November 13, 2004


Words to Make a Living By: With help from cities that once shunned them, laborers are learning English on the days that they can't find work. (Fred Alvarez, November 13, 2004, LA Times)

Contractors and homeowners often refuse to pick up workers who don't understand basic instructions. So Ceh attends the English classes at City Hall, studying whenever he can't find work. He hopes his new skills will be his ticket to a permanent job.

"I'm trying to make a better life for my family," he said. "We're lucky to have this opportunity."

The free classes, which started in September, are provided by the Oxnard-based social service agency City Impact through a $25,000 grant from Verizon. Thousand Oaks provides a meeting room for the classes, extending efforts to assist day laborers in a community that hasn't always been friendly to them.

Similar efforts are taking place across Southern California, where hiring halls are supplying everything from computer lessons to job training to give laborers a leg up in the job market.

Once aimed simply at getting laborers off the streets amid complaints from residents and merchants, many employment centers have evolved into full-fledged service providers.

A Glendale hiring site provides on-site job training; one in Pasadena offers English classes, computer training and legal aid.

Three centers in Los Angeles offer those services plus seminars on domestic violence and drug and alcohol abuse. Laborers also take part in neighborhood cleanups and other community improvement campaigns.

"The idea used to be to find a place just to keep day laborers where they wouldn't bother anyone," said Antonio Bernabe, coordinator of the day labor program for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.

"Now we are giving them resources and giving them tools to be better workers and better community members," he said.

Those efforts are not universally embraced.

Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley), who has long battled illegal immigration, contends that the majority of day laborers are here illegally and therefore not entitled to such assistance. He would like to see immigration inspectors screen hiring sites and weed out those with no right to work in the country.

"I don't believe that the people working at these sites are bad people … but at the same time many are not paying taxes. They are working under the table and they are not abiding by the law if they are illegally in the United States," Gallegly said.

"If somebody has a legal right to be in this country, I certainly support anything we can do to help them assimilate," he said. "But if they are not here legally, I think we should use that money to buy them a bus ticket."

Legalize them and get their taxes. What kind of person wouldn't want folks like this for fellow citizens?

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 13, 2004 8:30 AM

The entire process needs to be regularized more thoroughly. We need the cheap labor, but we can't have children dying in the desert of thirst and exposure.

Posted by: Bart at November 13, 2004 10:57 AM

Many illegals are driven across the border by awful conditions in Mexico, which are the result of the last century of wonderful Mexican government. The ultimate solution to illegal immigration is to fix that problem, which happily, has shown signs of turning around. Nativists can talk about posting border guards all they want, but fixing the root source would do a lot more good. We should help to give them a true representation in their governement, and root out the corruption in their government, courts, and business. Make this happen in the next two generations, and Americans will be going south for work. In fact, don't give these things to them - force it upon them.

For all of the talk of military premption as a means to prevent terrorism, the same applies to the use of the US economy. Although this applies globally, there is no better place to start than next door, and it meshes beautifully with the emerging Hispanic Republican core.

Posted by: Mike at November 13, 2004 11:39 AM