What does the Recession Mean for Immigrant Workers?
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the economic crisis is forcing Latino immigrants to return to their countries. The article cited a new study by the Pew Hispanic Center on Latino workers and the current recession. The Center’s study, however, points out that although there has been a slowdown in the growth of the Latino immigrant working-age population, it cannot be concluded that foreign-born Latinos are returning to their countries.
The study does conclude that the inflow of undocumented immigrants has decreased since 2005, but undocumented immigrants are not leaving the country, as indicated by the Migration Policy Institute’s new report.
Talking to undocumented workers about the impact of the recession, I found that the option of returning to their countries is the last one on their minds. The political and economic instability and the fear of high levels of crime in their home countries make the idea of returning very unattractive. In addition, they have established roots in this country—many have children who have grown up here.
The current recession is only forcing undocumented workers to look for lower paying jobs—exposing themselves to dangerous working conditions, exploitation, and enabling employers to further drag down labor standards for all workers. The debate over whether the inflow of undocumented immigrants has decreased or increased doesn’t address the core issue—the decline in working conditions and wages caused by immigrant exploitation. To address this, the new administration would have to ensure that all workers, regardless of their immigration status, are guaranteed equal labor rights.