A New Birth of Freedom


Somewhere on the way to the sea, South Carolina, United States of America
December 31
Major General
Military Division of the Mississippi (Army of the Ohio, Army of the Cumberland, Army of the Tennessee)
I root out and destroy secession, wherever it is found.


JANUARY 20, 2012 9:34AM

Witness to Exploitation

Rate: 30 Flag

Yesterday, I represented a recent Mexican immigrant in a traffic proceeding. He was working at a construction site and barely speaks a word of English.

He doesn't have an American drivers' license, but his employer requires him to drive a pickup truck, pursuant to his duties on the construction site. This is a standard pickup truck, and my client uses it to haul around gravel, construction equipment and materials. It was provided to him by his employer, for work-purposes. That said, the truck was unregistered, uninsured and had non-working headlights. 

My client was pulled over by the police. He was cited for (a) driving without a license (b) driving an unregistered motor vehicle (c) driving without adequate insurance documents and (d) driving without working lamps (headlights). 

There wasn't much we could do for him. His major concern was staying out of jail, because he was worried that this could trigger deportation proceedings. I managed to keep him out of jail, and I managed to get 1/2 of his charges reduced by way of plea bargaining. 

That said, he would have a hefty fine. On the other hand, no jail or community service, which he was happy about. He owed the court roughly $550 in fines. My client told me that this equals almost a month's worth of wages.  

The thing is, he had to pay this all out of his own pocket. He managed to tell me, in broken English, that his boss refused  to pay for this ticket and that his boss tells the Mexican migrant workers that this is a "normal cost" that they have to endure, for the "privilege" of working in America. 

I felt like this was total bullshit. I think the boss should be sued and forced to pay this ticket. Its his fault that this guy was driving around an unregistered, unsafe vehicle to begin with. Sure, my client had no licence, but the fees and penalties for that, alone, would have been far less, had the boss been doing his duties under the law, pursuant to the Social Contract. 

If we want a more just and decent society, especially toward our immigrants, we need to make sure that the law applies not only to them, but also to the employers that exploit them. We sit around and blame the immigrants for "taking our jobs." But the fact of the matter is that these are innocent folks just looking for work. The real culprits here are the Jobsite Overseers.

One day, they will have to pay the piper for their transgressions...  


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I'd be interested to see how a suit against the employer plays out. This could have implications broader than a disposition for your client. Will you pursue it?

He didn't want to. He was too scared. This tends to be the general case with most migrant workers. Furthermore, even though I am the idealistic young lawyer, I have brought it up with my boss and he absolutely refuses. He says its not in our "business model."

Once I strike out on my own, or go to a different firm, this is something I intend to pursue, like a pitbull.
The last paragraph and sentence give me hope. Go pitbull...we all need to become pitbulls for justice. Important piece...glad you were on the scene. rated
I'm not shocked. This has long been the way of the construction boss. A particular type who hires "independent contractors" then treats them as low level employees. He shouldn't have it both ways. Either the man was "independent" and solely responsible for his own expenses, which also would have excluded the Overseer from setting working hours,specific time related tasks, and therefore make him guilty of certain violations etc., or the man is an employee and the Overseer is the responsibile party.
So outraged..yes. Shocked...no.
Go get him RW. The Overseer can't have it both ways.
Muse: I hope to go pitbull. I just wish my boss would let me. If he doesn't, in time, I will go form my own firm and take-on whatever cases I see fit. The problem, though, is start up capital. With all my student-loan debt, it may be some time until I start my own firm 8(

Alsoknownas: Sadly, in our legal system, the employer often gets it both ways and the authorities are very content with this. Occupy Wall Street needs to recognize issues like this more clearly. The horrors faced by migrant workers aren't just unique to the Southwest. They exist all over. An injustice committed to one, is an injustice committed to us all.

I would very much love to join a non-profit. But sadly, none of them are hiring right now. 8(
Bloody disgusting, is what this is. As I see it, neither the police nor the courts could do anything within the confines of existing laws, but you are right that the company owner should be pursued.

