A refugee services coordinator in New Orleans stated emphatically, “We couldn’t have done it without them.” Undocumented Latino workers were among the “first responders” after Hurricane Katrina hit. They were the ones who dealt with toxic water, decomposed animal bodies, fungus, mold and miles of rotting garbage. They cleared out hospitals, public buildings and homes chocked full of waterlogged furniture and destroyed appliances. They handled the filthiest tasks, paving the way for the massive reconstruction efforts to follow.
Soon after the grittiest work was done, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids began. Latino day laborers were rounded up for “removal.” Contractors routinely withheld pay and threatened to call ICE if workers complained. The wages for risky and dedicated efforts by migrant workers are abuse and deportation.