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Day laborers protest in Hoover for right to assemble and deteriorating conditions at apartment complex (ALABAMA)
A group of approximately 100 laborers, tenants and supporters, have gathered this morning at 3400 Treeline Court in Hoover, protesting for the right to assemble, the right to look for work and in an effort to shed light on what they refer to as “deteriorating” housing conditions.
Members of the National Day Laborer Network, Undocubus riders, local day laborers, area tenants and supporters contend that the rights of workers, tenants and fundamentally, human beings, are being abused. Recently, they argue, building management at the apartment complexes at 3400 Treeline Court have continually tried to prevent day laborers, most of whom reside on the premises, from gathering outside the complex and waiting for work.
Furthermore, protesters allege, the management at the apartment complex fails to maintain adequate housing conditions for tenants, even in the face of repeated maintenance requests and complaints.
Nadia Marin-Molina of the National Day Laborer Network helped organize the event.
“We came here because we heard complaints from the tenants about being harassed when they step outside to look for work,” Marin-Molina said. “Managers here at the property tell them they can’t stand outside the apartment looking for work, nor can they wait for their employers to come pick them up.”
Instead, Marin-Molina said, employees at the apartments located at 3400 Treeline Court tell their tenants that they must wait for potential day labor hire in the parking lot across the street. Once there, however, tenants said the police arrives and tells them they can’t assemble there.
About 40 hispanics protested this morning on Lorna Road for better access to jobs and the living conditions at the Treeline Apartments Tuesday August 21, 2012. Hoover Police arrived on the scene shortly after the protest started checking permits and directing traffic on Lorna. (The Birmingham News/Joe Songer). Watch video
This area in Hoover is known as a place where contractors, builders and others looking to hire day laborers can find employees, said Marin-Molina. For at least 13 years now, she said, day laborers have stood on the various sidewalks across Lorna Road waiting for a chance at employment.
“They used to gather together at the Chevron down the street,” said Marin-Molina.
Over the years, groups of day laborers, largely Hispanic immigrants, have made their way into the community, often living in places such as the apartment complex at 3400 Treeline Court.
“Employers know they can find them here,” said Marin-Molina.
Regardless of the long-established routine, however, those seeking employment say they have faced repeated harassment in more recent years.
“When they try to wait for jobs outside the apartment complex,” Marin-Molina said, “employees tell them they have to leave the area or go back to their room. These people are just trying to get jobs.”
Earlier this week, said Marin-Molina, a group of about 50 people tried to hold a meeting in one of the apartments. Almost immediately, she said, an apartment employee told the group they could not gather in the apartment and had to leave. When police arrived, they told tenants they could remain, but told everyone else they would have to leave, said Marin-Molina.
Although they continue to live and try to assemble at the apartments, the housing conditions are far from respectable, Marin-Molina said.
“When you talk to the workers, the people who live here, they tell you about bugs and leaks in the apartments,” she said. “Even when they complain to management about the conditions, nothing is ever done.”
Herman Arturo Hernandez, who has lived in apartments for three years, said he was recently notified that he had seven days to vacate the premises. When his unit flooded, he said, management began repairs, but quickly informed him that he would have to leave.
“They didn’t give me an option,” Hernandez said.
Management, he said, did not offer to help relocate him, nor did they offer him a place to live temporarily on the premises. The last he heard, he would essentially be able to retrieve his initial deposit, but he had no idea when that would happen. Six other apartment units faced the same fate, Hernandez said. According to a press release, when displaced tenants requested to be transferred over to empty apartments on site, management refused.
“We have the right to assemble, to look for work,” he said.
Today’s protest group held signs and chanted over megaphones. “We deserve rights, we want respect,” they said. In the first hour, at approximately 8 a.m., Hoover police began to arrive on scene.
Officers on scene refused to comment.
Captain Jim Coker of the Hoover Police Department, who was not on scene, said that the issue was not with the city, but with the apartment complex.
