different areas. The bosses don't want to find help that way," explained Trinidad.
Chula Vista Landscaping owner, Alfredo Zavala, is one of the bosses Trinidad is talking about. Zavala will not hire undocumented immigrants.
"I'm first generation Hispanic, and I do believe the law is here for a reason," said Zavala.
It appears SB 1070 has advocates for migrants on the ropes. Salvador Reza is an advocate for day laborers at the Phoenix-based non-profit called Tonatierra.
"There's not that many jobs anymore, mainly because of the fear factor. They're afraid to be stopped by the police," Reza said.
"Personally, as a human rights activist, do you have a heavy heart over all this?" KGUN9's Waldman asked Reza.
"I never thought we were going to go back in time," he replied. "When I came here in 1961, there were signs that said 'no Mexicans or dogs allowed.' That was in Texas."
At Tucson's Southside Presbyterian Church, trucks used to line up to pick up workers. It's the same deal at Phoenix Walmart and Home Depot parking lots. The lack of work has left those workers' wallets running on fumes. Trinidad only had five bucks in his pocket. But, despite SB 1070 and the crackdown on day laborers, he said he's staying in Arizona.
"I have to keep looking because I have four kids and I would die for my kids to feed them. Lots of hunger, lots of need," explained Trinidad.
Reza, the activist, told KGUN9 he believes Trinidad's plight ultimately affects everyone.
"If you criminalize workers, then you criminalize employers. And, then you're affecting the economy. That's what the state of Arizona did," said Reza.
Alfredo Zavala agrees the law should punish illegal workers and those who hire them. At the same time, he has seen the economic effects Reza is talking about. Although he doesn't hire illegal immigrants, his landscaping business has been indirectly affected by the state's crackdown on day laborers.
"If people don't pay, or move out of an apartment, then there great deal of vacancies, and the apartment complex won't be able to pay our fee for doing the landscaping and, consequently, we had to let some people go, at least temporarily," Zavala explained.
Others have left Arizona permanently. The feelings about that appear to be mixed among members of the community. Waldman asked Salvador Reza how many people are believed to have left Arizona because of SB 1070.
"Well, if you believe (Arizona State Senator) Russell Pearce, and he's hard to believe, he says 200,000 people have left Arizona. I say over 100-thousand people have left," asserted Reza.
For those who remain, the good times are not exactly rolling. But they refuse to give up hope.
"Why don't they give us freedom?" Trinidad asked in Spanish. "All we want is peace. We want a job. We have the need, we are hungry. We don't do harm to anyone."
As things stand now, an employer cannot stop in traffic to hire a day laborer. Nor can they knowingly hire an illegal immigrant. However, it's still legal for day laborers to ask for work, thanks in part to Federal Judge Susan Bolton's ruling earlier this year. Governor Jan Brewer has vowed to fight the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.