It may be illegal, but hiring undocumented workers is a long-standing practice in the agriculture and food production industries. While the oft-given justification is that these workers “do jobs Americans won’t,” this is not necessarily the reason many employers hire them. A more accurate statement might be that undocumented immigrant workers tend to do jobs Americans would do, but they do it for lower pay and under unsafe conditions. And that, at its core, is the problem: employers who hire undocumented workers often treat them poorly because they can. Meanwhile, undocumented workers are risking life and limb for their income, and if they complain, they risk losing their jobs or being deported.
President Donald Trump, though his executive order on immigration released on January 25, 2017, prioritized for deportation any “alien” accused of or convicted of a crime. Since crossing the border without proper documentation and using a false social security number — as many undocumented immigrants do in order to obtain work — are both crimes, Trump essentially put all “aliens” on notice.
Understandably, this order has sent shock waves through immigrant communities. “Right now, the paranoia and sense of fear is overwhelming,” said Ramiro Orozco, an immigration attorney. “All the raids and the rhetoric… have created so much anxiety… people are pulling their children out of school, they’re not going to work.”
In the face of these threats to undocumented immigrants, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with the mayors of many other major cities, has promised hope: “We’re going to defend all of our people regardless of where they come from, regardless of their immigration status.”
Immigrant communities are left asking: To what extent is this promise legitimate, and on what grounds?
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