Exclusive: Female day laborers often subjected to physical, financial harm

EAST WILLIAMSBURG, Brooklyn (WABC) -- With the Trump Administration's promised crackdown on illegal immigration, Eyewitness News took an exclusive look at the challenges facing immigrants in our area.

We found unfair labor practices are common, especially for men, but also that women are often subjected to physical and financial harm.

A Brooklyn street corner is a gathering spot for female day laborers each morning. Most of them are undocumented Latinas, but all of them have one goal in mind.

"Money for my family," Isabel Castillo said. "When my mom was sick in my country, I can't support her in her condition."

In the Orthodox neighborhood of East Williamsburg, seated on milk crates and bundled up to fight the cold, they wait for a stranger driving an unfamiliar car offering a house cleaning job in a sometimes faraway community to which they have never traveled.

"I know there are dangers, but I have my family," said Maria Aguilar, a 38-year-old singe mother of two from Mexico. "I have to take care of my kids. So I try not to forget that."

About a dozen day laborers at the Workers Justice Project in Lower Manhattan ran down the list of those possible dangers, from sexual abuse to unhealthy work conditions to unpaid wages.

"Each day there, we are subject to whatever abuse," said 45-year-old Nubia Leguizamon, from Colombia. "Discrimination, not honoring the wage we agreed to, that's our daily life."

To help put an end to the abuse and exploitation, the women have joined forces with the Workers Justice Project, an organization focused on protecting and empowering day laborers through legal support, training and education.

"To make sure workers understand that despite their immigration status, they do have rights in this country," the project's Ligia Guallpa said. "They have the right to be paid at the end of the day. They have the right to a safe workplace. We want to make sure that they feel confident."

As safety precautions, the workers now make sure they take pictures of license plates and jot down the address of the home they're cleaning. They also call a friend or relative to let them know where they are in case something goes wrong.
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