Hispanic post-Katrina workers said to be living in terrible conditions and cheated out of pay

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Hispanic workers who went to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to do hurricane recovery work after Katrina report that their employers sometimes disappear without paying them, that they sometimes have to wait a long time for a complex web of contractors to pay them, that their paychecks are sometimes smaller than promised, or that those paychecks never arrive at all.

Though the contractors are violating federal law, many of the workers do not know their rights, and they cannot afford attorneys. Mississippi, for some reason, does not have a department of labor, and nonpayment for work is not classified as a crime in the state. Because they have little or no money, Mississippi’s Hispanic immigrant workers are living in tent cities which provide minimal protection from the elements, and now that the weather is getting cold, they are in trouble.

According to state representative Jim Evans, the problem is not a new one in Mississippi–Katrina recovery has just magnified it. Evans wants the state attorney general to enforce laws that are already on the books–it is a crime to commit fraud and a crime to hire someone under false pretenses in Mississippi. Janet Murguia, president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights group, was in Gulfport Friday, investigating the workers’ claims. She was joined by members of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance.

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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