“The jornaleros didn’t trust us at first,” Tezcatlipoca admits. “People have been harassing them for so long a lot of jornaleros just assume you’re going to turn them in to the cops. But once we explain what we’re trying to do, they begin to believe us.”

But the spots the Colectivo originally picked didn’t work, and officers kept issuing citations. Finally, in July, the Colectivo sent a letter to Orange Police Chief Robert Gustafson asking whether the north side of Katella’s sidewalk between Manzanita and Batavia streets, the slice immediately in front of the Bean Bag and Futon Factory, was beyond the scope of the ordinances because it had public parking on the street. Orange City Attorney David DeBerry responded on Aug. 6: yes, as long as they stayed on a specific, 50-foot portion. As a result, the jornaleros constantly make sure to stand between a driveway and a long sideway crack.

Not all the jornaleros in Orange know of the Colectivo’s efforts (or, perhaps, choose to ignore them), so Tezcatlipoca and others continue to hand out fliers. But those who collaborate with the Colectivo appreciate their activism. “The Colectivo helps us a lot,” says 29-year-old Ramiro Vasquez, a native of Veracruz (like a majority of Orange’s jornaleros, according to the Colectivo’s research). “It’s nice to have people who care for you. Those ordinances? They’re not fair—they’re racist.”

Signs of the times
Beth Stirnaman
Signs of the times

The work the Colectivo is doing with jornaleros “is terrific,” says Hector Villagra, director of the ACLU of Southern California’s Orange County branch. “This is such a vulnerable population. In so many ways, they are the symbol of the immigrant community. It’s easy to scapegoat the day laborers, and in the environment that we’ve been in, it’s been a pretty good strategy for scoring political points. To be able to educate them about how and where they can solicit work is necessary, and that’s what the Colectivo does.”

The Colectivo will stay in Orange as long as necessary, but they’re also monitoring the jornalero situation in other OC cities and want to eventually open a food bank for day laborers.

“Everyone is struggling right now,” says Tezcatlipoca. “If you have something to give, it’s good to give.”

garellano@ocweekly.com

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