New Bedford’s fish processing plants pay workers low wages for dangerous work, employing many undocumented workers. The plants are located on the waterfront downtown, but there’s little housing there, so many workers live in the immigrant-heavy South End and commute on foot along Route 18, an unnecessarily wide road that divides the waterfront from downtown businesses.
As Curt Brown reports in today’s Standard-Times, it’s become a dangerous situation:
“It’s Friday, look how desolate it is. Imagine walking here about 4 in the morning,” Detective Captain Steven Vicente said as he drove an unmarked sports utility vehicle north on MacArthur Boulevard.
The attackers of the city’s most recent immigrant group range in age from their late teens to early 20s and their victims are often walking alone and do not speak English, New Bedford Chief David Provencher said. “They’re looking for trouble, looking for some easy money,” he said.
As part of the police ride-along, The Standard-Times approached eight Central Americans and asked to speak with them about the problem of violence against immigrants.
Why do they have to walk a dangerous route? Because anti-immigrant policies keep them from getting driver’s licenses:
Adrian Ventura said the Registry of Motor Vehicles could help if it would loosen requirements to obtain a driver’s license. It is difficult for many to obtain a license because they do not have legal status, he said.
The largest immigrant advocacy group in the country, the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) has proposed legislation that would allow undocumented immigrants to obtain Massachusetts licenses.
What about transit? Officials aren’t giving the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority (SRTA) enough funding to add service. Mayor John Mitchell sounds indifferent, suggesting workers negotiate private bus service with the fish plants – as if low-wage undocumented workers have any bargaining power.