More on Homeless Day Laborers

Some recent news reports have done more to highlight the plight of homeless day laborers in New York City and on Long Island.

As we wrote in a recent blog post, Luis Reyes, a homeless day laborer from Oaxaca, Mexico, was found dead on January 3rd in an abandoned Morningstar Road house on Staten Island, apparently of exposure.  On Monday, columnist Susan Dominus of the New York Times wrote a moving description of Reyes’ tragic death and of other immigrant laborers on Staten Island:

“Mr. Reyes…was unable to hang on, hang on until the work came back or the temperature rose or he felt hopeful enough to resist the next drink. The house, with thick, black tree branches reaching across it as if to ward off visitors, has now been boarded up. It is in contract, having sold for about $450,000, and the new owner has slated it for demolition, planning to replace it with three new ones.

“There will finally be work to be found on Morningstar Road, and none of the workers who wait on those corners on Staten Island will be sorry to see that house go.”

Yesterday’s Times also included a news report about homeless laborers in Suffolk County, whose makeshift shacks in the woods were recently demolished at the direction of local officials:

“Some of the men, most of them illegal immigrants, had lived in the clearing for years. Its location, even in winter, was a natural: a quick-enough walk from a trailer that serves as a hiring center for day laborers, supported by the town of Huntington, in Suffolk County. But as of late, it had been a futile trip.

“‘There’s no work,’ said Pablo Cervantes, 53, who had been living in the clearing for a year. ‘Life isn’t easy here.’

“All of the residents hailed from Central America and Mexico. When the economy soured, the construction jobs they had relied on dried up. Since they could no longer pay rent, they made their way to what they called la montaña, the mountain, for its location on a hillside.”

As the news report notes, a wave of anti-immigrant discrimination in Suffolk County — much of it fueled by local elected officials — has made life even harder for the laborers.  Now, amidst the winter freeze and the continuing disappearance of local construction jobs, immigrant day laborers throughout the New York City metro area are struggling for their very survival.