Undocumented Oilfield Workers Struggle in New Mexico | New Mexico News

By ADRIAN HEDDEN, Carlsbad Current-Argus

CARLSBAD, NM (AP) – Gladys Saucedo and her sons said goodbye to their father, Pedro Espinoza, for the second time in February.

Espinoza, an undocumented worker from Mexico, was leaving the Permian basin for the second time as an operator in the busy oil and gas region. Lower pay and poor conditions, Saucedo said, meant her husband would travel from their home in Hobbs to another prolific oil-producing region thousands of miles north in the Bakken of North Dakota.

She said Espinoza left the family and headed north when the Permian Basin last erupted in 2016, but was able to return when the industry exploded again a year later.

This time, Saucedo told Carlsbad Current-Argus that his family is not divided by the boom and bust cycle of the Permian oil and gas industry, but rather by the treatment he received from his employer as an undocumented worker.

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“He came back when there were more jobs available at Hobbs, but then he noticed the big difference in pay,” she said in an interview facilitated by a translator. “In North Dakota they pay a lot more and when he got there he noticed the pay cut he was getting in Hobbs working the same jobs in the oilfield.”

Saucedo expressed his concern for working conditions in New Mexico to US Senator Martin Heinrich, a Democrat from New Mexico, at a recent meeting in Roswell where he met with members of Somos Un Pueblo Unido – an organization in statewide dedicated to racial and worker issues.

Aside from a lack of adequate wages, Saucedo said her husband was not provided with safety equipment or housing during his time in the Permian. She said she believed this treatment was due to her status as a citizen.

“It’s because companies choose to hire undocumented workers and treat them that way,” Saucedo said. “If he was a US citizen, companies wouldn’t treat him that way.”

There are lower standards for undocumented workers in southeast New Mexico because there are more of them, Saucedo said, and companies can hire from more undocumented workers.

“Lea County is seeing many Hispanics and Latinos settling in the area,” she said. “They hear about well-paying jobs, but they don’t know the dangerous conditions in which they have to work. It is very shocking to people.

It was under these conditions that Felix Rodriguez, 23, of Artesia quit his job in the oil field last year.

He chose a pay cut from $ 75,000 to $ 30,000 to take a more secure job with a local telecommunications company, but said he now had insurance benefits, paid time off and time off. with his family: a fiancé, two sons and another son to be born in November.

Rodriguez arrived in the United States as a baby and is a beneficiary of the Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) which allows undocumented migrants who came as children to stay in the United States and defer actions. such as eviction.

“Right now I have a much better job. I have insurance. I paid time off, vacation, a 401K. I see my children every day. We have plans to get out, ”he said. “I have time to take time to be with our newborn baby and help raise her. As a father figure, we miss their lives.

When working in oil and gas, Rodriguez said he was away for days, worked long hours, and drove for hours on dangerous roads for work near Pecos, Texas.

“The safety of oilfield workers is of great concern. Yes, they are getting a pretty good amount of money, but the security issue is very high, ”he said. “Many of them who are undocumented do not have insurance. If they die on the job, there is almost never any compensation.

Rodriguez spoke to Heinrich about diversifying the economy in New Mexico.

He said more support should be given to growing renewable energy sectors in the state, such as wind and solar power.

“I think most of us, even immigrants here, are pro-oil. It’s sustainability for our families. Renewable resources can be made. If he (Heinrich) plans to do it, there has to be a transition, so people don’t get laid off from their jobs.

Earlier this year, Heinrich introduced the Schools and State Budgets Certainty Act to provide funds to local oil-dependent communities like Artesia and Hobbs during what he predicted would be a transition away from fossil fuels.

The legislation would establish a baseline of mining revenues for local governments based on historical averages, and then, for the next five years, provide federal dollars to local governments to make up the difference when oil and gas revenues fall below. this reference.

“We need to make sure we have a managed transition,” Heinrich said in an interview with the Carlsbad Current-Argus. “There are some of my colleagues who do not want to admit that there is an energy transition underway. If you talk to the workers, they understand.

“They know things are changing and that they are changing quickly. There are others who do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Heinrich said the shift away from fossil fuels was imminent based on market trends and the need to mitigate the effects of climate change that would be caused by industrial pollution such as the oil and gas industry.

“There’s no question that it’s an important part of the New Mexico economy. At the same time, we have to recognize that we will have to do things differently in the future, ”said Heinrich. “The types of climate impacts we are seeing are dramatic and cost us billions of dollars.

“We have to figure out how to go from the way we’ve always done things to how we have to do things in the future and do them in a way that respects workers.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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