Of course, he'd just fold up his tent and re-open under another name....
They get put in a hard place, an argument for less of them than some would have projected in the future, but in a humane and reasonable fashion and over time, and mainly be just regularizing their status of whose here, and being honest with ourselves and Mexico about how many we want that we can refrain from taking advantage of.
Does your state have no vehicle inspection requirement? How is the employer not be held accountable for this vehicle being on the road? He owns it, he should have to pay the fines for it being unsafe, not the driver. How absurd and how tragic for this worker and others like him. You're not an idealistic young lawyer. You are someone who has a conscience and wants to do good.
North of the Border, we keep fussing about the illegals and their ill-treatment. This is like continuing to fuss over a blister instead of doing something about the shoes.
What I mean is: let's focus on Mexico to make it a place people want to live in and make decent wages. Maybe start with water. If we weren't watering lawns from Colorado to San Fran to San Diego to Phoenix, if we stopped stealing their water, Mexicans would have an enormous agricultural industry.

Next, drugs. We've been fighting the wrong drug war: keeping drugs away from my little Jonnie. We must fight the drug economy by continuing to interdict the traffic but then giving drugs away for free. Or in exchange for information about traffickers.

And then, investments. Put some jobs in Mexico and we can stop fussing about illegals.
Boan: I think we should start a national database of non-compliant, exploitative employers. Something like "Angie's list," but for the labor/employee world, and we should make it multilingual and host it from 100 servers from 100 different nations.

Don: I think you're right. But Labor and civil rights groups MUST play a role in such a policy. Too often, corporate interests play hispanic ethnic civil rights groups off against Labor Groups, which divides the left.

Razzle: there is such a law where I reside, but the police only cite the driver. If the vehicle is not registered, there is no way to prove who owns what. Sometimes, the plates will tell you that (when it has plates). Oftentimes, these trucks lack plates.

Prosecutors often refuse to put blame on owners or employers in cases like this, because they know the immigrants will never, ever turn on their employers, for fear of being blacklisted from jobsites.

All the more reason for UNIONS
Kennewick: but that brings us to another issue. The GOP has long said to blue collar whites that the only way to stop illegal immigration, is for us to offshore American jobs to Mexico. Once Mexicans have industrial and manufacturing jobs, the reasoning goes, they will stay in Mexico.

This reasoning is flawed.

First, we need migrant labor in the United States in some industries because alot of young Americans today don't want to do lots of labor-intensive work. I know many who would, but even more would not. Rather than get tough with our own people, we take the easy way out, and import labor and employ them at slave labor wages. We also have declining birth rates among Americans in the US, and we need blue-collar immigration from Mexico and other nations to offset this.

Second, there has been no proven relationship between an increase in sweatshop jobs in Mexico, and an increase in (a) job security in Mexico (b) economic stability in Mexico or (c) a decrease in the desire of many to escape and come to the United States.

