Sunday, July 21, 2024

Report Finds Poor Latinos Abused in the South

According to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, low-income Latinos in the South have been routinely cheated out of wages, denied basic health protections and are victims of racial profiling.

The report entitled “Under Siege: Life for Low-Income Latinos in the South,” documents the experiences of 500 immigrants, said the center, a human rights law firm in Montgomery, Alabama.

Mary Bauer, author of the report says, “This report documents the human toll of failed policies that relegate millions of people to an underground economy, where they are beyond the protection of the law.”

The report found that workplace abuses and racial profiling are still common in the South. Forty-one percent of the people surveyed said they had experienced theft of their wages by employers. Forty-seven percent said they know someone whom police treated unfairly.

The report unveils true experiences of Latinos in the south. A Tennessee woman who says she was jailed for asking for her pay after working at a cheese factory, a bean picker in Alabama who says police at a traffic stop took his life savings and a rapist in Georgia who was not arrested because the suspect’s victim was an undocumented immigrant.

Seventy-seven percent of women surveyed said bosses had sexually harassed them, with many saying these employers used the workers’ immigration status as leverage.

Some key finding were:

–Eight out of every ten Latinos in New Orleans, a city where many immigrants went to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, said they were not paid for work they had performed. Many of those had not even heard that they could file complaints with the Department of Labor.

–Most Hispanics in Georgia said they did not trust the police. Fewer than three of every ten Hispanics in that state felt confident about law enforcement and many of them were concerned about racial profiling in immigration enforcement.

–Immigrants in Charlotte and Nashville said they were apprehensive about cooperating with the police, because local law enforcement agencies had entered into cooperation agreements –known as 287(g)– with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

–A majority of Latinos in Alabama said they feel targeted in traffic stops.

–Seven out of every ten Hispanics in Charlotte believe they are treated differently on the job.

Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen says, “By allowing this cycle of abuse and discrimination to continue, we’re creating an underclass of people who are invisible to justice and undermining our country’s fundamental ideals.”

The report concludes with a series of recommendations, including urging the federal government to strengthen labor laws and crack down on racial profiling to alleviate some of these issues. They also call for immigration reform, “which brings undocumented immigrants out of the shadows by providing a workable path to citizenship.”

Orlando Sentinel