How serious are employment challenges for immigrants?

Undocumented workers often face injustices on the job. If they attempt to stand up for themselves, they may risk deportation.

It can be an exciting time, as well as a challenging one, for immigrants who come to the United States. They may be hopeful of creating a better life for their families, integrating into American society and possibly becoming U.S. citizens in time. Their setbacks may be just as significant, however. Immigrants often face prejudice and discrimination from others. They may have difficulty adjusting to a new culture and language, and they might have problems finding a good job and housing. Sadly, many immigrants in North Carolina and elsewhere are forced to put up with employment injustices.

According to Fox 8 News, North Carolina ranks eighth in the country for its population of about 342,000 undocumented immigrants. Undocumented workers are among those who are most likely to face discrimination on the job and abuse from their employers.

Common work challenges for immigrants

What is the workforce like for the average undocumented immigrant? Many work in low-paying or dangerous occupations, such as domestic work, construction, agriculture and food service. These jobs often complement white-collar positions, but employers may take advantage of their undocumented status in the following ways:

  • Forcing workers to labor long hours without paying overtime
  • Not paying minimum wage or failing to compensate for work that is done under the table
  • Not offering job training or protective equipment for dangerous jobs
  • Failing to let workers know of their legal rights
  • Not allowing workers to unionize
  • Engaging in racial discrimination or sexual harassment

If workers complain about their job conditions, demand fair wages or ask for the right to join a union, unscrupulous employers may retaliate by cutting wages further or threatening to call immigration authorities.

According to the Los Angeles Times, many undocumented workers who assisted in cleanup and recovery efforts after Hurricane Gustav reportedly faced grave injustices. Those who were mistreated said they were denied protective equipment that their American counterparts had been given to protect against injuries and infection. While they worked in contaminated water and near collapsed, dangerous structures, they risked serious injuries simply by not having the proper equipment. When they asked for safety gear, their wages were cut in half. After going on strike, many of the undocumented workers were arrested by immigration officials.

Regardless of anyone's opinion of undocumented people living and working in the United States, they should be treated with dignity, paid for their work and not have to fear retaliation. An experienced Greensboro immigration attorney may be necessary to protect immigrants' rights.