“There’s not a whole lot to comment on,” Coker said. “[The protesters] aren’t presenting any problems for us. They are on the right-of-way, between roadway and sidewalk; they haven’t been an issue for us. Their issue is with the apartment complex, not with the city.”
When asked about Marin-Molina’s claim that the police recently asked a group of supporters to move a planning meeting somewhere else, Coker once again said the issue was not a matter that involved a problem between demonstrators and the police.
“It’s strictly between them and the apartment complex management,” Coker said.
An employee on scene refused to comment.
By Jason Morton
On the same day a federal appeals court struck down some provisions of Alabama’s controversial immigration law and upheld others, a group rallied in downtown Tuscaloosa to decry the law’s impact on immigrant families.
Somos Tuskaloosa, a local coalition of community members and church leaders, joined with No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice, a delegation of undocumented residents and their supporters passing through Tuscaloosa. The protesters marched from the U.S. Federal Building and Courthouse on University Boulevard to the University of Alabama camp us Monday afternoon.
Ride for Justice left Arizona on July 29, the anniversary of that state’s immigration law, and is traveling across the country to rally migrants to organize and challenge laws and policies targeting undocumented immigrants.
The combined group of about 50 people started on the sidewalk in front of the federal courthouse, where chants of “Una familia, un Alabama” — one family, one Alabama — and “undocumented, unafraid!” were followed by the crowd shouting in unison: “No papers, no fear! Dignity is standing here!”
The group then moved to the courthouse steps, where federal marshals, who oversee courthouse security, alerted local police that the protesters lacked the required demonstration permits.
But, after speaking with the organizers, Tuscaloosa Police Chief Steve Anderson said that it was better to allow the demonstrators to disperse peacefully, rather than arrest them.
Ireri Unzueta-Carrasco, 25, interpreted for several undocumented residents, many of whom said they are now living in Tuscaloosa, as they told stories of harassment and fear following passage of Alabama’s immigration law, commonly known as HB 56, last year.
One described the law as “a situation worse than the (April 27, 2011) tornado.” Others, through Unzueta-Carrasco, said the law was “inhuman and hateful” and that they didn’t want their children growing up in fear.
“I’m here to fight for the future of my children,” said Trini Garcia, an undocumented resident who said she’s lived in Alabama for the last 15 years and who used Unzueta-Carrasco as a translator. “Their success is my success.”
The protest, which started at 4:30 p.m. and lasted until after
6 p.m., drew the attention of passing motorists and pedestrians.
One of them was University of Alabama student Jessica
Edmundson, a junior from Montgomery majoring in geology.
She said she had come downtown for a cup of coffee when she spotted the demonstration.
“I think all of our citizens should have equal rights,” the 21-year-old said. “This (protest) is really empowering.
“The people are going to have to really be engaged in the political process for us to have a stable society.”
Her sentiments were shared by Tuscaloosa County resident Deb Crocker and Northport residents Carl and Pat Clements, who said they showed up to stand alongside the undocumented immigrants in opposition to a law they consider unfair and unjust.
“I’m here to support immigration law reform,” Pat Clements said, adding that she would like to see the immigration and legalization process simplified. “We have room in this country for the people who want to be here.”
Maria Luisa-Hernandes, a 28-year-old native of Mexico who said she has lived the last nine years in Tuscaloosa, said she was protesting for her children and her family.
Luisa-Hernandes said she believes it’s important to educate her children, ages 8 and 3, to appreciate and respect both the culture of Mexico and Alabama.
Her oldest child has not been bullied by his classmates because of his nationality, but she said she is worried that he will be.
“My child has fear,” Luisa-Hernandes said with the help of her interpreter and fellow Somos Tuskaloosa member, Gwendolyn Ferriti. “He’s afraid — he’s no fool …
“He listens to the conversations we have as a family in trying to plan for our futures.”
Luisa-Hernandes, a housekeeper, said she turned out to demonstrate in order for lawmakers to understand that these policies are affecting residents and families.