The economic impact such jobs make is too small to impact overall demographic patterns.
Taking out an ad in the local paper detailing this story - and naming the employer - may be a way to shine a light on this company's corrupt practices. Or at least, a letter to the editor.
Good luck, RW. We have the same problems in Texas and you already know the results will be the illegal pays through the nose while the employer gets a free ride due to plaintiffs' inability to pay court costs and attorneys fees. Same scenario for pitbulls like you, RW - it's all about the bottom line.
The same things happen in the meat industry. Large packing house actively recruit dirt poor third world workers, bring them north and then work them into the ground for a pittance. Then, when they get injured or start to complain about the working conditions, INS is called in to deport them. This is all business as usual in America today.
I hope you can help him, RW. We need more attorneys like you, helping those in need. Awful how the poor and immigrants are exploited for a buck. Rated.
If he is so worried about deportation he must not be here legally anyway. That makes him an insurgent RW, a far more dangerous insurgent than the artificial ones that FOX and CNN create nightly in the service of empire. Beside the fact that he is a scab taking a job that should be performed by a teamster and his very presence here enables the elitists to keep the minimum wage at its current 1940’s poverty standard what American would get behind the wheel of a truck that is unregistered, uninsured and had has no headlights? You should have plead him out to a felony and smiled and shook his hand right before the Bailiff handcuffed him. If I had my way he would be sent back to Mexico in little pieces along with all the “liberals” who advocate his presence here. If it will make you feel better we can also shoot the traitor that hired him. That is the extent of my empathy for the little greasy bastard. It simply amazes me that so many progressives are so caught up in Gnome Chomsky styled talking points that they no longer seem to understand that the very definition of a country is a group of people in a given geographical area that protect clearly defined borders. I think you need to Google ‘Operation Wetback’ and see what the last great president did and said when he was faced with this same “problem” upon assuming office at the outset of the 1950’s.
Well. I wish you a financial windfall so that you can pursue cases like these. You have the intelligence and the heart to pursue them and could make some substantial change. Do you know any other attorneys who might be like minded thinkers? Perhaps networking with the SPLC. I think they might be interested. I am interested in your discovery.
Of everything I read so far, from the article to the comments, the most shocking was the last one above mine. Its little wonder that this attitude prevails in the situation you write about. The "job creator" doesn't give a rat's ass about his workers, even depends on their fear to keep retribution off his back for actually being responsible for the situation; the police don't give a rat's ass, either, they cited, got their revenue and walked away clean; the Joe Plumber types out there don't give a rat's ass, because they still think of illegal immigrants as foreign invaders, worthy of a bullet and.or a deportation trip back to their country, because they're "stealing our jobs;" your boss doesn't care, because it doesn't affect his bottom line for his business model to pursue something akin to human integrated justice of equal protections under the law.

It's a sad, SAD testament to the "winning" strategy by large and powerful interests to marginalize the worker, set the workers against each other, create and exacerbate frictions between workers, all the while telling us that they can't make a profit if the situation doesn't change -- while they take bonus' and pay earnings over 137 times the average workers' wages.

That it's winning is proven by the post above mine.

Sorry, correction, the second post above mine, Sheila ninja'd me.
Whoa! Just my luck to follow Jack Heart.

I guess I fall closer to the center on this one, RW. I agree the employer is just as guilty of just as many crimes as your client, but I do think the client is guilty of them all. He is here by choice knowing his choice is illegal. It is his responsibility to know the laws of the land and it is up to him to take the job or move on to one that doesn't require that he break more laws than he already has.

I care very much about your client and every other person who has come here in desperation to try to eke out a living. But there is a limit to my sympathy for a person who dives into a pool of crocodiles and finds himself on the menu.

I'm past the hiding-immigrants-in-my-attic phase, but I may have to go back to it if the deportation shit continues. ICE would like to find 400,000 people a year and kick them out of the country--after serving a suitably profitable length of time in a privatized prison somewhere. These are often hellholes, intentionally under-regulated to make the experience as awful as possible, including women being raped by guards and people being forced to offer up bribes to get medical attention. All in a day's work for scum-sucking private security companies and their garbage employees, and a perfect template for where the system is trending in its treatment of everyone...

By the way, the agencies have never been able to make the quota, which was upped under Obama. They can't find more than about 150,000 annually, and many of those are deported under false circumstances. Tens of thousands of hispanic US citizens have been kicked out. It's a wonder there isn't an insurrection in every hispanic neighborhood in this shitty land of ours. Personally I don't believe any of the numbers on immigrants in-country either. Maybe it's a few million. Not 11 million though. That's a ridiculous statistic that's thrown around uncritically by corporate media. They like the prison industrial complex--hell, the media and Congress are its main backers.

Boanarges is right.
I'd like to comment on your line:
We sit around and blame the immigrants for "taking our jobs."

