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Duct Tape is No Substitute for Emergency Room: why workers need immigration reform

Immigrant Construction Carpenters (Photograph by Daniel Acker:Bloomberg)

(Photograph by Daniel Acker:Bloomberg)

Want to know why labor unions are pushing so hard to get immigration reform passed?

Get Eva Castillo and Liz Skidmore into a room together, and get them to start talking about undocumented workers here in New Hampshire.

Silver Needle and Golden Thread by CarbonNYC via Flickr2They’ll tell you about the undocumented construction worker who had his head sliced open – and his boss stitched it back together (needle and thread, no anesthesia, still on the worksite) and sent him back to work.

They’ll tell you about the undocumented worker who sliced his hand open with a power saw – and his boss patched him up with duct tape and sent him back to work.

They’ll tell you about the undocumented worker who was installing drywall at a prestigious private boarding school, fell from scaffolding and suffered a crush injury to his head.  This injured worker was taken to the hospital, in a coma.  When he was able to be discharged, the company owner’s wife picked him up, then left him alone at his apartment without medication.  After she left, he fell and stayed unconscious until the next day.  She came back to take him to the followup doctor’s appointment, where she acted as his translator and told the doctor that “everything was just fine”.  But everything wasn’t fine – and he couldn’t take care of himself, nevermind go back to work.  And if he couldn’t work, he couldn’t pay the rent on the company-owned apartment – and so the drywall company kicked him out.

That particular undocumented worker is back in his home country now: brain-injured, missing pieces of his skull and almost certainly not able to work again.  One more casualty of American’s economy.

Here in New Hampshire, 62% of undocumented workers do not know about workers’ compensation.  Almost ten percent of those undocumented workers have been hurt on the job.

This Labor Day weekend, as you’re spending an extra day with family and friends, take just a few minutes to think about duct tape… worksite sutures… getting left completely alone after a life-threatening injury.

What a choice.  Go back to work – or go back to your home country.

Think about those workers, and you’ll understand why labor unions are pushing so hard for immigration reform.


Eva Castillo is Coordinator for the New Hampshire Alliance of Immigrants and Refugees.  Liz Skidmore is a Business Manager for the New Hampshire Carpenters Local 118.  They routinely work with undocumented workers who would be otherwise voiceless and invisible.  Special thanks to them both, this Labor Day weekend.




About Liz Iacobucci

Liz Iacobucci is the former Public Information Officer for the State Employees’ Association of New Hampshire, SEIU Local 1984. Over the past three decades, she has served in government at the federal, state and municipal levels; and she has worked for both Democratic and Republican politicians.
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