Advocates Say Texas is Exploiting Day Laborers After Hurricane Harvey

Nik Theodore, center, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, interviews day laborers cleaning up after Hurricane Harvey about their work conditions in Houston. (AP)

As Houston struggles to rebuild homes and businesses that were destroyed by Harvey, the sprawling metropolis’ day laborers—many of whom are toiling in dangerous conditions amid fear of being picked up by immigration authorities—are facing a harsh reality.

Guillermo Miranda Vazquez starts his day in a parking lot near the Home Depot where he easily finds work alongside other day laborers, the Associated Press reported.

Miranda clears rotted drywall, hauls out rotting furniture, chops damaged trees or helps lay the foundations for new homes. Often he’s wearing only a T-shirt, work pants and tennis shoes while surrounded by the pungent stench and raw sewage that flowed into homes during the flooding.

“I always wash and scrub myself, and I use alcohol or something similar so that I don’t get infected,” said Miranda, a native of Guatemala. “I haven’t gotten sick yet.”

Harvey damaged or destroyed 200,000 homes and flooded much of Houston and smaller coastal communities with record amounts of rain and high winds. It also created a massive demand for the kind of work that day laborers have long performed after hurricanes and tropical storms.

Day laborers interviewed by the Associated Press said they’ve been hired by a mix of individual homeowners, work crews from out of state, and subcontractors. Mostly immigrants, they operate in plain sight, gathering early in the morning in parking lots near construction stores and gas stations.

Advocates from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network recently fanned out to these sites to survey the workers about the conditions they’re experiencing. Interviews suggested most are routinely exposed to mold and contamination, and aren’t aware of legal protections they have even if they’re not in the country legally. Advocates have been passing out flyers with information.

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SOURCE: Fox News