Out-of-Work Undocumented Migrants Seek End to Crackdown

Ivan Mejia, Hispanic Business, September 8, 2009

Hundreds of undocumented workers who recently lost their jobs are asking the government to stop taking a “hard line” on immigration policy and to offer a solution to the desperate situations of many of them.

“We’re demanding that (President Barack) Obama stop the application of a hard line on existing immigration laws,” Nativo Lopez, the head of the Mexican American Political Association, told Efe.

Lopez said that more than 2,200 undocumented workers recently have been fired from several manufacturing firms in Los Angeles.

“The majority of the people don’t know it, but Obama has the executive discretion to put a stop to the verification of employment documents, E-Verify, and the sending of letters of Social Security discrepancies,” the activist said.

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Among the companies that laid off workers is American Apparel, a clothing manufacturer that is pushing a campaign supporting immigration reform on T-shirts with the message in English “Legalize LA” and which this month will lay off 1,500 workers from whom the government is demanding proof of the validity of their documents.

Marina Andrade, American Apparel’s representative, told Efe that “the workers are like our family and it affects us greatly to think that they’re not going to have (money) to pay the rent or for food. Therefore, we’re asking President Obama to quickly approve immigration reform.”

“What the government is doing is as if it were cutting off our arms,” Esther Hernandez, 32, one of the workers dismissed by American Apparel, told Efe.

Olga Castañeda, 39, said that the firings are a sign of “the oppression of the labor that the country needs by the government.”

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Alexander Auerbach, a member of the board of directors for frozen food packing firm Overhill Farms, in southern Los Angeles, told Efe that the Internal Revenue Service conducted an audit of payrolls for 2006 and found that out of 1,000 workers 260 had inconsistencies in their documents.

Because of that, last April the Social Security Administration sent letters to the employers informing them that some of the Social Security numbers of their workers were invalid.

“The government was telling us that these people are not here legally and, therefore, we, the company, like the workers, were going to face legal action,” Auerbach said.

“Many of the people have been with us for many years and have experience in the job that’s to the countries advantage, but the lawyers recommended that we fire them because if we did not do that we would have had to pay millions of dollars in fines or go to jail,” he said.

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“We believe that the only solution is in Obama’s hands and the only thing he can do is fulfill what he promised us Latinos in the campaign, that is to say immigration reform,” he [Marcelino Arteaga, one of the Overhill Farms workers who was laid off] said.

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