Saturday, November 6, 2010

This Woman Hires and Steals from Illegal Immigrants

Saturday, November 6, 2010
Would you turn in a woman who hires illegal immigrants to clean houses and then steals their last paycheck when they quit? Several years ago, when Poland was in a serious recession, my friend Sophie lost her job in Krakow and came here on a six-month visa to visit a family member. She ended up staying for 8-1/2 years.

Now before you get angry, there are a few things you should know. First, her husband was murdered by the communists for his involvement with Solidarity, the trade union that used strikes to force the communist government to improve working conditions. She had two grown children, who were struggling to get by. Since none of them could find a job, she came here to support herself and to help her kids.

When she arrived, she got an apartment in Hamtramck, Michigan, and, like countless other immigrant women, found a job cleaning houses. Sophie’s first employer had a cleaning service in my area. That’s how I met her in 2006 – she cleaned my house for several months. (Because she couldn’t speak English, I had no idea back then that she was here illegally.)

Wanting to know more about her and what drove her to come here without knowing the language, I asked friends and family members to translate for us. And that’s how we came to be friends, at least to the extent possible with a language barrier. Sophie studied English with various tutors, so we were able to communicate somewhat, as long as she kept her Polish-English dictionary with her.

When her boss sold his cleaning business shortly after I met her, she found another cleaning service, whose clients live in Grosse Pointe, which was much closer to home. And she worked like a dog. There were many weeks when she logged 55-60 hours. Her day started at 6:00 a.m., and sometimes she didn’t get home until after 8:00 at night. She started out getting paid $8 an hour, but made $10 an hour for the past three years.

Until last year, she sent money to her children to help them out. Then the job situation in Michigan deteriorated, and the cleaning service lost several customers, when they became unemployed. Many weeks, Sophie got only 20-25 hours. And as her business suffered, Sophie’s boss became more and more unreasonable and demanding. Sophie, closing in on 60 years old, became weary of the physical toll on her body, as well as the crap her boss pulled. So she quit and returned to Poland last week, now that its economy is finally in better shape.

The problem is that Sophie’s boss refuses to give her the $580 that she earned for the last two weeks of cleaning. And I’ve been told by several people in Hamtramck that the same thing happens to most of the women who go back to Poland. It happens every day. That’s because they have no recourse. Their visas have long ago expired, so they’re illegal aliens with no rights. They can’t even prove that they had a job. That’s because the cleaning service owners put nothing in writing – workers are paid in cash, no employment taxes are withheld, and there’s no pay statement.

Well, I can’t stand to see anyone ripped off like that, so I telephoned the owner of the cleaning service. I told her that if she doesn’t give Sophie her money, I’ll report the theft to the police (I realize they probably can’t do anything about it), and I’ll notify immigration and the IRS about her tax-free business fueled by illegal aliens. After saying that she was justified in stealing Sophie’s money, because she didn’t give adequate notice when she quit, Sophie’s boss hung up on me. And since she didn’t deliver the money to Sophie before she left for Poland, I doubt that she’s concerned in the least. After all, there is no proof that she even has a cleaning service. (She doesn’t know, however, that I have the names, addresses and phone numbers of four of the clients for whom Sophie cleaned house.)

So here’s my dilemma. I know that if I call the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service), they may say it’s too small to bother with, since Sophie estimates that only about 20 women are employed by her boss. But if they do pursue it, all those women will lose their incomes, and most would be deported. And the same thing could happen if I call the IRS (I’m betting the service owner doesn’t pay taxes on her income, nor does she supply W2 forms for her employees). Either way, though, Sophie won’t get her money.

If I make those calls, it’ll be because I’m angry and want this woman punished for stealing her employees’ money (I’m sure she’s done it many times before). And I want her stopped from doing it again. But I don’t want to cause any of her workers to lose their incomes and be deported. I’m aware of the current animosity toward illegals, and I’m not saying it’s okay to be here illegally. But these women are here because they can’t make it in their Eastern bloc countries. And I don’t personally know any Americans who are lining up to do hard labor for $8 or $10 an hour.

So do I make those calls, or not? What would you do?