Immigrants Tackle Dirty Jobs on South Beach

Long hours, little pay for workers who keep night life alive

South Beach is known for its style, sophistication and party atmosphere, but it's no picnic for the thousands of undocumented immigrants working behind the scenes for little pay who keep the party going.

All the hot spots - restaurants, bars, clubs - need someone to clean up the mess and oftentimes it's immigrants picking up the slack for little pay and no benefits.

Jose Barahona, an undocumented immigrant, makes $3.50 an hour plus tips and goes home with $90 in his pocket on a good night.

"The heavy jobs, the dirty jobs, we are doing them, the immigrants," Barahona said.

According to, there are about 12 million undocumented immigrants in the nation and about 1 million in Florida. And with little financial means and no voice in government, most feel helpless to better their situation.

"Immigrants are 80 percent of the employees in Miami Beach right now, and they don't receive the money they need to get for the labor," Carlos Pereira, executive director of the Center for Immigrant Orientation, said. "They are like invisible, people don't see them."

Many immigrants are forced to share bedrooms with five other immigrants. Many ride bikes to work to avoid steep gas prices and to steer clear of deportation.

They bus tables, clean dishes and cook and serve food at all hours of the day and night just to survive and send money back to support families they left in poorer countries.

Barahona hopes President Obama can help make a pathway to legal residence for undocumented immigrants to give them their voice.

"We come here to work hard, so we need his help," Barahona said.

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