It’s been more than 14 months since Liam Mason was discovered hanging from a tree in a Bronx park.
And it’s been more than a year since federal and state agencies began investigating why the young Monaghan immigrant took his own life. Only 23, he committed suicide, allegedly after having been exploited by a New Jersey contractor.
What should have been an immigrant’s dream turned into an exploitative nightmare.
With Labor Day next week, we would do well to remember the little support Mason received before ending his life in Van Cortlandt Park. And how little seems to have been done to uncover those who may have, in part, contributed to his death.
More than a year later, we’re still waiting for answers.
Mason was lured to the U.S. with the promise of easy money. But the hope that drives so many to success eluded him. His friends said whoever was supervising Mason’s work took away his air ticket and his passport. In time, they robbed him of his dignity, if not his life.
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Forced to work long hard hours for virtually no pay, Mason plunged into despair. Desperate to return home, and with no help at hand, he took his own life, hanging himself by his bootlaces.
After a year of investigations, the federal Department of Labor fined a New Jersey company for not keeping proper records. The INS, investigating allegations a contractor had brought Mason and other immigrants here illegally, said it felt the case should be handled by other agencies.
And the New Jersey State Attorney’s office, which never confirmed it was involved in an investigation, has yet to file any charges, if indeed it will ever be able to do so.
Hardly a fitting closure to a young man’s life.
True, there is perhaps little the authorities can do in such a case. Working in the U.S. illegally brings with it inherent perils. And without witnesses willing to testify about alleged exploitation, officials have little evidence to pin on unscrupulous employers.
Celebrate Labor Day, for sure. But remember that even in the midst of today’s boom-and-bloom economy, short is the step from the Dickensian abuse against which George Meany fought to the modern-day torment that drove Liam Mason to his tragic end.