This was said of the Turks in Germany by the Germans too in the 60s and70s. What thet didn't want to acknowledge is that the immigrants are doing the jobs, at pittance, because the natives don't want to touch any of it.

It's a crying shame on Americans that the employer cannot lose his business licence RW. For if the onus was on the employers instead of on the employees no illegals would come here to work.

'Tis a pity for me to see the comment saying this illegal employee should not be here. He would not be here if he was not desperate for a job.

Many Americans see only the illegals at fault. I do not. I see the employers making huge profits hiring them to start with.
If the laws were changed and the employers were fined and lost those all important business licences on the first offence, this would not happen.

Your thoughts?? I certainly would love to see what you think.
this "boss" is the new slave owner of our times...you are doing good work here, and I am enraged....it makes me want to do an interview with an immigrant here in Wisconsin...this was good for me to read today, and good for you to direct me here...Thank-you for serving the cause of humanity.
I'm hoping the universe holds a person willing and ready to fund your high ideals and pitbull heart, because this world needs more folks like you, with the means to do something about it!
You have a good heart RW. Kudos for wanting to stand up for the underdogs. Somebody has to.
This may be my last comment on this visit. I'm not really back yet.

I'll start with a question:
What happens when you look up the vehicle's VIN number? It has to be in a system somewhere.

Illegal immigration works like water leaking into a basement. I'm using this analogy to set up a physical model, not to comment on the actors.

You can waterproof the walls of your basement as much as you want but, sooner or later, it's probably going to leak. If you want to stop the leak, you need grading, which is to say you need to make most of the water flow away from your walls. Don't depend on the walls, take the pressure off the walls.

Economic pressure works such that people flow away from where there isn't money and toward where there is. If your living is that miserable, that's what you're going to do out of necessity. The supply of labor is going to flow toward demand.

Why is there money here? Because people hire illegals. Without that hiring, most illegals would have no incentive to cross the border. If you want to reduce illegal immigration, reduce the demand for its labor.

Why does anyone in their right mind think that the threat of deportation is going to deter someone who is financially desperate? It can't. The odds of the gamble are too good. If, on the other hand, the employer faced major fines or prison, the cost-benefit analysis might very well lead to a refusal to go for the profit of exploitation. Right now it's the opposite: It's both highly profitable and low risk to hire illegals. With that formula, of course you're going to get illegals.

I haven't commented on the morality of any of this, just on the effectiveness of the incentive structure. Legalizing illegal narcotics and treating use and addiction as diseases/disorders rather than crimes would create such a massive fiscal windfall for government at most levels that I have no idea why we haven't taken this idea more seriously. It would also cut off the major source of funding to organized crime which in and of itself would create another windfall for governments that save a fortune on enforcement. What we're doing now is idiotic.

Anyway, though Jack is a friend, I disagree with him on this one. People without money trying to feed their families will do what they have to do; that's morally more important to them than respecting the comparative idiocies of a border. If I were desperate enough, that would apply to me. If he were desperate enough, it would apply to Jack. To Leslie, with whom I disagree more seldom than I do Jack, I'll answer this: If the only available food is fish, you'll swim with alligators to get it.

And don't expect to find work with a non-profit. They're called non-profits for a reason.
It's employers that keep the pipeline of illegal immigration going. They're also the main beneficiaries of the sweat shop wages they pay these people. If government were serious about ending illegal immigration, they would go after their employers.
modern-day American slavery
"If we want a more just and decent society,"

There's the problem.

As simple as that, in some ways but implementing it is more complicated.

Those in power simply don't want a more just and equal society hence the extremely bigoted laws and selective enforcement of them.

Making it a crime to be born in the wrong place gives those with power a license to exploit.
It seems to me that ending an unjust system is the first step. Making a better system is the second step.

Enemies of freedom often stifle the bugle-sound of emancipation by asking us "what system do you propose?"

This is meant to ossify and freeze us in our tracks.

