Brooklyn’s Cruelest Crossroads

Feb 26, 2014 at 8:09 AM ET

It’s a scene that plays out over and over on street corners across America. Known as la parada, or the parade, it’s a group of immigrant men or women, mostly undocumented workers, standing around, waiting, hoping for someone to offer them a day’s work, so that their family might eat that night.

One such place can be found in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Day laborers gather at the corner of Marcy and Division Avenues, looking for work. There are women from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Central and South America. The work is scarce, and the competition among the women is high, as they clamor for cash. Their customers are people looking for cheap labor. In this case, most of the potential employers are from within the predominately Hassidic Jewish neighborhood.

Without papers, without rights and without the local language, many of the laborers are at a high risk of exploitation. People often refuse to pay the agreed amount, and some don’t pay at all. In some cases, the women are asked to provide services beyond cleaning and are sexually harassed, stripped of their dignity.

Vocativ went to Williamsburg to talk to some of these women and activists, like Xavier Bosque of the Southside Community Mission, who is fighting for legislation to protect these workers and to make conditions around them safe and fair, as they chase the American dream. But for now these women have no choice but to stand on the corner and wait, hoping to get picked for work.