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Shortly after Hurricane Ian devastated Florida, Adriana Phillips, a community organizer with South Bronx Mutual Aid in New York began hearing from new immigrants who were being offered lucrative jobs in Florida through flashy ads in Spanish on online platforms like Telegram and WhatsApp. Two weeks later she began hearing from laborers, some of whom had only been in the US for a week, who had gone to Florida and found that their wages were being docked to pay for their room and board in violation of their work agreements. “This looks and smells like human trafficking,” she said.

Resilience Workforce, a New Orleans group that advocates for and monitors migrant workers following natural disasters, sent staff members to Florida who contacted hundreds of day laborers. Sacha Feinman, communications director of Resilience Force, said he personally witnessed workers “putting themselves in danger,” including roofers who were not wearing safety gear and several workers sleeping inside a truck in a parking lot. And executive director of Resilience Workforce Saket Soni,

“Promises are often not kept to these workers. I am concerned they are being recruited through fraud.”

A survey of 361 construction day laborers following hurricane Harvey found that 72% were undocumented immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Their average hourly wages ranged from $12 to $14 an hour. More than a quarter reported wage theft in the month following Harvey.

For more: Immigrant workers face wage theft and unsafe conditions as they rebuild Florida