Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=143503
Story Retrieval Date: 5/22/2013 5:58:50 AM CST
With 100 fired employees, Immigrant Solidarity DuPage is threatening to file a formal complaint to the state Department of Labor against the use of the E-verify system to fire workers. Cristobal Cavazos, director of Immigrant Solidarity DuPage, said employers are using E-verify against immigrant workers with seniority.
“We’re starting the first rumblings of resistance against the firings,” Cavazos said. “It’s a policy of racism. They’re firing people who look foreign and who do not speak English.”
The Employment Verification System, E-verify, is operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration. The system is used to check if a person is eligible to work in the United States.
Immigrant Solidarity DuPage organized a forum in Glendale Heights to discuss labor rights. The grassroots organization represents mostly Hispanic laborers.
An increasing flow of Hispanics have settled in DuPage County for work. In 2007, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Agricultural Statistics Service reported 113, 989 Hispanics, comprising 12.3 percent of the county’s population. This indicates a 40 percent increase from the number of Hispanics recorded in the county's 2000 census.
Some of the attendants at the forum shared their personal experiences.
“Immigrants just want better jobs. We are not terrorists,” said Lucino Arcos.
Arcos, 43, said he wants people to understand immigrants. He sat on the front row at Saturday’s forum. With furrowed eyebrows, he listened to the stories of Hispanic workers who expressed concerns about the E-verify system.
Arcos was fired in July. For 10 years, he said he worked as a custodian for Harvard Maintenance Inc., a company that provides cleaning and security services. Arcos said the company used E-verify to claim that his social security number does not match with records on file.
Currently, he works as a soccer referee for local teams but he said the money is not enough. He said Hispanics should band together to stop what he calls, unjust firings.
“There’s much fear in people taking part in meetings like this,” Arcos said. “But, these are the type of meetings we need.”
“I have been without work for a month and I have sick family in Mexico to take care of,” said Yolanda Borrayo.
For nearly a decade, Borrayo has worked at a Steak ‘n Shake in DuPage. Her employment has been suspended. Her employer gave her a “no match” notice based on E-verify. Speaking to the group in a soft voice, Borrayo said she has no one to take care of her because she is not married.
She said that she has been a diligent worker and does not know why her employment has been threatened.
“Why did they take my seniority?” Borrayo asked. “Why did they do this to me?”
“Who will work for three months on their own volition?” Jose Nevarez asked. “Certainly not me. I have a family and bills.”
Nevarez said the work he did in August 2008 on an air conditioner at a church in Aurora with his friend Manuel Sanchez, was not voluntary.
Nevarez, a day laborer, came to this country nearly two years ago on a work permit. He said that he and Sanchez never received wages on the work done to dismantle an air conditioning system and for a mural he painted at Apostolic Assembly of Faith Church.
Two weeks ago, he and Sanchez launched a hunger strike and received media attention. He and Sanchez have been offered a deal to end the strike.
He said his story should encourage Latino workers to fight for labor rights.
“The hunger strike was the only way to get something done,” Nevarez said. “It’s not about money. It’s about justice.”
Gonzalez has not been fired.
“For me everything is fine, but when I hear about other Mexicans, I feel sorry for them,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t have any bad experiences.”
Gonzalez, 41, said she supports immigrant rights and wants better treatment for her people. She has lived in DuPage for five years and said she is studying education to become a teacher, but may not get the chance to do that.
“I want to be a part of this country but the laws are not always good to us,” she said.