Each day, Stamford’s ‘jornaleros’ navigate uncertainty and exclusion in search of work
By Connecticut Public Radio / WNPR
Day laborers, or jornaleros as they are called in Spanish, are immigrant workers who depend on finding a job each day. In Stamford, they gather each morning near I-95 at a corner they call "El Palomar" and wait for luck to cross their path — hoping a potential employer offers them a temporary job in the clandestine labor market.
Mauro V. is an undocumented jornalero from Honduras. He asked to only use his first name because of his documentation status. He said the pay is under the table, while workers face a life of uncertainty and exclusion.
"Everyone does what they can,” Mauro said. “If you have the experience, you do the job. I’m a painter and make ceramics. But sometimes [employers] ask you for health insurance, which I don't have, so they take advantage and pay you much less."
While it is illegal for an employer not to pay or threaten a jornalero, it does happen. The Migration Policy Institute said roughly 113,000 undocumented immigrants lived in Connecticut in 2022, and almost 60% of this population does not have health insurance.
Anka Badurina is the executive director at Building One Community, a Stamford organization that has worked for years to gain trust among the jornaleros in their world of uncertainty. Badurina said they’d helped 15,000 immigrants. Their aid includes providing case management support, advising workers about their rights related to wage theft, and helping them understand their rights under federal law.
"They are victims of theft. They do get paid, but because they are undocumented, they are victims of crime as well," Badurina said.
Inflation and the lingering impact of COVID-19 have affected many Americans, but jornaleros have been particularly vulnerable.