Immigrants get visas, but no work
December 18, 2007
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Rodrigo Hernandez Cahuich hasn’t had any trouble the five other times he’s worked in the United States on a temporary work visa. This time’s different.
He’s one of about 100 Mexican nationals who each spent $400 to get here and planned to give up Christmas with their families to earn money. Around 70 of them have been here since the end of November, and they wonder if they’ll get any work at all.
About 18 of them shared their stories at Catholic Charities in Glenwood Springs on Monday, saying they obtained work visas and were promised jobs by JNS Construction Services LLC but have yet to be provided any.
“They wanted to just come and work legally,” said Marisela Fehr, immigrant outreach coordinator for Catholic Charities. “They didn’t want any problems with anybody; they just needed the money.”
Juan Gabriel Alejandro Ramirez and Hernandez Cahuich, both from the state of Tabasco, Mexico, said jobs in towns they lived in disappeared after damage caused by a flood that started Oct. 31. They wanted to send money home to their families to rebuild their lives. Water covered nearly every inch of the low-lying state of Tabasco and left more than 1 million homes under water. The flooding killed at least 33 people in Tabasco and Chiapas. Alejandro Ramirez’s mother, father and sister went to a shelter near Huimanguillo after 17 days of flooding destroyed their home.
Manuel Mijangos said he came to the U.S. to earn money for his wife, who needs immediate surgery on tumors in her uterus. The men spoke around a long wooden table underneath an image of the Last Supper in the old Catholic church building that Catholic Charities uses. Fehr translated their words in Spanish into English.
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Most are currently staying at the Affordable Inns.
“They’re just desperate to get work and send money to their families,” Fehr said. “Some of them haven’t even been able to sleep.”
The men said they could earn $10 to $30 a day in Mexico compared to $80 per day or more in the U.S. Some of them said they’d worked in the United States on work visas before through a company called Monarch Butterfly ” the same one they used this time ” and never had any problems. A letter from JNS Construction says that Midwest Drywall Co. Inc. told JNS it needed laborers for a project in Avon. The men said they’re receiving money for rooms and two $6 meals a day from JNS, but haven’t been able to get any work.
Calls to both companies Monday went unreturned.
Tom Ziemann, director of Catholic Charities, said he’s contacted both companies and something doesn’t seem right. Midwest said it did not request the laborers at this time as the letter states, while JNS said the workers were sent over too soon and it felt it was doing all it could by providing room and board, and continuing to try to find them jobs, according to Ziemann.
The work visas are valid from Nov. 27 to Jan. 1.
The men said they were promised their visas would be extended six months, though they now wonder if that’s possible or even if they’ll have enough money to get home. Mijangos said he had 35 cents in his pocket. Others hadn’t talked to their families for several days because they didn’t have enough money to buy calling cards.
Ziemann said the men can’t just take jobs with anyone. They have to be contracted through JNS because they signed up with JNS to get the work visas. He encouraged any employers looking for legal workers to contact JNS.
“Hopefully JNS will step up to the plate and give them the jobs they promised,” Fehr said. “That’s all they want to do ” just work ” work, work, work, work, work.”
Ziemann believes the men should receive compensation equal to what they would have been paid had they begun work immediately as promised. He’s dealt with contractors trying to avoid paying undocumented immigrants, but found it ironic that people here to work legally are in such a jam.
“I still want to see JNS pay them for the last two weeks,” Ziemann said, adding that the group spent money to come here legally expecting to work, and it’s not their fault it hasn’t been available.