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US Senate May Gut Home Rule Powers over Day Laborer Centers

Seriously, laugh at the next conservative who mentions "states rights." Quite obviously -- at least to US Senate conservatives -- the issue of how to deal with day laborers being hired on our streets is outside the competence of state and local governments. Yesterday, the United States Senate Judiciary Committee approved an amendment to an immigration bill that would bar state and local governments from requiring local businesses to help get day laborers off the streets and to facilitate day laborer centers. The amendment effectively would prevent states and localities from "requiring as a condition of conducting, continuing or expanding a business that a business entity -- 1. provide, build, fund, or maintain a shelter structure, or designated area for use by day laborers at or near its place of business; or 2. take other steps that facilitate the employment of day laborers by others." Senators Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) both attacked the amendment, arguing that is was wrong for the feds to cripple the ability of local governments to deal with community issues surrounding the loitering of day laborers looking for work. As a study released in January 2006, On the Corner: Day Labor in the United States, details, day laborers are an exploited workforce suffering employer abuse, theft of their wages by those employers, and heavy levels of workplace injury. One of the few innovations to help end this abuse have been community-based hiring centers to to reduce workers� rights violations and to help communities address competing concerns over day labor. Yet the US Senate Judiciary Committee voted yesterday to cripple those efforts and send day laborers back into the unregulated underground economy. Companies that exploit immigrant workers are cheering today. This is all part of the pattern of rightwing politicians manipulating anti-immigrant rhetoric to actually make it easier for businesses to benefit from undocumented workers who are further stripped of their rights to hold those unscrupulous employers accountable. For more on day laborer issues, see:
  • National Employment Law Project Day Laborers project
  • National Day Laborer Organizing Network