SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - An ABC 4 special assignment hidden camera investigation.
We give you a close up look at what it's like to try to get a job as a day laborer. The people who do the jobs that most of us don't want, for little, or sometimes no money at all.
(Narrated by Antonio Lujan)
Starting at the crack of dawn day laborers gather at a street corner like this one. Hussling, just to land a job.
I wanted to be in their shoes. “We'll see how easy it is for me to find a job and how long it will take,” commented Antonio.
I became Armando Marroquin. “I'm from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, which is a state in the northern part of Mexico. The reason I moved here is to help my sister get an education,” he said.
My journey began with many questions. “I don't know if these people are going to be friendly or if they are going to be aggressive and see me as a competitor,” Antonio considered.
As I got closer my nerves got the best of me. He added, “Are they going to ask for my documentation? Are they going to even care if I'm an undocumented immigrant?”
Two men said hello. The others weren't so welcoming. Then “Andres” came up to me. He said times are tough, and suggested I do as my sister.
“It would be better if you went to school,” Andres commented.
Andres told me to be quick. The guys with more skills get picked up faster, but he has one more advantage. “You have learn a little English,” Andres said.
He was right. Within minutes, he was on his way to mow lawns.
Later that day, I also met “Sergio.”
Antonio asked, “I'm looking for a job, but I don't know where to start?”
“Come, I'll show you,” Sergio said.
Sergio crossed the border through California in 1986 all on his own with no family. He's from Nayarit, Mexico. He's moved around the west coast from Washington to California and now Utah. He was glad to help a newcomer like me.
“They pick you up here. They can hire you for a day, a week, and sometimes just a few hours. The situation is tough,” he said.
I asked if I needed a visa to work?
“They'll pay you cash, but at a restaurant, a store, a company or hotel they'll give you a check and that's a hassle,” Sergio commented.
Sergio said some employers abuse undocumented workers by making them work long hours and hardly paying them at all. He said, “You have to ask them. How much an hour?”
Getting paid is only part of the struggle. Sergio also has to watch out for drug dealers on the streets. He said it's those few bad apples that get immigrants who want to work in trouble. “This woman wants drugs. She's looking for coke. Dealers sometimes come here to sell coke and marijuana,” Sergio lamented.
Sergio wasn't going to risk his freedom, so he told her to go to another corner.
Utah won national attention this year for H.B. 497. Some call it a gentler approach to immigration, because it allows undocumented people to remain in the state if they work and don't commit crimes, but others criticize it for allowing police to do the job of immigration officials. Sergio worries about what will happen.
“It gets worse every day. It's all going downhill,” he said.
After all the waiting, today wasn't so bad. Sergio got an offer. A car drove up and asked Sergio if he could help him move items at his shop. Sergio asked him how much? The man responded, “How much are you willing to do the job for?” Sergio asked for 10 dollars an hour and the employer agreed.
I wished Sergio luck and we went our separate ways.
“I have a whole different perspective about their life and how they get by on a day to day basis,” said Antonio.
Even for day laborers, the economy has taken its toll on their opportunities. An opportunity they came for in the first place.