Since the Great Recession, cities like Dallas, Houston, Phoenix and Hobbs have seen construction booms. Homes and skyscrapers have popped up almost overnight thanks to cheap labor Latino immigrants provide contractors.

But at what cost?

Building the American Dream, a new VOCES/PBS documentary scheduled to air Tuesday on PBS, examines the effects of this construction boom in the American Southwest on Latino workers by telling the stories of those erecting buildings in Texas.

The film dives into the lives of one Mexican immigrant family after their construction worker son dies while on the job.

A Salvadorian electrician couple is cheated out of wages and tries to force a contractor to pay despite having no union to back them up.

Meanwhile, advocates work to try to convince lawmakers and city officials to make lives better for workers, not by demanding insurance or workers’ compensation, but through a simple request: water breaks.

Director Chelsea Hernandez said she’d been working on the film since 2009 and it’s a microcosm of the exploitation Latino construction workers face in the United States.

“It’s something that came organically and by talking to the workers I met,” said Hernandez, a third-generation Mexican American filmmaker of Austin, Texas.

She was introduced to her subjects and the advocacy group the Workers Defense Project after observing the workers’ plight in Texas, which outlaws most regulations aimed at protecting laborers. Business leaders in Texas tout its low cost in construction to attract investment but it comes while exploiting vulnerable workers, some with no immigration status, Hernandez said.

The film, though a partnership with Latino Public Broadcasting, is scheduled to begin airing Tuesday to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States. It will also be available for streaming on PBS.

(1) comment

Angel Ortiz

Looking forward to viewing this documentary.

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.