- SASABE, Mexico (AP) -- When Pedro Lopez Vazquez crossed illegally into
the United States last week, he was not heading north to look for a job.
He already had one.
- His future employer even paid $1,000
for a smuggler to help Vazquez make his way from the central Mexican city
of Puebla to Aspen, Colo., he said.
- "We're going to Colorado to work
in carpentry because we have a friend who was going to give us a job,"
- Vazquez, 41, was interviewed along the
Arizona border after being deported twice by the U.S. Border Patrol. He
said he would keep trying until he got to Aspen.
- His story is not unusual. A growing number
of U.S. employers and migrants are tapping into an underground employment
network that matches one with the other, often before the migrants leave
- As debate over immigration heats up in
the United States, more U.S. companies in need of cheap labor are turning
to undocumented employees to recruit friends and relatives back home and
to smugglers to find job seekers.
- Darcy Tromanhauser of the non-profit
law project Nebraska Appleseed said companies in need of workers rely on
the networks to "pass along the information more effectively than
- "It started out more explicitly,
where [meatpacking] companies used to have buses to transport people to
come up, and they would advertise directly in Mexico," she said.
- At the same time, it has become less
risky for companies to recruit illegal migrants. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist
attacks, U.S. prosecution of employers who hire such workers has dwindled.
- The few cases that are prosecuted, however,
highlight how lucrative a business recruiting undocumented workers has
become. In one case, a single smuggler allegedly earned $900,000 over 15
months placing 6,000 migrants in jobs at Chinese restaurants across the
upper Midwest. ...
- But many migrants, and many employers,
say the recruiters provide a valuable service. Sergio Sosa, who organizes
Nebraska meatpacking workers, said many are seen as heroes in the Mexican
towns where the workers come from.
- Sosa said that in the 1990s companies
bused migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border, paying them room and board
plus salaries of $100 a week. But after a government crackdown, they began
to rely more on their workers to recruit friends and family back in Mexico.
- "One of the meatpacking supervisors
is from Michoacan, and most of the people working for him come from his
town," Sosa said. "There's no official recruiting. It's more
internal through family."
- U.S. resources diverted
- To make a real dent in this network,
the U.S. government would need to go after employers or make them pay the
costs of legalizing workers, migration activists say.
- But an August 2005 report by the Government
Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, indicates the
opposite is happening. After the Sept. 11 attacks, work-site inspections
by U.S. immigration officials plummeted as they focused on national security
- From 1999 to 2004, the number of businesses
that faced fines dropped from 417 to three, the GAO said. Data after 2004
could not be compared because the government changed the way it records