East Harlem Against Deportation, at its roots, draws its strength from immigrants, their friends and loved ones, and local community organizations, all of whom daily live out the struggle against our country's broken immigration system. Our movement will include organizing events and a letter-writing campaign throughout Spring and Summer 2009, as well as the formulation of a specific policy agenda to protect undocumented immigrants in New York City and State.
Las raíces de El Barrio Contra La Deportación obtienen sus fuerzas de los inmigrantes, sus amigos y seres queridos, y de organizaciones comunitarias locales. Todos estos viven diariamente la lucha contra el sistema descompuesto de inmigración de este país. Nuestro movimiento incluirá la organización de eventos informativos y una campaña de cartas escritas, por toda la primavera y el verano del 2009. También se formulará una agenda política especifica que protegerá a los inmigrantes indocumentados de la ciudad y del estado de Nueva York.

EHAD Final Policy Report

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Other Side of Undocumented Immigration: Abuse, Exploitation, and Naturalization of Suffering

The U.S. government and U.S. society gain much from migrant laborers and give little back beyond criminalization, stress, suffering and death. This dishonest relationship must change.
- Seth M. Holmes

Antonio Gutierrez was working at a local deli when the light fixture came crashing down on his arm, tearing open a bloody gash that remains to this day an unevenly-healed scar across his arm. The 17-year-old boy received no compensation for the injury, and displayed a certain pride when I asked him how long it took for him to recover. "It's nothing. Los mexicanos son muy duros (Mexicans are very strong)," he said.

The seemingly isolated incident connects to a disturbing national trend. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Hispanic worker deaths have risen by more than 76% since 1992, while the overall number of worker deaths have actually declined. Although growth of the Hispanic population in the workforce partly accounts for the discrepancy, lack of training, poor communication skills, and exploitation of undocumented workers all exacerbate the situation.

According to Raj Nayak of the California-based National Employment Law Project, undocumented workers are less inclined to join a union, which helps protect workers, or protest when conditions seem dangerous. The statistics also correspond to anthropologist Seth M. Holmes' 2004 work, "Oxacans Like to Work Bent Over," on undocumented berry-pickers in California. Holmes' analysis discribes the naturalization of suffering among migrant workers, and its internalization as a form of ethnic pride. In an eloquent and piercing observation of Californian berry fields, Holmes writes: "The migrant labor camp looks like chains of rusted tin-roofed tool sheds lined up within a few feet of each other and have been mistaken for small chicken coops in long rows." Such abusive conditions must end, and it needs to begin with bringing undocumented immigrants out of the shadows.

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