1776 began with a Declaration of Independence. The Articles of Confederation and Constitution came later. Had they waited to defy George III until they drafted a Bill of Rights, they would have never gotten their project off the ground.

The first thing we must do is get together and agree the system sucks. We need a 20 Point Platform. Then we need an organization. Then we need unyielding political and electoral discipline in carrying it out.

This is the only way.
What kind of a 20 point platform?

The revolution happened before the solution 200+ years ago. Is that formula working in Egypt?

The current system sucks. Granted. There have been corrupt systems replaced by outraged populations all over the world. However, if getting rid of the current system is the point, thinking "How could the replacement be worse?" be aware that the corrupt are typically replaced by zealots. And they are worse.

They were worse in China. They were probably worse in Cuba. They were worse in Gaza. They ended up worse in the Soviet Union. They were immeasurably worse in Cambodia. They were arguably worse in Iran.

"What do you propose?" is a legitimate question. You don't have to have the entire structure figured out, but you need some sort of blueprint, some sort of consensus that protects people.

Right now, one of the problems we're running into is that the nature of the problems isn't being communicated effectively. It's amazing what people don't know. Most people still haven't figured out that the problem with global warming isn't the fact that the world is getting a little warmer, it's that the changes in temperature screw up weather patterns and biological habitats. This is pretty basic but isn't getting out there. So much that's that kind of basic isn't communicated. We have an entire continent that doesn't understand that austerity doesn't rescue poor countries, it kills them by bankrupting their customer bases and taxpayer bases. I live in a state where the legislature overrode a governor's veto to cancel a one penny sales tax which was supporting most education in the state, including state universities, and that killing the qualifications of a generation is a less important issue than a cash flow issue that hardly anyone notices. We have debates between Republican candidates where the candidates are such idiots that even the Republican voters hate them all and keep looking for the lesser of however many evils there are, so Gingrich was up then down and is now up again while Romney keeps winning primaries and caucuses while a tremendous number of voters keep looking for an alternative to this guy, trying first one candidate, then a second, then a third, then a fourth, then the second again, because they recognize correctly that none of them are worth electing. We've got a public that believes the most ridiculous conspiracy theories imagineable and worries about every idiotic phantom menace that comes down the pike, including whether the President of the United States is actually a foreign national who is actually representing the interests of Kenya - without there being any evidence that he's representing the interests of Kenya.

It's murder to protect the public when they suspend their judgment so consistently. Sometimes I think that most of the world should be filtered through Snopes.
Zealots are sometimes needed, provided they can be managed by the moderates, when the time is right. This is what happened in America, when the Federalists were able to reign in the populist excesses of the Sons of Liberty. Then, in turn, the anti-Federalists were able to reign in the oligarchic tendencies of the Federalists.

That said, without the zealous Sons of Liberty, the entire project wouldn't have gotten off the ground.

There is a time and a place for zealots. And just because the ultra passionate were sinful in China, Cuba and Iran, doesn't mean that the ultra-passionate in America, raised in an Anglo-Saxon political culture (with all that entails) would act in the same way.

Passion has gotten Americans very far, in many ways, since 1776. Some called Jane Adams a Zealot. Some called MLK a zealot. Some said the same thing about the Labor Movement and the Suffragettes.

I think America is alot different from those places.
Mostly agreed, but

The Tea Party are zealots.

The Moral Majority were zealots.

Your zealot list was all on the Left, which I'm more comfortable with, but that's not the only source of zealots here.

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you and I am a zealot about certain causes, like gay rights, but be careful.
Tough situation here all the way around. First of all, the truck - unregistered, uninsured, and non-working headlights? That equals unsafe. Who's going to be responsible if he's in an accident, and especially if he's at fault. The employer is irresponsible and selfish. If he's going to hire illegals he ought to protect both them and anyone they come in contact with; he's most likely paying cut-rate wages and not providing benefits. With the savings, he should be able to insure his vehicles and make sure they're safe for both the driver and others.

