In towns along the Texas Gulf Coast, residents continue to rebuild following Hurricane Ike. The Houston Chronicle reports that Ike's destruction is sparking one of the largest rebuilding efforts the state has seen in decades, and much of this work will be done by illegal immigrants.
Homeowners have already turned to undocumented day laborers to help with debris removal, roof repairs, and repairs to other storm-damaged property. Contractors have also hired them to rebuild or restore businesses and the city's infrastructure, reports the Chronicle. Unlike in New Orleans, which experienced an influx of Hispanic immigrants coming to work in the recovery effort, in Texas many of the area's existing immigrant population will do the rebuilding work.
According to the Chronicle:
...this tug and pull of the labor force highlights an uneasy dilemma: The region needs the muscle of undocumented immigrants, but simultaneously is a cog in a broader crackdown of illegal immigrants at worksites.
The looming demand for immigrant labor for rebuilding efforts illustrates how dependent Texas industry and commerce are on undocumented workers.
According to a 2006 study by the Greater Houston Partnership, construction is the largest employer of undocumented workers in the city, employing nearly 36,000 people.
Crackdowns on illegal immigration, including the numerous immigration raids of the past few years, have had a devastating impact on many immigrant communities in Texas-separating families and creating a climate of fear. More the ever, the large role that immigrants have played in rebuilding the Gulf Coast following the devastating storms of the past three years illustrates the need for long-term immigration reform and not short-term policies of scare-tactics and raids.