On September 11, 2006, the Hispanic Nashville Notebook reflects on the tragedies that occured after 9/11, as heard in these stories which aired on the one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. From KQED, a northern California public radio station, we focus on the following two stories, excerpts of which are printed in green below:
Latin American Laborers in the Wake of 9/11 7 minutes 37 seconds
August 16, 2002
Store clerk Yolanda Robles immigrated to California from Mexico fifteen years ago and recently became a U.S. citizen. Robles says rumors of immigration busts have been swirling since September 11. ... She says the stepped-up immigration enforcement is misdirected. "They are taking it out on Latinos, and even moreso the fieldworkers, and they don't even know what a terrorist is." ... Although she has been a legal citizen for several years now, Robles says many people in authority treat her like she isn't welcome. "It has always been like this, but now it seems there are more racists. There has always been racism, but it was hidden. After September 11, it has come back more."
Latino USA Remembers 9/11 59 minutes 0 seconds
September 8, 2002
As the rubble at Ground Zero has cleared, we have all tried to make sense of our life again, but for New York Latinos, it hasn't been easy. The numbers bear it out: of the estimated 2,825 victims of the terrorist attacks, the City of New York identifed 247 as Latino. ... Firefighters saved [William Rodriguez] from the rubble, and Rodriguez spent the next few days on the bucket brigade, trying in vain to rescue others. The experience transformed his life. He spent the past year as an activist, organizing and advocating for Latino survivors and victims' families. Rodriguez is now President of the September 11 Hispanic Victims' Group. "There was a need for it and I was filling up that need right away, and not because I wanted, but because I needed to do it - that was my therapy. And I owed that to the memory of the people that I lost; I lost 200 friends that day." ... Without the proper documents, many immigrant workers and their families have been unable or too fearful to prove they worked in or around the World Trade Center, but this summer, Rodriguez was able to secure from the Justice Department an amnesty for the undocumented, meaning they are now eligible for federal aid. Officials from the 9/11 Fund are assuring them that they will not be deported or reported to immigration officials. ... Another thing the tragedy has done is to reveal the complications of many immigrants' lives. Julia Hernandez says that when she asked for relief money, she was told point blank she wouldn't get it because she is undocumented and she wasn't legally married to her husband... When he heard of her story, Kenneth Feinberg, who heads the September 11 Victims Compensation Fund, made this promise: "She will be compensated for her loss. ... She needn't be concerned that she will be prosecuted. ... There is a guarantee from the INS that there will be no adverse consequences to her filing." ... It took days, weeks, months for the dirt, dust, fires and smoke to clear from Ground Zero. But people had to get back to work. They had to get home. Everyone was telling us to get back to normal, and quickly. In the days following the attacks, hundreds of immigrant day laborers, the majority Latino, were hired to clean apartment buildings and offices surrounding the site. ... The air inhaled by workers during the cleanup efforts was indeed toxic.
(The New York Times reported in this recent article that despite granting victim compensation to all 9/11 widows as promised, the federal government did not alter or improve at least three widows' immigration status, leaving them much wealthier but constrained by their vulnerability to deportation. A separate report recently revealed that 70 percent of rescue workers "have developed serious and persistent respiratory illnesses from exposure to toxic dust.")