Migrant Laborers

Migrant laborers slip through the tattered safety net in Texas, By Jay Root, June 30, 2014, Texas Tribune: “Along a street lined with warehouses on the east side of Houston, nine Mexican laborers working about 20 feet off the ground are tearing up a concrete roof with handmade pickaxes.They are chiseling it out, one mattress-size panel at a time, then shoving the debris onto the floor below. There’s a giant pile of rubble down there, a jumble of dirty insulation, tar-covered roof decking and fire-suppression water pipes ripped from the building’s interior. To call the work hazardous would be an understatement. The workers are standing on the very roof they are demolishing, and none of them is wearing so much as a hard hat, let alone fall protection equipment like harnesses and lanyards. Technically, federal authorities require that, but the chances of a surprise inspection — or any interference from a state government that brags about its light regulations. . .”

State Immigration Law – Alabama

  • Alabama life already changing under tough immigration law, By Patrik Jonsson, September 29, 2011, Christian Science Monitor: “Even before federal judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn upheld the toughest parts of Alabama’s groundbreaking immigration law Wednesday, daily life in Alabama had already begun to look – and feel – a little different. The state’s agriculture commissioner says some farmers are mourning squash rotting in the fields, after migrant workers either left or avoided the state, some in fear that their children would be used as deportation tools as schools next week begin checking the immigration status of incoming students. Two days before Judge Blackburn proffered her ruling, Alabama announced a new car-registration database called ALVerify, to head off fears of citizen revolts against long courthouse lines as residents prove their citizenship. And those working to rebuild the state from this spring’s massive tornado outbreak predicted delays under the expectation that Hispanic workers will be harder to find to lay roofs, build decks, and pour foundations…”
  • Law doesn’t mark end of Alabama immigration battle, By Scott Neuman, September 29, 2011, National Public Radio: “Alabama’s toughest-in-the-nation law on illegal immigration went into effect Thursday, a day after a federal judge upheld some of its key provisions, but the court battle over the issue appears far from over. State law enforcement can now question and detain without bond people they suspect may be in the country illegally, and public schools are required to verify students’ immigration status. U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn on Wednesday upheld those and other key aspects of the law. The Justice Department, civil rights groups and some Alabama churches had sued to stop the measure from taking effect…”

Low-income Workers and Wage Violations

  • L.A. leads New York, Chicago in abuse of low-wage workers, survey says, By Patrick J. McDonnell, January 6, 2010, Los Angeles Times: “Low-wage workers in the Los Angeles area are even more likely than their counterparts in New York and Chicago to suffer violations of minimum wage, overtime and other labor laws, according to a new UCLA study being released today. The study found that almost nine out of 10 low-wage workers surveyed in Los Angeles County had recently experienced some form of pay-related workplace violation, or “wage theft.” Almost one in three reported being paid less than the minimum wage and nearly 80% said they had not received legally mandated overtime…”
  • As wage theft rises, states and cities crack down, By Sophia Tareen and Laura Wides-Munoz (AP), December 17, 2009, BusinessWeek: “Fabian Gutierrez logged more than 60 hours a week slicing meat and stocking shelves with cheeses and milk at a neighborhood grocery for less than minimum wage and no overtime. The 32-year-old Mexican immigrant said he put up with the situation for months because he was desperate to support his wife and young daughter. And like many co-workers, he was afraid to challenge his boss. ‘All of us took abuse. We were disrespected,’ said Gutierrez, who found help at a workers’ rights center, joined with other workers to sue the owner of La Fruteria and now works at another grocery store that he says treats him better. Across the nation, the long-simmering problem of employers who don’t pay their workers appears to be getting worse, especially for immigrant laborers…”

Migrant Workers and Remittances

The aid workers who really help, October 8, 2009, The Economist: “As the dust settled after the attacks of September 11th 2001, officials in America and elsewhere started tracking cross-border flows of money from migrants, in the hope of nabbing terrorists. Remittance agencies were regulated more heavily; cash transfers from foreign workers were monitored. Not much was discovered about terrorism, but lots of new data emerged on the economics of migration. It was a happy side-effect. Over the past few years migration experts have gained a clearer view of how some 200m people working abroad affect the lives of compatriots who stay home. The impact, it turns out, is huge and benign. Obviously, migrants help their homelands by remitting cash on a vast scale. Armies of itinerant nannies, dishwashers, meatpackers and plumbers shift more capital to poorer countries than do Western aid efforts. (This may long have been true, but without the data who knew?) The World Bank says foreign workers sent $328 billion from richer to poorer countries last year, more than double the $120 billion in official aid flows from OECD members. India got $52 billion from its diaspora, more than it took in foreign direct investment…”

Iraqi Immigrants to the U.S.

Iraqi immigrants face lonely struggle in U.S., By Kirk Semple, August 12, 2009, New York Times: “Not long after the Iraq war began in 2003, Uday Hattem al-Ghanimi was accosted by several men outside the American military base where he managed a convenience store. They accused him of abetting the Americans, and one fired a pistol at his head. Now, after 24 operations, Mr. Ghanimi has a reconstructed face as well as political asylum in the United States. On July 4, his wife and three youngest children joined him in New York after a three-year separation. But the euphoria of their reunion quickly dissipated as the family began to reckon with the colder realities of their new life. Mr. Ghanimi, 50, who has not been able to work because of lingering pain, is supporting his family on a monthly disability check of $761, food stamps and handouts from friends. They are crammed into one room they rent in a two-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, in a city whose small Iraqi population is scattered. And Mr. Ghanimi’s wife and children do not speak English, deepening their sense of isolation…”

E-Verify Worker Verification System

Government to require verification of workers, By Julia Preston, July 8, 2009, New York Times: “The Obama administration will require businesses that win federal contracts to use a government electronic database system to verify that their employees have legal immigration status to work in the United States, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Wednesday.  After a six-month review, Homeland Security officials decided to go ahead with a worker-verification plan based on the electronic system, called E-Verify. The system, which the Bush administration sought to put into effect in its final months, is meant to prevent federal contractors from hiring illegal immigrants…”

Enforcement of Immigration Policy

U.S. shifts strategy on illicit work by immigrants, By Julia Preston, July 2, 2009, New York Times: “Immigration authorities had bad news this week for American Apparel, the T-shirt maker based in downtown Los Angeles: About 1,800 of its employees appeared to be illegal immigrants not authorized to work in the United States.  But in contrast to the high-profile raids that marked the enforcement approach of the Bush administration, no federal agents with criminal warrants stormed the company’s factories and rounded up employees…”