Resentment Grows Near Spots Where Day Laborers Gather
Elena Gaona, San Diego Union-Tribune, July 29
Unofficial hiring spots like the one in Encinitas exist throughout the county, sometimes in an uneasy relationship with the homes and businesses nearby. Tensions at these crossroads of supply and demand for labor may be increasing.
For example, business owners and residents in Encinitas, Rancho Peñasquitos, Rancho Bernardo and San Diego’s Grantville neighborhood want the day laborers gone, or at least out of sight. Some longtime hiring spots now have “No Loitering” signs posted as well as security guards. Some residents are frequently contacting the Border Patrol, meeting with elected officials and sharing their concerns on Web sites and through e-mail.
Day laborers still fill tens of thousands of jobs, from yard work in Carmel Valley to construction work in San Ysidro. But some say acceptance of their presence is waning, particularly in North County, perhaps due to a shift in the national mood.
A Home Depot on Fairmount Avenue in San Diego’s Grantville neighborhood posted signs about six months ago because of a problem with men soliciting work, Home Depot spokeswoman Kathryn Gallagher said.
The bright yellow signs, which translated from Spanish say “No Wanderers Allowed,” have had little effect, workers say.
“They just run us off and say they will give us tickets,” said Roberto Rodriguez, 32, of City Heights, leaning on a light post as he waited in a no-man’s land — a landscaped area between the private store parking lot where he is not allowed and the public sidewalk where he can’t block foot traffic. “We’re not beggars. We just need work.”
“It doesn’t say beggars. It says wanderers,” said Eduardo Valdez, 45.
“Same thing,” both men said in unison.
In Rancho Bernardo, residents are organizing to post “No Loitering” signs outside the Albertson’s grocery store where day laborers gather.
Maybe the signs should have fewer letters, Ralph Stewart, who is in charge of the community’s day-worker committee, said at a recent meeting.
Maybe they should have the word “undocumented” with an X through it, Stewart said after the meeting, adding that he would have no problem if the men were in the country legally.
Stewart agreed the issue is cyclical, but this time “people are tired of it.” “There’s quite a few of them urinating and disturbing traffic,” he said.
Some say stealing, too.
“Theft is not an issue for us,” Albertsons spokeswoman Lilia Rodriguez said. “We treat all of our customers the same, and they are customers.”
In Rancho Peñasquitos, Julie Adams wants something done about the men who gather near her home.
Many of the day workers in Rancho Peñasquitos live in the canyons, in small shacks covered with tarps, with just enough room to sleep and store a few personal belongings. One of the reasons for increased concern in the community is a May 31 rape, which police say was possibly committed by a day laborer.
“They fight with each other. They steal things,” Adams said. “You leave a bike out and it’s gone. Everyone sees them. We ask, ‘Do you see them all the time now at Vons?’ ‘Yeah, I do,’ people answer. But what can you do?”
Adams is doing something. She has written and met with Rancho Peñasquitos officials and police about the places where workers gather. She’s also mounted a campaign against the migrant camps, with help from radio talk-show host Rick Roberts, who has posted videos of the camps on his station’s Web site.
(Posted on July 29, 2005)