Monday, February 16, 2009

Day Laborers Robbed, Beaten and Shot with Impunity in New Orleans

The Times has an excellent story detailing the problems facing day laborers in New Orleans. Much like the case of Marcelo Lucero, posted earlier, who was murdered on Long Island, the day laborers who are doing much of the work of rebuilding New Orleans face the constant threat of robbery from armed gangs of men, mostly black, exacerbating tensions between Latinos and African Americans in the city.

NEW ORLEANS — They are the men still rebuilding New Orleans more than three years after Hurricane Katrina, the head-down laborers from Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala who work on the blazing hot roofs and inside the fetid homes for a wad of cash at the end of the day.

But on the street, these laborers are known as “walking A.T.M.’s.”

Their pockets stuffed with bills, the laborers are vulnerable because of language problems and their status as illegal immigrants. And as Hispanics have become the prey of choice in crumbling neighborhoods here in one of America’s most crime-ridden cities, racial friction between the newcomers and longtime black residents has moved close to the surface.

Geovanny Billado, a worker from Honduras, spoke of one incident in which “they waited to punch me,” and “one of them stabs me with a knife.” It was four against one, Mr. Billado said, and he lost the $350 he had earned; another time, it was seven against one.

“You don’t get a chance to say anything,” he said. “They just fall on top of you. It’s better to just give the money up front. If you don’t give it to them, they’ll beat you and take it anyway.”

It is an under-the-radar crime epidemic: unarmed Hispanic workers are regularly mugged, beaten, chased, stabbed or shot, the police and the workers themselves say. The ruined homes they sometimes squat in, doubling- or quadrupling-up at night, are broken into, and they have been made to lie face down while being robbed.

Read full article at

No comments: