By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Since then, Vallecillos has been earning a living any way he can. He has a work permit, which makes life easier for him. But many of these men don't have permission to work in this country legally. For them, street corners mean they too can earn a wage. "A lot of us want to work," Navarro says. "We could go out and sell drugs to make money, but we'd rather work."
Still, Vallecillos thinks moving the pickup spot a few blocks away is a good idea. He sees nothing but problems if the workers stay where they are. "I think we should leave," he says. "Otherwise, immigration will come and deport people. It's going to be problematic."
A stocky man who clearly disagrees with Vallecillos, Miguel Martinez, retorts, "We're in a Hispanic neighborhood, and they're trying to run us off. They see us chasing cars for work and yelling out in Spanish, and they get nervous." Martinez says anyone who gets up at 5 a.m. to look for work doesn't have time to waste bothering girls.
Others feel more strongly about it. "They can't move us from here, because this is a private location," asserts Jose Rodriguez from Cuba, referring to the parking lot of the Otra Parte bar where they gather. "This is a free country," says Rodriguez, who remembers how tough things are back home. He pulls out a black wallet and proudly displays his work permit.
Free country or no, it looks like the workers will have to move, either on their own or at the hands of others. The school district has requested stepped-up police security at the corner for the next several weeks. Cop cars will be roaming the streets in hopes of scaring away the remaining laborers. So far, it seems to be working; few workers were out on Monday morning.
"The best situation is to find a new place and start meeting there," says Zamora, who was out early Monday morning talking to the workers who did show up at the corner. Zamora says that, in the past, men on the corner have harassed girls, even chasing them. As for how far the men will have to go, Zamora says, "It's not a question of feet or yards, but of contact."
Contact with the students is not the only problem on this corner. "What nobody's saying is that when all of these guys run into the middle of [Ross Avenue], they cause traffic to stop and accidents to occur," adds officer J.E. Corden, who was also patrolling the area Monday morning. Local business owners "don't want these guys on their property," says Corden, "but they are afraid to file criminal charges." They're afraid their property will be vandalized, he says. The owner of Otra Parte could not be reached for comment.
Not only will the laborers have to leave, says Zamora, but the bar itself may encounter problems. With new zoning laws, Otra Parte may not be able to renew its liquor license. It probably won't be grandfathered in, either. More than likely, it will have to move.
Change takes time. But the face of Ross and Carroll is changing. Cars still whiz by on Ross Avenue every morning, and the car lot on the southwest corner remains heaped with trashy cars. But the new school seems to be ushering in a new phase for the neighborhood.
As young children file obediently through the doors of Cesar Chavez Learning Center, sporting new backpacks and smiles, the day laborers clutch their lunch bags and grip their coffee mugs. Under the sign "Otra Parte Nite Club," the few workers who remain gaze about, wondering where all the contractors have gone.
The sun rises quickly and soon begins to beat down on the parched pavement. Across the street, the children are all safe in their classrooms and, one by one, the workers peel off. They'll find something, they say without too much enthusiasm. They have to, for otherwise, one worker portends, we'll be "just another statistic.