Saturday, November 05, 2005

Aliens Among Us... (Part 1)

When I drive by the group of Hispanics gathered by the road, it looks to me like a depression era snapshot come to life. A working class, invisible, undocumented and ingrained, mill about waiting for scraps of work. I live near an infamous town on Long Island where the gathering of illegal workers (mostly Mexican, but 100% Hispanic) causes tension in the community. They loiter in parking lots, usually convenience stores like 7-11, and people are afraid of them because they look menacing. I’ve worked construction jobs off and on for more than 20 years and to be honest they look intimidating to me too. That’s not to say that it is because of their race. Not true. Anytime you have a large gathering of men dressed in dirty jeans and t-shirts looking tanned, gristly and strong, it’s intimidating, especially for families with children. They are deterred from shopping at those convenience stores because of the crowd.

Granted, the workers must spend enough money in the 7-11’s they gather around to make it worth it or the owners of those establishments would have made them move years ago. So it’s not the loss of business to the establishment that bothers people. It is the perceived danger. Locally, I have not heard of one story in the newspaper or otherwise where the illegal aliens harmed anyone, even each other. There seem to be no fights, they are generally peaceful and stay to themselves. Of course these groups are huge. They swarm the construction vehicles that pull into the parking lot looking for a day’s work. I worked with a friend of mine installing fences for a while. The shop was down the road from two of these 7-11s in either direction. When we didn’t need to pick up helpers for the day we avoided those particular 7-11s because they would bother us and crowd us. Even though it was convenient to go to one of those two places on the way out to the jobs to pick up our coffee and cigarettes we went out of our way to avoid them.

There is also the problem with housing. These people are generally men who come here for the construction season (which because of the booming housing market has been lasting almost all year) and send money back home to their relatives south of the border. They try to save money when here by packing themselves into rental houses. There will be tens of men living in one small house. While this is technically illegal there has been little crackdown. The residential areas around these towns have gone downhill because of this. The perception (rightly so) is that it is a low income, low class area. Again, not because of the nationality of the men but because of the conditions they live in. Generally the houses are unkempt and in disrepair. There are many strange people milling about and they change renters frequently. Sometimes there are women and children are living in these cramped conditions as well. Lately I heard of a few cases where landlords are charged for housing more unrelated people in a house than is allowed by the town. Essays in local newspapers show these crowded conditions where many families or 20 or more men are living in one small house. This is an attempt by the town to solve the problem indirectly.

(To Be Continued)


The Phoenix said...

It's a vicious circle, and it'a a pretty tangled knot to try to get undone. You have the construction companies that rely on the cheap labor, and that keeps home prices down, which creates more homebuyers.
On the other side, you have the illegals crowding into one home, and basically helping to create the downward spiral of real estate values in those neighborhoods.
Then there's the financial burden they put on tax payers when they go to the hospital.
All they want is the opportunity to work hard to help their families back home, and that is honrable. But there has to be a better way, so that it's a win-win.

ObilonKenobi said...

I agree. You broke down the problem into it's major components well. You must have read my last post. I hope that one day there is a win-win solution to this problem but I think part of it is that Mexico and other Latin American Countries must improve theri standard of living for their citizens.