< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: Denver Non-Profit Faces Protests

Monday, January 16, 2006

Denver Non-Profit Faces Protests

The Rocky Mountain News has a good article about El Centro Humanitario para los Trabajadores, which operates in downtown Denver. The center aims to help day laborers, but many groups against immigration have been protesting the center recently. From the article:

The agency found a home in June 2002, when Fred Pasternack began renting his 6,000-square-foot former car wash to the group. Last year, he donated the building to the nonprofit.
Today, the group operates with a $263,000 budget, funded mostly by private foundations. The agency gets $50,000 a year from government agencies, including the city of Denver.
El Centro has 11 donated computers that workers use to look for jobs. Denver University law students volunteer once a week to help workers collect back pay from scofflaw employers - some $40,000 last year.
Workers registered at the center are picked for jobs through a lottery system. The agency does not get any of the workers' pay and does not charge a fee to the employers.
Most jobs involve construction, landscaping, cleaning, moving and other low-skilled labor.
About a dozen women meet each week to make crafts, including jewelry, cushions and piƱatas, many of which hang from the ceiling inside the center's main room.
For many workers, El Centro is their ticket to survival, a way to earn money to pay for food, transportation and housing. Some of the illegal immigrants send their earnings back to their families in Mexico and South America.
Other workers have recently lost jobs or plunged into depression or substance abuse because of a family trauma.
The common thread among them is the desire to earn a living.
Ji said she is not overly concerned about the Minutemen protests or the stream of nasty anti-immigrant phone messages her agency receives.
She said she's most worried about House Resolution 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 that passed the House last month.
Among other things, the 137-page bill would allow a citizen to sue an agency such as hers and also sue law enforcement agencies to force prosecution of places like El Centro that help illegal immigrants.
"This is the worst law you can even think of," Ji said. "It makes it criminal for El Centro to exist."
By 9 a.m. last Tuesday, almost 70 workers have registered at the center. So far, only one man has gotten work.

Click here to read the full article from the Rocky Mountain News.

--Tom Hayes


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