I wonder whether the Santa Cruz Sentinel has devoted as much time and space to telling the story of American workers hit hard by the economic slump:
Luis Valle eats a hard shell taco fast Monday afternoon at Taco Bell, his knee jerking up and down. It’s the first thing he’s eaten, he said, in 24 hours. Times are tough for the 27-year-old illegal immigrant and day laborer — an out-of-work farmworker who lives in Watsonville and gets jobs these days by standing outside the new Home Depot on 41st Avenue.
Carlos Rodriguez, an unemployed brother in arms, sits next to him, but he doesn’t eat his taco as fast. He’s more methodical. He’s also had better luck of late. He scored $40 for two hours of work cleaning up somebody’s back yard on Calabasas Road on Sunday. He’s still got the dirt beneath his nails to prove it.
But such great pay is rare, he admits.
“It’s probably because I was working on a Sunday,” joked Rodriguez, 28. “It’s something I shouldn’t have been doing.”
For the most part, Rodriguez says, he’s doing what hundreds of other day laborers are doing these days: Standing around and waiting for jobs in Santa Cruz instead of actually getting them. When times are good, their numbers are thick. By noon, most of them are long gone, snapped up by those who need them.
When times are bad, their numbers are equally thick, but they tend to stick around, the result of a labor shortage.
The slumping economy, the record number of home foreclosures, the lag in house sales and an idle construction industry aren’t just affecting middle-class Americans.
The bad times are trickling down to the lowest rung of the work force: the illegal labor pool, which has long been tapped by both contractors and homeowners for convenience and low cost.
And somewhere in Mexico a wife and a family are having a rougher go at it than usual. That’s because a large number of day laborers are single men who send their money back to Mexico via wire transfers — when they’ve got it to send back.
No worried, though, right? The $1.4 billion economic stimulus/border security package for Mexico from the US taxpayers will soon be on its way…