New Article: Jennifer J. Lee, “U.S. Workers Need Not Apply: Challenging Low-Wage Guest Worker Programs,” 28 Stan.L.& Pol’y Rev. (forthcoming).
With immigration reform stalled once again by United States v. Texas, many turn to the expansion of guest worker programs as a solution to our immigration woes. Low-wage foreign guest workers can fill “bad jobs” that no U.S. workers want. This article shows that guest worker programs are harmful to all low-wage workers by challenging this commonly accepted narrative and exploring how such programs create a cycle that fuels both U.S. worker shortages and the necessity for guest workers.
Scholars have amply criticized guest worker programs because they impair the rights of guest workers and contravene liberal egalitarian principles of social membership. These criticisms about how foreign workers are treated on U.S. soil, however, have been insufficient to tip the balance against these programs. What is missing from this debate is an attempt to understand why guest worker programs persist despite their many flaws. The legal framework broadly delegates power to employers to create U.S. worker shortages and the alternative of the highly productive and compliant guest worker. Cultural narratives operate to mask this reality by tying these phenomena to cultural explanations about low-wage workers. Together they create a climate that is favorable to guest worker programs.
This article’s close examination of these problems exposes why guest worker programs should not be a ready solution for immigration reform. It suggests a new approach to challenging such programs by broadening the lens to consider the plight of the U.S. worker. The U.S. worker can help shift the legal and social norms surrounding such programs by revealing how the fate of all low-wage workers is interconnected by government-enabled degradation of low-wage jobs. This approach suggests new advocacy strategies to eliminate guest worker programs in their current format in order to protect the dignity of all low-wage workers.
New Report: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, The Economic and Fiscal Consequences of Immigration, (Sept. 2016).
New Blog Post: Francine Lipman, I’ve Got ITINs on My Mind, The Surley Subgroup, Sept. 24, 2016.
Here. [My own example from El Salvador is a neighborhood kid with a full scholarship to university who could not go the couple of blocks because of gang threats.]
Op-Ed: Nicholas Kristof, Obama’s Death Sentence for Young Refugees, N.Y. Times, June 25, 2016
In the the news. Needless-to-say, I think this is wrong. My article on remittances, which discusses the dangers posed by this and other forms of capture by sending countries, can be found here. A related article on the connection between remittances and food security can be found here.
New Article: Jayesh Rathod, Danger and Dignity: Immigrant Day Laborers and Occupational Risk, 46 Seton Hall L. Rev. 813 (2016). Abstract below:
The plight of immigrant workers in the United States has captured significant scholarly attention in recent years. Despite the prevalence of discourses regarding this population, one set of issues has received relatively little attention: immigrant workers’ exposure to unhealthy and unsafe working conditions, and their corresponding susceptibility to workplace injuries and illnesses. Researchers have consistently found that immigrant workers suffer disproportionately from occupational injuries and fatalities, even when controlling for industry and occupation. Why, then, are foreign-born workers at greater risk for workplace injuries and fatalities, when compared with their native-born counterparts? This Article seeks to develop answers to that question with the aid of empirical research and to build upon a growing interdisciplinary literature.
This Article presents findings from a qualitative research study designed to explore the factors that shape occupational risks for immigrants. The study, conducted over several months in 2014, centered on in-depth interviews of eighty-four immigrant day laborers seeking employment in different parts of Northern Virginia. The workers’ responses present a complex picture of the immigrant worker experience, reflecting persistent dangers alongside powerful expressions of worker dignity: while the Virginia day laborers continue to encounter significant occupational risks, many comfortably asserted their rights, complicating standard narratives of immigrant worker subordination and vulnerability.
The results of the study also point to ongoing economic insecurities, and regulatory failures relating to the provision of training, use of protective equipment, and oversight of smaller worksites. The findings also signal the need for a more holistic approach to workplace regulation that concomitantly examines a range of workplace concerns, including wage violations, hostile work environments, and health and safety risks. Finally, the day laborers’ experiences reveal that worker centers are well positioned to insulate immigrant workers from workplace risks, by promoting transparency and accountability in the employer-employee relationship.
New Pathways Magazine: “Hispanics in America: A Report Card on Poverty, Mobility, and Assimilation,” Spring 2015 [Pathways is a magazine produced by the Stanford Center on Poverty & Inequality].
New Article: Nathalie Martin, Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: What We Can Learn from the Banking and Credit Habits of Undocumented Immigrants, SSRN 2015. Abstract below:
Undocumented immigrants currently make up more than 5% of the U.S. labor force and 7% of school-age children. Numbering over eleven million, undocumented immigrants unquestionably comprise a significant segment of the population, yet most lack financial security and stability on multiple fronts. In addition to the everyday risk of deportation, many risk being taken advantage of on the basis of their immigration status, in both employment and debtor-creditor relationships. While some of these financial conditions are well-chronicled, this Article describes the first empirical study of the debtor-credit relationships of undocumented immigrants. Through live interviews, this Article recounts the general financial impediments undocumented immigrants face in trying to work, pay taxes, raise children, participate in the U.S. economy, and simply survive.
Among other topics, this Article explores whether undocumented immigrants use traditional financial institutions or more informal ones, and whether predatory lenders such as payday and title lenders have made inroads into immigrant communities. It further explores our study participants’ perception of and attitudes toward various forms of credit, with the hope of using this sample to gain more generalized insights into the credit uses and attitudes of undocumented Americans as a whole in today’s consumer credit economy.
Through our study, we were able to uncover a few of the grim realities of living in the financial shadows, with only precarious means of financial support, distanced from social safety networks at home, at legal disadvantage, and without a place at any policy-related table. Indeed, we conclude that the financial condition of many undocumented immigrants is far more precarious than one might imagine, as shown through our data that 74% of the persons interviewed would not be able to cover a $100 emergency if it came up. We also discovered fear of and disdain for credit among many undocumented persons, demonstrating sensible ideas about credit, which many of us in the mainstream population could learn from.