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Local workers learn their labor rights
Labor Rights Week Events stress awareness, education for Latino immigrants
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Lucy Campa, of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, speaks to a crowd at the Mexican Mobile Consulate Thursday morning as part of Labor Rights week. Mexican Consulate officials were on hand to help with passports and other information.

Language barriers are not the only immediate challenges facing immigrants in the United States.

A lack of knowledge about their rights in the workplace can result in unnecessary injuries and lost wages. That’s a big deal for many immigrants who support the basic living expenses of family members in their native country.

For example, about $22 billion in remittances were sent to Mexico from immigrants living abroad in 2013, according to the World Bank. It accounts for about 2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

The Mexican Mobile Consulate in Gainesville, working in partnership with the federal Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, celebrated Labor Rights Week last week to educate Mexican immigrants about their rights and responsibilities on the job.

“All U.S. workers, regardless of their immigration status, have the right to a safe and healthful workplace,” a press release states.

More than 1,000 Mexican immigrants attended seminars on the Fair Labor Standards Act and learned about a new online tool that allows users to discover if they are owed back wages.

There were also representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on hand, as well as other advocates educating attendees about everything from domestic violence to personal finance.

Miguel Cruz, the father of three children who works in landscaping, said the weeklong events allowed him to get an updated passport at the mobile consulate.

Cruz said many local immigrants do not have any form of photo identification because they are unable to obtain a driver’s license, for example. Thus passports act as both a legal and social document for navigating their new home.

Adriana Hernandez was in attendance supporting her mother, who also received a new passport.

Hernandez said her mother is looking forward to visiting family in Mexico now that she has an I.D. to travel.

George Hidalgo, a personal banker at a Wells Fargo near the Mall of Georgia in Buford, said he was on hand to inform immigrants about opening a bank account.

Many immigrants, Hidalgo said, are leery of banks. With tenuous legal statuses, many opt to horde their earnings in their homes.

“Some of them just don’t know their future in this country,” Hidalgo said.

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