Andrew R. Arthur, Center for Immigration Studies, March 3, 2022
On February 28, NBC News ran a piece captioned “Undocumented day laborers face harsh work prospects due to immigration spike”. As hard as it is to believe, neither the headline nor the video itself is satire.
The primary focus is on workers at the corner of Division and Marcy Avenues in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, known as La Parada, or “the stop”. The voiceover explains, “This is a place where immigrant women find a job for the day, primarily doing domestic work. Every day, up to 150 women wait here, bargaining for hourly pay that is often below minimum wage.”
Why, exactly, would workers bargain for pay that falls below the state and/or federal minimum? The video continues: “Often, these day laborers are undocumented.”
Here’s the problem, according to NBC News: “With more women looking for work, there is more competition. Desperate to find a job and with little to no English, many new arrivals don’t negotiate their rate.”
The piece then flips to interviews with two Ecuadoran women recently released from ICE detention who have been here for a month and three weeks, respectively. Neither of them expressed any fear of harm back home because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group — that is, any of the grounds for asylum. Rather, they came to the United States purely for economic reasons.
According to the reporter: “These women represent the face of a new wave of immigration from Ecuador.” CBP encounters with Ecuadoran nationals were up sevenfold in FY 2021 over the prior fiscal year (to just over 97,000 migrants), she explains.
The piece then turns to a local Ecuadoran who runs a community center for his fellow nationals and other Latin Americans in New York City. Even though he has been in the United States for 34 years, he contends that corruption, security issues, and economic instability back home are what is driving the Ecuadoran exodus to the United States.
Then the discussion moves abruptly to what it terms “wage theft”, in which workers are being not paid, or not receiving the full agreed-upon rate. Some 26 percent of the women day laborers at La Parada were victims of this offense in 2021, according to the “Workers’ Justice Project”.
The Ecuadoran community organizer explains that he has seen this happen across other occupations (decrying wage theft as “a new modern slavery”) and asserts that while he teaches workers how to file complaints, it is a lengthy process that many abandon.
New York may be one large sanctuary jurisdiction as it relates to immigration enforcement, but NBC News quotes the state’s Department of Labor, which contends that it is serious about the labor laws: “We begin processing wage theft claims immediately upon receiving the complaint. The processing … usually takes about four weeks to complete.” (Ellipsis in original.)