The PROVIDENCE JOURNAL reports that 60 illegal aliens were hired to shovel snow out of Gillette Stadium before the New England Patriots game against Baltimore.
One woman was pregnant. Seven workers were minors. The youngest was a 14-year-old boy.
On a day that never got above freezing, some were ill equipped for the cold — and the rigors of the job. They shivered in sweatshirts and hoodies and frozen sneakers as they hurled the snow into giant chutes.
U.S. Immigration agents not only knew about the illegal aliens hiring, “In fact, the agents drove them there.”
The workers were more familiar with raising corn or chickens in the K’iché region of Guatemala than hoisting plastic snow shovels. Catarina Castro, 24, told her story Thursday at the Providence storefront office of Immigrants in Action Committee, one of several advocacy groups helping the workers.
Castro came to the office in sandals and bare feet, and a fleece sweatshirt with “Alaska” stitched on the front that, she said, is identical, all but in color, to the one she wore to the stadium. She said she does not own a winter coat.
Castro said through a translator that she crossed illegally through the desert into the United States eight years ago so she could support a child she left in her mother’s care. She picked up trash at Gillette Stadium several weeks ago, she said, but had never shoveled snow until Jan. 6.
On that day, her sneakers froze, “and my pants were all wet … they were soaking wet up to my knees, and my fingers were frozen as well.” When she returned home that day, “My body hurt.”
She and her friend, Roberto Poel Castro (no relation), 20, said they were given just one half-hour break between 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., and were each provided a hot dog and hot chocolate for lunch.
They said they had time for “only a few sips” of water, because their “American” supervisor “would yell” if they took too long, or talked too much. Workers snuck toward the back of the stadium to drink water “when he [the supervisor] wasn’t looking,” Roberto Castro said.
Guillermo Ramos, another of the workers, said on Friday, “The gringo said, ‘Hurry up, you are here to work, not to drink.’ ” He said the supervisor wore a Gillette jacket.
Ramos said his socks got clotted with ice as he shoveled in snow nearly up to his knees. He said he does not own a heavy coat or boots.
He added, “If you stop with your shovel, they say, ‘Hey, what happened?’ ”
None of the workers had heard of a company called Legal Pro-Temps, nor had they ever filled out a job application. Workers who crowded into the office of the Guatemalan Consulate in Providence the week after the incident gave similar accounts.
Some of the workers said they were paid $5 to $7 an hour, below minimum wage, and were charged up to $7 a day for transportation, according to members of the Central Falls advocacy group Fuerza Laboral who interviewed them.
The Patriots claimed no responsibility in the hiring of ill-equipped, underage and pregnant illegal aliens to clear snow from their stadium to allow a game to go on:
Two days after the immigration road stop, Patriots spokesman Stacey James said the Patriots had severed its contract with the agency that he said had provided the workers. In an e-mail, he later told The Journal that the agency was Legal Pro-Temps; a company he said the Patriots organization had contracted with since January 2008.
He said the Patriots organization is considering safeguards to avoid such situations in the future.
Common sense of course would’ve told the Patriots on Jan. 6 that a pregnant woman and 14-year-old boy from Guatemala should not be shoveling snow in that situation, but the buck was passed by the team to the temp agency.
The Patriots were under the gun to get the game played, but with likely lawsuits on the way from the workers now, the team might’ve considered taking more responsibility at the time on who was hired.