A group of Phoenix businesses has hired off-duty police officers and put up signs to scare off the crowds of day laborers that frequently convened in their neighborhood.
Vestar Development Co. manages the property at 36th Street and Thomas Road that includes Home Depot, Wal-Mart, PetSmart and Staples. A few weeks ago, the company united with other local businesses, hired off-duty police officers and put up signs that read in red letters, “Do Not Pick Up Day Laborers” and “No Trespassing.”
The laborers had been gathering at that spot for about four years, said Phoenix police Lt. Adrian Ruiz. Immigration marches and protests in Phoenix brought the businesses together.
“They are done,” Ruiz said. “They have suffered enough.”
Ruiz said the workers were bothering business patrons and creating problems with traffic and littering.
Phoenix resident Ken Williams said he would not allow his three daughters to go near the area because the crowds were so fierce.
“You get hounded a lot,” he said. “There are a lot of people, a lot of guys.”
Since the businesses started taking action, the crowds have dwindled. A few workers moved across the street from the shopping complex, but most of them have scattered to other places, Ruiz said.
Meanwhile, a Phoenix police outreach officer continues to work in the area to educate residents. Anyone who stops traffic to pick up a worker will be cited, Ruiz said. Residents also will be informed that, while hiring temporary labor is not illegal, they are contributing to a problem in the area.
Elias Bermudez, executive director of Centro de Ayuda, an immigrant advocacy group, said more people will be going on the defensive as the immigration issue heats up. “For sure we are living in difficult times,” he said.
“Propaganda has created animosity and given law enforcement agents and some people the right to harass and intimidate without cause.” Day laborers are not going to go away, because there are industries that rely on their work, Bermudez said. “I don’t like the day laborers in that sense,” he said. “I have the feeling it’s so demeaning that I have my own people on the street corner begging for a job.”