Hiring undocumented workers

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text"> Ken Norwitz, of Upper Gwynedd, Pa. writes: It&#39;s much better for an illegal immigrant to do an &#34;honest day&#39;s work for an honest day&#39;s pay&#34; than to turn to drugs and crime to pass the time. </span></div>
May 19, 2008 11:46:06 AM PDT
Immigration reform has been a hot button issue during the Bush administration's last term. Democrats and Republicans are obviously split on the issue. But you may be wondering how illegal immigrants affect you right here in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys.

Illegal immigrants have been trying to find work in this country for generations and that's true even now. But no matter what side you take on immigration reform it's hard to deny that illegal workers are all over this country including right here. And the men and women are getting work.

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Before sunrise in Norristown, Montgomery County, the normal work day hasn't started but there's already activity.

First it's just one or two men, then a couple more. They aren't gathering for social reasons, they are lining up waiting for work.

"The majority of the people go there because the people looking to hire them go there to pick them up," said Ramone Ochoa.

It's fast and simple someone pulls over, says how many men needed, the guys jump in and they're off.

"They simply seek work to get ahead."

We're told "day laborers" who wait in that area are primarily illegal immigrants, many of them from Mexico. Although not one of them, Ramone Ochoa came here from Mexico at 14-years-old. He worked illegally for seven years and said it seems to be easier to get into the country, start making a living and then figure out how to become legal. Now Ramone is a citizen and has his own company.

"Thank God I have my business. I am an American citizen but I am an American citizen even though I did the same thing."

Father William Murphy of Saint Patrick's church allows the "day laborers" to wait for pick-ups in his church's parking lot in Norristown.

"We would see them as a brother or sister, a child of God and so we reach out to that person regardless. We don't ask what they're legal status is."

Action News watched the area on several occasions as contractors, landscapers, and builders, picked up men.

One builder said 'when he needs immediate help they're there'. He admitted never asking for their I.D. or documentation.

And a landscaper we talked to said the men are willing to work and do a good job.

Some argue...

"They're doing jobs that some other people don't necessarily want," Father Murphy said.

Police and local officials in Norristown aren't going after the day laborers because they claim it's a federal issue. Federal agents have cracked down on illegal aliens working here and across the country. But those same authorities said keeping tabs on them is difficult.

"There's not enough personnel for us to be able to track various cars driving by various locations and picking up people," said John Kelleghan, of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

At an immigration rally in Chester County, the message was for change; stop arresting and deporting illegal immigrants and improve laws to help them live a fair and decent life.

"There's no job security, there's no benefits, there's no health and safety and people have nowhere to go to and no one to ask for help," said Serafina Youngdahl Lombardi of the Farmworkers' Support Committee.

But until change comes, the law is the law.

"They should have a work authorization card. They should have possibly a work visa that is issued to them by the state," said Kelleghan.

For Ramone coming to America has meant a better life for him and his family.

"My kids are studying here in school, we await them getting a college education someday like any parent wishes for their kids."

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