“The reason I’m here is because I want my voice to be heard,” Luisa-Hernandes said. “I think that we all have rights, we’re all human and we’re all searching for justice.”
Those without papers are often described as living in the shadows, a tired phrase that perhaps survives because it very neatly captures the predicament.
If your life is defined in this manner, you can see the world but the world doesn’t see you, or at least doesn’t see you in all your dimensions. A part of our labor market depends on this arrangement, whether we like it or not.
Years ago, a story on one of these shadowy folk created quite a stir in journalistic circles because the subject was named and photographed in a Page One story, when that term meant more than it does today. But that’s not what made news. The furor erupted when immigration authorities, using the information contained in the article, promptly arrested the subject of the profile and journalists and others angrily debated naming those “in the shadows.”
There are no easy answers to this one. As an editor, I argued that we had a responsibility to describe, with some specificity, the risks people would run if they volunteered to have their names appear in a story. I felt—and to some extent still feel—that we had an obligation to do so because many of the people we write about are not always aware of the personal risks.
A lot has changed on this front. There’s something called National Coming Out of the Shadows Week, which includes specific instructions on how to “declare yourself undocumented.” The shift began with the immigration protests in 2006, and now it is pretty common to see young people publicly brand themselves in this fashion.
As we write, the UndocuBus is making its way east, twelve days into a journey that began in Phoenix and will end at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Many of the people on board have one thing in common: they are here illegally.
In fact, they wear their illegality on their sleeve, as well as on t-shirts, placards and banners strung across the bus . No Papers, No Fear–Sin Papeles, Sin Miedo–is the official slogan.
The bus has already crossed Texas, uneventfully by all accounts, in case you’re wondering. Austin, we hear, was welcoming. The road trip will go through Georgia and Alabama, where new immigration laws pose a considerable risk, at least on paper.
I caught up with it the travelers this morning, by phone, when the bus was still in the Big Easy.
What’s been the reception?
“We’re drawing a lot of energy, a lot of strength,” said Maria Cruz Ramirez, 46, a mother of three from Mexico who has been in the United States for 11 years.
I detected no fear in Maria.
Two of her children went even more public with their status by taking part in an act of civil disobedience directed at Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the Arizona lawman whose take prisoners approach to immigration now has him as lead defendant in a federal civil rights trial.
Her two kids, also undocumented, spent several nights in jail as a result of their very public protest. Ramirez sees the bus ride as part of the same strategy—to bring attention to a population that is all around us and at the same time invisible.
“We should be seen with respect, and treated with dignity,” Ramirez told me. “Just because we don’t have documents doesn’t mean we don’t have rights.”
I wondered at the reception the bus has gotten. Perhaps by design, contact with the world is generally limited to host communities in each city. Still, these people are now out there, literally and figuratively, so the potential for adventures is in theory around every corner.
“We have gotten looks, and some comments, along the way,” said Tania Unzueta, a spokeswoman who is along for the ride. It is pretty tepid stuff. Someone in a car offered something rude. On the other side of the equation, some people offered raised fists in solidarity.
Ramirez had never ventured from Phoenix. Not having papers, somewhat paradoxically, roots you in place. The bus has broadened her vistas, in many ways. And she says she is the better for it.
“Each state is like being in our own house,” she told me.
No doubt that reflects the reception she and the others are getting from immigration rights groups. But the way she said it resonated in another way. People who live in the shadows are now everywhere, and so everywhere to some extent is home to them.
Even when you’re on a bus, rolling east, in the sunlight of a southern summer.
The Sheriff of Orleans Parish has collaborated with ICE to detain people in his jails for extra time at immigration enforcement’s request. The ride for justice joined a demonstration with New Orleans women like Delmy who have been in his jails and are organizing to defend their civil rights and to keep their families together. They met with Sheriff Gusman’s wife and demanded the Sheriff reject ICE hold requests when they ask him to detain people for extra time.