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Job-training program arouses controversy

May 04, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Taking a break from training, 20-year-old Roxanne Sanchez held court in the parking lot of the Hector Mario Esquer community building before an audience of fellow trainees.

For two weeks, Sanchez, of Calexico, has participated in a computer training class in hopes of landing a job with US DataSource.

US DataSource is a Los Angeles-based data production firm that handles out-sourced data-entry services for large companies such as Blue Cross.

In June, US DataSource will hire 100 people for data production jobs and possibly 300 by the end of the year. They will work in the historic Hotel De Anza.


In exchange for use of the Esquer community building for the training of workers, 50 percent of the jobs created will be offered to Calexico Housing Authority residents, according to Lupita Rios, authority executive director.

The other 50 percent of the jobs will be given to CalWORKs clients.

Sanchez, a CalWORKs client and mother of a 4-year-old boy, has heard some Calexico Housing Authority residents are upset because the training classes, conducted for the past month in the authority's community center, do not cater to the Spanish-speaking majority of authority residents.

Sanchez isn't shedding a tear.

Talking as fast as she says she can process an insurance claim, Sanchez said most Housing Authority residents can speak English.

"They just need to practice more," Sanchez said.

Her 21-year-old friend, Monica Guillen, said Sanchez practices a lot.

Sanchez held up her hand to her friend, "Hey!"

The women started to laugh.

Some Spanish-speaking residents of the Housing Authority aren't laughing.

They say the organizers of the computer training courses, the Imperial Valley Regional Occupational Program, and Rios have conspired to dole out favors to US DataSource and CalWORKs at the expense of housing residents.

Maria Teresa Gasca, president of the Housing Authority resident council, said only six residents take part in the training program. Thirty-two students total attend one four-hour morning or afternoon session Mondays through Fridays.

She says willing and capable residents can't participate in the training because it is conducted in English.

CalWORKs client Martha Boroquez, 24, of Calexico said the instructors enforce an English-only rule because, "If you don't know English you might not be able to understand the forms."

For four hours a day the women punch in letters and numbers from hand-filled out practice claim forms, working to increase their efficiency.

When, or if, they are hired by US DataSource the data production jobs will pay $6.50 an hour.

Alex Perrone, an IVROP coordinator, said it is up to the residents to take advantage of the opportunity presented.

If they don't, CalWORKs clients will take the jobs.

Rios said it is generally hard to get residents to participate in programs such as this one because many residents already have jobs.

She said US Data Source and IVROP have been helpful and accessible to authority residents.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419.

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