Many of his workers are not U.S. citizens but have documents that allow them to live and work in the United States. About 60 percent of Bravo's workers live in Mexico but -- like Alvarez -- have permanent-resident cards, called green cards, Bravo said.
Many of them obtained their green cards in the mid-1980s when the federal government granted illegal immigrants the chance to apply for legal residency under an amnesty program. About 3 million immigrants took advantage of the program, and some have returned to Mexico to live, but maintain U.S. addresses to keep their papers valid.
"Plus many people still have their families there," said Alcario Samudio, a paralegal with Legal Aid.
Samudio, often a critic of Bravo, said Bravo probably pays close attention to the worker's papers because his interests are at stake. "He just cares about his money," Samudio said.
After last week's raid, Angelica's owner, LeVerne Kohl, suggested that some of the suspected illegal immigrants might have come from Bravo, although he said he was reserving judgment until he saw a list of those deported by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Immigration officials in Baltimore and Texas could not be reached for comment during the weekend.
Bravo -- who did not know about the raid until a reporter questioned him -- denied that any of his workers were illegal.
He said immigration officials have not called him about the raid.
"I think I am smart enough to check their [workers'] documents," Bravo said. "I give them $50 for expenses. I pay for their bus ticket. I have to be very sure they are legal because if they are taken off at the [Border Patrol] checkpoint, I lose the money."
Problems often arise, however, when promises made by recruiters or their clients are not kept. For example, one recruiter's client was sued by Legal Aid after more people were recruited to work there than were actually needed, causing some to lose a chance for work, Samudio said. The suit was settled in 1995, Samudio and Legal Aid lawyers said, although they could not recall the terms of the settlement.
Some Legal Aid officials say recruiters sometimes misrepresent the terms of the contracts to the workers. However, the Legal Aid workers concede that it is difficult to tell whether recruiters or their clients are at fault.
As Alvarez prepared for his next job at a saw mill in Tennessee, he spoke about how Bravo has been finding him work for nine years.
Alvarez said he enjoyed the time he spent in Maryland over the past four years, even if he never felt he earned enough to try the area's delicacy, crab. Most workers start at $4.50 an hour; those with several years experience at the nursery earn as much $8 an hour.
"The most beautiful part of Maryland is the geese. The fields were full of them," Alvarez said, breaking into a smile as he is asked about the similarities between himself and the migrant bird.
"They come and go every year."
Pub Date: 9/23/96