Frontera Fund News

U Visas May Help Paleteros Victims of Crimes

paletas 2
Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

Eloteros, paleteros and other push-cart food street vendors are beloved characters of the Hispanic communities and barrios. They are hardworking individuals who serve delicious treats with the flavors of the homeland.

Some sell cut fruits and vegetables splashed with chile, lemon, and exotic ingredients such chamoy; others, Mexican-style popsicles that may be water- or milk-based with chunks of fruit suspended in the icy shape of the paleta. The eloteros bring warm corn-on-the-cob slathered with a combination of cream, mayonnaise, chile paste, lemon and – if it’s the most gourmet of vendors – a sprinkle of cotija cheese.

fruit

Unfortunately, their presence in the streets makes them targets of violence, because most of them are really poor, carry cash and may be undocumented, thus perceived as vulnerable by robbers and haters.

According to the Hispanic language newspaper La Opinion, 51-year-old food vendor Margarito Muñoz, who has been selling fruits in Los Angeles more than 10 years, was robbed and beaten up by men who left them unconscious on the street.

The men took $120 of Margarito’s day of work.

The attacks and robberies against immigrant food vendors is a national problem that goes underreported in most cases. We mostly know of the cases in which vendors were so severely beaten up they were unable to walk away.

In Dallas, street vendor Pablo Arellano has deep scars as the result of a brutal attack.

You can google many incidents of immigrant street food vendors being attacked across the country.

Pushcart vendors should know they are not alone. In recent days, with cases of abuse shared in the media, the community has risen to the occasion, bringing resources and relief to the victims.

Some have started GoFundMe campaigns to help pushcart vendor victims of crimes. You can see one here.

When the story of elotero Benjamín Ramírez’s attack came out in the local mediabejamin ramirez., an immigration lawyer offered his pro bono services to file a victim visa – a U visa – for the man.

The attack was documented by the same elotero, who fortunately had a cell phone and posted the incident on social media, while others started a social media campaign to provide reparation funds. Young Benjamin became an instant celebrity and even inspired a corrido.

U visas are meant for victims of crime who have suffered physical and emotional harm and have cooperated with the authorities, filing a police report that may help to catch the criminal(s).

The important issue is filing a police report so there is an official record of the abuse that can be used later in an immigration case.

Some lawyers representing these victims have filed hate crime complaints, since a portion of these attacks may be motivated by racism.

Undocumented community members should document and report with law enforcement officials every instance of abuse. The victims should then seek legal advice to perhaps fix their immigration status through U visas.

Enjoy here a story with a happy ending in the video “El Corrido del Elotero,” interpreted by The Mexican Standoff.