In the late 1990s, Mexican workers, many of them illegal immigrants, moved to suburban towns in areas on Long Island and those surrounding New York City. This influx of Hispanic immigrants continued for at least a decade. Most were able to get employment on a day to day basis in landscaping, construction, and restaurant industries. Although many of the town's citizens were happy to have cheaper services available to them via these workers who accepted low-wages, they were unhappy about their presence in their primarily upper-class neighborhoods. Business owners who hired the workers claim the local economy would be devastated without Mexicans' work in these low-paying and sometimes dangerous jobs. Meanwhile, the workers and their families often faced horrible treatment at the hands of those people who benefited most from their labor. Racial tensions often erupted into hate crimes. The victims and targets were not only the laborers and their families, but also the people who tried to protect the immigrants’ human and civil rights. Communities were torn apart in the struggles of balancing issues of residents with those of the day laborers.
How do immigrants impact local communities?
Check for Understanding
Summarize the main idea of this document and explain why the incidents occurred.
Relate the treatment of these day laborers to that of the often repatriated Mexicans who worked in the U.S. on farms and fought on the Allied side for the U.S. during World War II. Who benefited from the Mexicans’ involvement on the home front and in the military? Were the Mexicans of the WWII era better or worse off than those of today (in the last decade of the 20th and the first decade of the 21st century)? Which treatment would you prefer to face: repatriation after contributing to the American economy and war effort or discrimination like that faced by the Farmingville workers? Why?
The issue of undocumented workers is in the news very often and has caused a large division in our society. Set up a debate in class showing both side of the issue from a number of perspectives – the worker, the employer, the government, the homeowner, etc.
Art: Draw a political cartoon that shows how each side is being unreasonable in its expectations of the other.
English Language Arts: Write a poem that tells the story of the workers. Set it to music that communicates the emotions faced by them.
Math: Chart a graph of the numbers of Mexicans who worked in the U.S. during WWII and the estimated number of Mexican day laborers who work in the U.S. annually. Turn the numbers into percentages of the work force from each time period.