American Business’s abusing undocumented labor?
Experts point out that some employers are all too eager to take on undocumented workers and exploit them for their willingness to work long hours for low pay.
Undocumented Workers Exploited
Businesses need labor, while labor needs work. So it’s disturbing to most Americans when the media reports abuse committed by businesses when hiring labor. So why do businesses employ undocumented labor?
Experts point out that some employers are all too eager to take on undocumented workers and exploit them for their willingness to work long hours for low pay. If no one complains, questions about immigration papers are rarely asked. But if problems do arise – such as being injured on the job or workers demanding better pay or access to a union – a swift phone call to the police or ICE will result in the problematic employees being deported.
“Employers use this as a huge club against workers who stand up for themselves,”
said Rebecca Smith, an expert at the National Employment Law Project, which campaigns on various worker abuse issues in the US.
One of those labors is a janitor — a 57-year-old Mexican immigrant who preferred to go by his nickname, “Chunco” — has worked for various contractors cleaning Target stores in Central Texas for about 12 years, despite lacking the legal right to work in the United States.
He and his fellow custodians have repeatedly been paid less than minimum wage and worked six or seven days a week with no overtime pay, according to court records and Texas Tribune interviews. In some cases, they accumulated those overtime hours when Target managers would lock them in the store for extra tasks.
Guatemalan immigrant, Osiel Lopez Perez
In another case, a Guatemalan immigrant, Osiel Lopez Perez, was just weeks past his seventeenth birthday, too young by law to work in a factory. A year earlier, after gang members shot his mother and tried to kidnap his sisters, he left his home, in the mountainous village of Tectitán, and sought asylum in the United States. He got the job at Case Farms with a driver’s license that said his name was Francisco Sepulveda, age twenty-eight. The photograph on the I.D. was of his older brother, who looked nothing like him, but nobody asked any questions.
After Osiel received a severe injury where he lost his leg, an internal investigation conducted by the business revealed inconsistencies in Osiel hiring, so within days, Osiel and several others – all underage and undocumented – were fired. How can America keep employers from intentionally hiring undocumented labor?
The Immigration and Reform Act of 1986 outlawed hiring illegal alien workers, although common practice has proven that measure ineffective for two reasons: The law requires proof that the employer knowingly hired the illegal worker and the prevalence of fake documents make it difficult to prove the employer knew that the employee’s work documents were not legitimate.
Employers when hiring labor, have certain responsibilities under immigration law during the hiring process. First, verify the identity and employment authorization of each person hired after Nov. 6, 1986. For employment in the Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands (CNMI), this verification requirement applies to persons hired after Nov. 27, 2009.
And lastly, complete and retain Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, for each employee who is required to complete the form. Businesses and employers are subject to civil fines and Criminal penalties (when there is a pattern or practice of violations). Let’s hope these regulations will keep businesses from continued violations of Immigration law.
- Fair. (Mar. 2016). Employer Sanctions.
- Grabell, M. (May. 2017). Exploitation and abuse at the chicken plant. The New Yorker.
- Harris, P. (Mar. 2013). Undocumented workers’ grim reality: speak out on abuse and risk deportation. The Guardian.
- Hill, T.P.(Dec. 2016). Big employers no strangers to benefits of cheap, illegal labor. The Texas Tribune.
- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Penalties.