Liam Mason died out of desperation. Friends of the young County Monaghan man have charged that he was driven to killing himself last month by the exploitation he suffered while working in New Jersey. This week, federal officials have said they will open an investigation into those allegations.
With an initial Department of Labor probe comes a chance to find out the truth behind the tragedy of his death. And perhaps an opportunity to hold those allegedly responsible accountable for their actions.
In cities such as New York, Philadelphia and Boston, where underground employment markets flourish, it’s not uncommon to hear tales of construction workers burned financially by unscrupulous employers: nannies duped out of wages and painters left without a weekly pay packet. That may well be one of the risks of working here undocumented. Most move on, and with the help of friends and family start again, putting their unfortunate incidents down to bad luck and experience. Certainly, few suffer such torment as Mason’s colleagues say he did before he died.
But, as is so often the case, it took a tragedy to bring to the surface an issue that many knew existed but few would talk about openly.
If a federal investigation should pin down those responsible for the abuse friends say Mason suffered through his last few months, then it should prove a warning to others who take advantage of illegal workers – workers who often feel they have little choice but to take what is handed to them.
It should also furnish those in similar dire situations with the knowledge that there is help available, that they do have alternatives. Hopefully, this investigation will help prevent the needless waste of another young life.
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