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Immigration and bad workplaces: the downside of undocumented status

Immigrants have an immense amount to offer to America’s economic vitality. This is true across the board, from the most highly skilled jobs to lower-skilled jobs that most Americans don’t want.

On the high end, work permits may come in the form of H-1B visas. There are other forms of work authorization available as well.

But there are also employers who take advantage of undocumented people. Such employers do things like cheat immigrant workers out of pay. Employers like this may also subject undocumented workers to hazardous work conditions without providing proper protective gear.

What types of businesses are we talking about here? For years, migrant farm laborers have struggled on the margins of American life. But it’s not difficult to identify other businesses besides corporate farms where undocumented workers may be treated unfairly.

Construction jobs, for example, are well known to be dangerous. Personal protective equipment is often necessary for workers to avoid serious injuries. But certain employers often fail to provide it to workers they know are undocumented.

There are other businesses as well that draw immigrants but may not treat them well. Car washes are certainly one of those. Lawn care businesses are another. When employees cycle through these jobs quickly, employers may not feel much of an incentive to ensure they are treated fairly. And this is especially true of immigrant employees.

Being subjected to dangerous working conditions without proper protection is bad enough. But some employers also fail to pay immigrant workers basic minimum wages.

This is one more reason why creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants makes so much sense.

Source: “Immigration Reform Prevents Employer Abuse,” Huffington Post, Leo W. Gerard, 2-4-13

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