Hiring hall raises legal questions

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BARRIO LOGAN, Calif. -- You usually see them outside Home Depots -- day laborers standing and waiting to get picked up for work.

They’re often at the mercy of those who pick them up and are at many times the target of labor abuse.

“Sometimes they don’t pay you,” said Luis Rene Mazariegos, a day laborer who recently started going to a new hiring hall on Imperial Avenue in Barrio Logan.

“I make sure they get paid,” said Martha Blancarte, who heads the hiring hall that provides a safe place for workers to get picked up for jobs.

After getting hired, workers report to Blancarte whether the job went well and if they didn’t get paid.

“I have attorneys to help me with that,” said Blancarte.

Employers can also report whether they were satisfied and reschedule service.

The hiring hall, which works as a non-profit, also offers work training, including computer classes and English lessons.

But while the hiring hall helps enforce fair labor practices, it’s also raising legal questions about the hiring of day laborers, many of which are known to be undocumented.

Blancarte admits she doesn’t ask workers for papers.

“That is between the employee and the worker not between me and the worker,” she said.

Hiring a worker without proper documents is illegal but in this case the hiring hall doesn’t do the hiring.

“If the hiring hall isn’t actually hiring anybody, they don’t violate that law,” said former U.S. Attorney, Pete Nuñez.

The burden of checking for legal status to work does not fall on the hiring hall but the employer, whether it’s a company or a resident looking for help at home.

“If the government can prove that you knowingly hired an illegal alien, it’s a felony,” said Nuñez.

But the reality is the risk of getting in legal trouble for picking up an undocumented day laborer for help is low.

A Homeland Security spokesperson told Fox 5, hiring halls like this one and day laborers are not at the top of their list when it comes to cracking down on illegal immigration.


  • Ron

    ICE should go here and deport everyone…but Jerry fcking Brown and Obama love illegal law breakers and it makes me puke!!!!

  • Dave

    As the owner of a legitimate tax paying, licensed, bonded insured landscape contracting company in San Diego, I could easily and immediately add at least 20 full time fair wage jobs if homeowners were subjected to the exact same scrutiny those of us who do it right are facing each and every day. Last year our 10 employees paid in and did not get back more than $20,000 in taxes. Our company paid in more than $10,000 to workman’s comp coverage and an additional $7,000 to general liability. We paid more than $8,000 for vehicle insurance. We paid more than $18,000 in to the social security system with our 7.5% match as the employer. We also paid in just shy of $10,000 in to the unemployment fund.
    We actively and successfully employ legal to work tax paying people, regardless of nationality. Shame on anyone else who does not do the exact same.
    Exploitation of illegal workers is that: Exploitation. It is theft. It is endangerment and it is a crime for a reason.
    Failure to use companies / individuals who follow the rules and pay in to the system is a crime and anyone who does so should be actively and aggressively prosecuted, including homeowners.

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