I'm curious about your client - how did he avoid deportation proceedings. Doesn't he have to provide proof of insurance when he goes to court? And how can he get it without a license or a registered vehicle? Don't know what state you're in or what the laws are; maybe he just has a good lawyer. :)

The only reason people risk their lives to come here is to get out of Mexico because things are so bad. I can't fault them. Most people will do anything for a better life and most don't want to leave their homeland but they're desperate. Conditions have got to improve in Mexico or there's never going to be an end to illegal immigration. I wish I knew what the answer was.
From the evidence presented here (;0)) it's clear we need a system to hold the employers responsible. You said your client's fine equalled a month's wages? $550 for a month on a construction site? Appalling. And did the boss get his truck back? Clear evidence of ownership, there.

I particularly dislike the system that allows exploitation with no repercussions. This is what you get when you allow people to police themselves.

So the new system should be set up to make exploitation like this hurt. I still don't understand why we the people are not allowed a voice in our own laws and why we put up with it. It's one thing we all agree on. Now we need to pull together to fix it.
Does anybody know of a national system that offers good protection for illegal immigrants? And/or affords a decent system of workers' rights? The two concepts are inextricably intertwined.
♥╚═══╝╚╝╚╝╚═══╩═══╝─╚for setting the record straight.
Patrick Henry is a good example of a Zealot, albeit one whose power was neutralized by Federalists, after the Revolution.
"what system do you propose?"

For starters Election Reform and I could and have come up with more to follow that up. I don’t necessarily cite my own ideas because they’re the best but because I’m most familia4r with them. There are many other people that have come up with other systems that are much better but they have no access to the Mass Media to get their message across. The mere fact that I have tried to come up with better ideas that actually stand up for everyone is enough to enable me to come up with something better than the things the political establishment and corporate media comes up with. They want to keep all the power to themselves and they more interested in convincing us they have a good plan than having one.

That is why education must be destroyed and people like you and me have to be kept far away from the Mass Media. Occasionally they find someone who isn’t prepared and ask "what system do you propose?" Then when he doesn’t come up with an idea they go back to their own spin.
Zachary Taylor:

Open Salon frequently has "get togethers" for folks regarding birthdays, regional proximity, shared creative writing interests, or weird shit, like "Pirate Women," whatever that is.

As of yet, I have not seen Progressives on Open Salon get together and meet.

I think we could use OS as a useful tool in creating some sort of useful progressive political-intellectual organization, which could serve as a first step to something more, over time. Sort of like the Jacobin Club in France, in the 1770s.

We should all get together sometime and meet so that we can share these ideas.

Yes, electoral reform is KEY.

We can supplement it by creating a HALL OF COMMERCE. This would enable all the commercial interests to pick a single delegate. They would give speeches and print stuff and deliberate. They could be on CSPAN. However, they wouldn't have the power to pass controlling legislation and they would not be able to lobby Congress.

If Congress wants to watch their speeches and read their stuff, so be it.

This way, they get their 1st am right to free speech, they get to be on TV, but they are purged from the legislature once and for all. And totally banned from making political contributions, because they have been co-opted as a pseudo-branch of government. And as such, it would be seen as impermissible encroachment of one branch upon another.
Getting together with other OSers wouldn’t be a bad idea, and of course there are many other organizations that are also doing similar things so we could work with them as well. Ideally the corporations should have no more right to lobby than the rest of us; or perhaps the heads of corporations should be allowed to lobby independently but the corporate interest shouldn’t count other than that. Corporations are artificial entities and the people running them can do their own lobbying. Money should have nothing to do with it and we should all have an equal right to participate in the “free press.” Allowing the corporations to have complete control of the press defeats the purpose.
This is why an American can't get those jobs. The poor Mexican immigrants are desperate and will put up with such abuse because it's much worse in Mexico. I say go after the boss. Drop a dime on him. Was the client here legally? If so, why can't he get a license and go to work?