Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Their names will not be read today on the anniversary of 9-11. But still, we cannot forget them.
In the aftermath of 9-11, the following article was written.

Undocumented workers: Hidden victims of terrorism

By Fred Gaboury
People's Weekly World

On Jan. 29, 1948 an airplane carrying 28 Mexican workers who were being deported crashed near Los Gatos, Calif. In reporting the incident, The New York Times published the names of the pilot and co-pilot and dismissed the other casualties as "deportees."

This insensitivity led Woodie Guthrie to write "Deportees," the chorus of which says: "You won't have a name when you ride the big airplane/All they will call you will be 'deportee.'"

Although not strictly applicable, it may have special meaning for the families of undocumented immigrants who died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center Sept. 11. Luz Maria Mendoza, 31, is such a family member. Her husband, Juan Ortega, was a deliveryman working in the World Trade Center complex when it was destroyed. Now, in addition to searching for her husband, she is searching for financial help for herself and her three school-aged children. When she went to the same place as other families who have already received help - the city's family assistance center - she left empty-handed.

The problem: Although Ortega and thousands of undocumented immigrants like him contributed mightily to the economy of lower Manhattan, they were "off the payroll," meaning there were no records. "Employers are not going to report them missing because they are afraid of sanctions," said Joel Magallan, a Jesuit brother and executive director of Asociacion Tepeyac de New York.

Magallan and others who work closely with immigrants fear that perhaps dozens of newcomers who lived alone, worked off the books or under aliases have disappeared. "These people will die like they lived - invisibly," Magallan said. "Many of them had no papers - and therefore no record. So how are you going to find them, since some of the families may be afraid to report a missing member?"

Magallan's group has put together a list of 65 immigrant workers who "disappeared" in the Trade Center disaster and more than 700 workers who are now unemployed because their place of work is barricaded off as work continues on removing the debris from the collapsed towers. "Our estimate is that these workers are only about 10 percent of all workers employed in the Trade Center complex," he said.

But neither the families of the missing nor the unemployed workers had received a penny nearly three weeks after the attack. Because they lack papers, they are unable to get help from public agencies.

On Sept. 26 a group of 15 undocumented workers who sought help from the state Crime Victims Board were turned away when they were unable to supply Social Security numbers. Accompanied by Oscar Saracho, a staff member from Asociacion Tepeyac, they had been told the board could provide up to $1,200 in assistance, regardless of immigrant status. But when Saracho talked to a board official, he was handed forms to be filled out by employers calling for Social Security numbers, something none of the workers possessed.

Magallan told the World he knows of no charitable organization or other funding agency that specifically targets undocumented workers or their families. "We have a meeting planned with the Red Cross that might help," he said. "And we hope that Mayor Giuliani will be able to make good on his promise to use his office to encourage charitable organizations to help."

Amanda Ream, a researcher for Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 100, said 79 members of the local perished when the World Trade Center collapsed and that the local believes at least 25 of them were undocumented.

She said the families of these workers were having difficulty getting any assistance from federal or state programs. "The Federal Emergency Management Agency answers all requests for aid by survivors of undocumented workers with a flat 'no,'" leaving them only charitable agencies.

"We've gotten some aid from the Red Cross but that will not last and will not be enough to support a family for any length of time."

The AFL-CIO estimates that as many as 700 union members are among the dead or missing at the World Trade Center. Hardest hit were Service Employees Local 32B-32J, whose 1,200 members included janitors, security guards and window washers, and HERE. Some 250 members of that union worked in the Windows on the World Restaurant on the 102nd and 103rd floors of the center's North Tower.

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