Immigrants and Their Impacts on U.S. Labor

Our Nation's immigration laws are disrespected both by those who cross our borders illegally and by the businesses that hire those illegal immigrants.
-Steve Israel


Increased insecurity in the economic and social sectors in communities has affected the current immigration policy.  With a large segment of the economy dependent on immigrant labor, from jobs ranging in agriculture to housekeeping, it is important to note how legislation has responded to the needs of the people.

From an economic perspective, hiring immigrant labor is a win-win for the U.S. economy.  In economics, if the gains exceed the loss, then the country wins. As immigrants take the jobs that U.S. citizens cannot fill or cannot survive from, the economy is able to remain competitive in the international market: this has the domino effect in degenerative communities.   This however oversimplifies the losses for certain portions of the population.  With cheap labor available, employers from different industries prefer hiring immigrants, who also work harder due to the scarcity of jobs available to them, more so than hiring U.S. citizens. 


The immigrant labor issues has historically been contested and hotly debated on.  Acts such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 were prominent as an aftermath of the availability of laborers who are willing to work harder and at a much cheaper wage.  They have long been employed in the agricultural sector, and their presence in other industries since the 1970s has shown the advantages and disadvantages of cheap labor.  For example, the Bracero program (brazo means arm in Spanish) was created during World War II due to a lack of experienced agricultural laborers.  More than 4 million Mexican farm laborers toiled and worked for the nation and helped to create America’s fields as one of the most productive in the global market. The program allowed unauthorized workers to work in other sectors*.  Another disadvantage in cheaper labor is the loss of professional jobs in the technology industry (engineers, computer programmers and Ph.Ds in other technical fields).



All blame however is not on immigrant labor—another main factor to blame is the corporations themselves.  Because of their decision to remain competitive and hire cheaper labor, they unwittingly diminish other wage levels, take away jobs for citizens and lower the standards of labor conditions for workers.  Though they hire immigrant labor, they abuse this knowledge to increase production: threats of deportation from the corporation will make workers work more.  By threatening to move their site to another low-wage location if employees congregate and make demands, the corporation has the ultimate power in the workplace.   Another way corporations manipulate their foreign-workers was shown in the bracero program: the employers had contracts in English and the braceros signed what was essentially their slave contract.  They were not allowed to leave their workplace and to go back to their country unless it was an emergency: even this required the written permission from their employer*.  This shows the corporations’ exploitation of the immigrant labor.  Strict implementation of labor laws, from costly fines to deportation, can and will reduce the illegal labor that is hired, but only if it is truly implemented.