Illegal immigrants within the workforce are extremely vulnerable due to their status. Being illegal makes these individuals susceptible to exploitation by employers as they are more willing to work through bad conditions and low income jobs—consequently making themselves vulnerable to abuse. Most illegal migrants end up being hired by the U.S. employers who exploit the low-wage market produced through immigration. Typical jobs include: janitorial services, clothing production, and household work.
There are an estimated half a million illegal entries into the United States each year. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that 6–7 million immigrants came to the United States via illegal entry (the rest entering via legal visas allowing a limited stay, but then not leaving when their visa period ended).
Many illegal Latin American immigrants are inclined to the labor market because of the constraints they have with their job opportunities. This consequently forms an informal sector within the labor market. As a result, this attachment formulates an ethnic identity for this sector.
Opponents of illegal immigration argue that people who enter the United States illegally are criminals, as well as social and economic burdens on law-abiding natives. Opponents also argue that illegal immigrants who enter the United States illegally should be deported instead of being awarded with U.S. citizenship and social services. Some argue that illegal immigrants should instead enter the United States lawfully through legal immigration.
Research shows that illegal immigrants increase the size of the U.S. economy, contribute to economic growth, enhance the welfare of natives, contribute more in tax revenue than they collect, reduce American firms’ incentives to offshore jobs and import foreign-produced goods, and benefit consumers by reducing the prices of goods and services. Economists estimate that legalization of the illegal immigrant population would increase the immigrants’ earnings and consumption considerably, and increase U.S. gross domestic product. There is scholarly consensus that illegal immigrants commit less crime than natives. Sanctuary cities—which adopt policies designed to avoid prosecuting people solely for being in the country illegally—have no statistically significant impact on crime. Research suggests that immigration enforcement has no impact on crime rates.
And so one morning, quite by chance, I’m walking down an alley somewhere in the suburbs of Austin. I see a group of men in the distance. When I get a little closer, it becomes clear that they are Mexican migrants looking for work. Men with plastic bags in their hands, all their poor possessions they have. I stop and watch. From a safe distance. A pick up is coming from a side street. Stop by the men. After a few brief words, a few of them climb up on it. Who knows what kind of work was offered them, and for how much money. Of course I can’t see drivers face. The others are waiting for the next opportunity. If it’s not today, it will be tomorrow. Maybe later. Never. I secretly take photos. I am not afraid of migrants, but of their employers. When working illegally, who knows what they are capable of with a curious observer of what they are doing.
I think about how their families somewhere far away in Mexico, on the other side of the border, are eagerly waiting for a few dollars that means their survival. I ponder the conditions under which they work, without health insurance, without the benefits offered by regular employment, without any protection. And no trade unions. And if the police get them, they send them back across the border without mercy.
Many years ago I watched from the Bridge of the Americas over the Rio Grande River on the border between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez. A young boy of about twelve or thirteen crossed a river in broad daylight, climbed over a concrete river bed, jumped a wire fence and sneaked into the USA via railroad tracks. Who knows how long it took to capture him and bring him back to Mexico.
When I crossed that bridge, I was surprised how the traffic in the direction of El Paso was concentrated. But they told me that it was Friday and that it was pay day. Families of workers who work legally in the USA come to shop. Therefore, there is increased traffic in the opposite direction on weekend evenings. Entertainment and food are cheaper in Mexico. And better.
At the time of the bridge’s opening in the fall of 1967, President Lyndon Johnson met Mexican President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz at the halfway point for a well-choreographed handshake.
Today there is a commemorative plaque.
And not a word about Donald…