More on Guest Workers in the Gulf Coast

DemocracyNow! also has a piece on guest workers across the Gulf Coast. It consists of interviews of Sabu Lal “one Indian guestworker who tried to commit suicide after he was fired”, Nestor Vallero a “Mexican guestworker who says his Louisiana employer confiscated his passport and subjected him to humiliating conditions and treatment”, and “Saket Soni, spokesman for the Alliance of Guest Workers for Dignity.” Oddly, instead of bringing democracy to the Middle East, the administration seems to have enabled the US to import immigrant labor practices from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates.

NESTOR VALLERO: [translated] They had told us that they promised $10 an hour, but it turned out when we got here they would only pay us $6.50 an hour. And they threatened us, and they said, “Well, if you don’t like it, you can go home.” And when we asked for our passports, they said, “Oh, you want your passport back? Well, I’m only going to give it to you if you’re going to go home.” After all of this, we were just forced to take whatever job they were offering us, because we didn’t have any money to go home or do anything else.

But that wasn’t all. They started to discount the cost of our housing from our wage. And we had to pay $1,200 a month for housing. And out of a $300 check that we received for two weeks work, they would take, discount almost $200 off that check. So, they’re really, you know, raking in the profits with our work. It’s really just a money-making scheme, this whole guestworkers program.

I think it’s time that we modify the laws. They need to be overhauled, because we’re not the only ones that are suffering from this. There are many, many people who are suffering this injustice. Here in New Orleans, many contractors are paying $13 or $10 an hour to do cleanup work from the Katrina disaster. However, the contractors have figured out that they can import people from other countries and pay them half that to do the cleanup work. So this is really a contradiction. And this is creating tensions, racial tensions between the African Americans who are local to New Orleans and the Latin Americans who are being imported to work here.