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ILLEGALS EXPLOITED IN KATRINA CLEANUP Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Post-Katrina reconstruction in New Orleans has depended heavily upon illegal workers from Mexico who appear at dawn and wait to be picked up for 14-hour shifts of hauling debris, ripping out drywall, and nailing walls. Before Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana had one of the smallest Hispanic populations in the country. Hispanics represented 2.5 percent of residents, compared with 12.5 percent nationally. Nearly 100,000 Hispanics moved to the Gulf Coast region after Katrina, lured by promises of plentiful work and high wages. Nearly one-fourth of the construction workers in New Orleans are illegal immigrants. Since many of the workers rebuilding New Orleans are in the U.S. illegally, they are vulnerable to exploitation. They work in hazardous conditions without protective gear and earn much less than their legal counterparts. Documented workers in New Orleans are paid $16.50 per hour, while illegal immigrants are paid $10 per hour. Workers from Mexico have responded to a national priority to rebuild the city while their rights to safety are being violated. Under federal labor laws, illegal immigrants are given the same health and safety protections as documented workers. Fewer than one-third of illegal immigrants said that they understood the hazards of removing asbestos or mold, compared with more than 65 percent of documented laborers. Many immigrant workers are afraid to raise their concerns to employers for fear they will be deported to Mexico. Protecting the border between the United States and Mexico has become a hot political topic. Numerous illegal immigrants are performing important work in construction, agriculture, food processing, and the reconstruction of areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Opinion polls indicate that Americans want the borders tightened to shut down the pipeline of illegal immigrants coming into the United States.

THINK CRITICALLY 1. Why are illegal workers likely candidates for rebuilding the areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina? 2. Why do workers from Mexico risk coming to the United States for employment? 3. What are two ethical issues involved with this case? 4. What types of jobs provide popular employment for illegal immigrants? Why?


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