A Migrant Mother’s Bind

Far From Family She Supports but Jobless After 9-11

"What I'm thinking is," he said, "as a nanny, you can get work anywhere. You could be hired in midtown, you could be hired on the Upper East Side. But people who worked for 'XYZ' corporation, their office building is there [in Lower Manhattan]—it's not like a home." It took perhaps longer than it should have for Braslow to be persuaded that, by his reasoning, an accountant or financial consultant at XYZ corporation could also be told to go look for a job elsewhere rather than seek disaster relief.

But Jane D. might have saved her breath, for Braslow eventually concluded her situation was "a real pickle" with which neither the Red Cross nor any agency, really, could help and recommended she find herself an attorney. Jane D. politely waited until later to dismiss his advice as ludicrous. "I hate to ask for relief; it is turning me upside down," she said. "They're telling me it's not a profession, like I could just find a job anywhere. Like I shouldn't be here."

A second visit to Pier 94 last Tuesday morning won her kinder treatment but just as little help. "We need to have something to show you were working and how much you made," said a volunteer with Safe Horizon, the organization to which the city seemed to be referring most visitors in need of emergency funds. Jane D. came away with the promise of a phone call should requirements change.

An out-of-work immigrant nanny leaves the city’s disaster aid center with nothing.
photo: Keith Bedford
An out-of-work immigrant nanny leaves the city’s disaster aid center with nothing.

The last resort of many in her situation has been Asociación Tepeyac on West 14th Street, normally an organization for Mexican migrant laborers but now an oasis to any immigrant worker suffering in the September 11 aftermath. There, Jane D. met last Tuesday afternoon with staffer Omar Saracho, who quickly grasped the problem and deemed it surmountable. He coaxed the on-site Red Cross volunteers to push Jane D.'s case through, and she received a $50 grocery voucher and an assurance that checks covering her $300 rent and emergency cash needs would soon arrive in the mail.

And she got the bag with the fluffy white teddy bear. The volunteers mistook her tears for gratitude, but Jane D. later explained, "I was crying because I want to be with my children. But I cannot afford it."

Reporting assistance: Whitney Kassel

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