December 30, 2004

Waiting for a good job

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

In spite of the cold air at 6 a.m., dozens of journeymen meet daily at a corner on San Ysidro Blvd., near the Interstate 805 bridge and in front of Bank of America, looking for work..

These journeymen, in their majority are legal permanent residents who live in Tijuana, come to this place, known as Las Palmas, to wait for someone to come and hire them for the day –as a mason, as a painter, as a plumber, it doesn’t matter.

“What matters is that we get money for food,” said Francisco, a journeyman who has six children.

Many of the journeymen, or “jornaleros” as they’re called in Spanish, who come looking for work here have lost their permanent jobs due to lay-offs. But contrary to what many think, the majority of them have permits to work legally in the United States.

On average, on a “good” day, a journeyman can earn up to $60.

Francisco said that the best days are Wednesdays and weekends, which is when people move and hire them to help out.

“I would rather come here and look for a job here because with what I would make at a factory I wouldn’t make it,” said Jose Luis, a man who’s been coming to this corner for years. “I wouldn’t make it with the minimun (wage).”

Many of the journeymen complain about how they’re treated by the San Diego Police Department.

“They insult us, they arrest us, they handcuff us, they humilliate us,” said Carlos, another journeyman. “To me, it’s about racism. They treat us like this just because we’re Mexican and because we don’t speak English.”

Jose Luis, one of the journeymen who has been coming to this corner for a long time, said that he, together with the other men, have been victims of harrasment from Officer Jose Perez, from the San Diego Police Department.

But Perez, SDPD’s Community Relations Officer in San Ysidro, said that he’s just doing his job.

“If they need a job, that’s why there’s the unemployment office,” he said. “I give them a citation because they litter, because they violate the laws.”

Perez added that before, the journeymen used to meet on the corner in front of the Arco gas station, on San Ysidro Boulevard. But since the gas station owners and other area business owners complained that the journeyment used to throw trash and “scared-off” costumers.

Above all, the officer said that he worries about the good image of San Ysidro.

“Many San Ysidro residents, especially women, complain that the journeymen verbally harass them. That’s not right,” Perez said.

And not only local businesses have complained with the Police Department., The residents of Mobile Village Park, located behind the area where the journeymen meet, sent a letter to the city of San Diego alleging that the journeymen affect the quality of life of the people who live there.

Perez gave La Prensa a copy of the letter, which includes more than 40 signatures from Mobile Village Park residents.

“Our reasons are that they harras us with their verbal agressive attitudes,” states the letter. “For example, since early in the morning they’re screaming, hitting the fence with sticks to wake up everybody since 5:30 a.m., shoutting bad words towards the trailer park, and also the women who live here can’t live calmly because they sexually harras us. So they are psychologically affecting our children, since the children listen to (the journeymen’s agressions) towards us.

In addition to their verbal agressions, they throw trash and they urinate towards the trailer park near the fence. We ask you as a favor to help us move this people from the area to be able to live better. Thank you.”

Nevertheless, the journeymen said that they respect all of the families who live at Mobile Village Park. They add that they respect all of the pedestrians who pass by the street.

“We’re only here looking for work, we’re not here trying to make a mess or start harrassing people,” Jose Luis said.

Several of the interviewed journeymen said that as long as there are people interested in hire them, they will continue waiting on the corner.

“Even if the patrol car comes, here we are,” Jose Luis said. “Even if they harass us because we want to support our children, we’ll continue here.”

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