México City, May 3, 2001
U.S. considers hiring sites for illegal laborers
By LEO FLORES
The News Staff Reporter
Plans to earmark U.S. state funds for the construction and operation of "contracting centers" for undocumented migrant laborers have triggered mixed reaction throughout the United States, government news agency Notimex reported on Wednesday.
State authorities are pondering a new law which would also permit the use of public resources to lease installations, provide English classes and in some cases medical care for immigrants.
Critics argue the immigrants, the majority of whom are Mexican, enter the United States illegally and should be deported, while supporters claim they play a major role in the U.S. economy and should have a place where employers can contract their services. Immigrants often take work at relatively low pay and on short-term contracts unappealing to the majority of legal U.S. workers.
Groups sympathizing with the immigrants say the centers would help keep them from roaming the streets or from concentrating in public places in hopes of landing a job.
According to Notimex, the desire of several state governments to install centers stems from complaints by people who run businesses or live near the immigrants' gathering sites. Thousands of migrants can congregate in downtown neighborhoods as prospective employers bid for their services, usually on day-long contracts.
A heated debate over the construction of a center in Farmingville, a prosperous community in the state of New York where illegal immigrants find work in spacious mansions and luxury restaurants, last month drew attention across the United States.
Authorities in Suffolk County, where Farmingville is located, originally approved a bill calling for 80,000 dollars for the construction of a hiring center.
However, Suffolk County Executive Robert Gaffin on April 4 vetoed the bill. "It's impossible to use taxpayers money for a site that would facilitate the violation of federal immigration laws and state labor laws," Gaffin was quoted as saying.
The veto split the populace, touching off a series of demonstrations. On April 25, Suffolk commissioners vote to uphold the veto.
Despite work opportunities, Farmingville also has its risks. Two Mexican immigrants were savagely beaten in September in what authorities called a "hate crime."
A similar initiative also has run into a series of obstacles in Houston where observers fear a repeat of the situation in Farmingville.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, it's a different story. Authorities have approved the construction of a center "within the next two years" to offer immigrants diverse services.