To Help Those Most in Need: Undocumented Worker’s Rights and Remedies under Title VII


Undocumented immigrants who live and work in the United States, often referred to as “illegal aliens,” are under increasing attack as undeserving of legal rights and protection. As of 1988, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) has prohibited employers from hiring undocumented workers and subjected employers who violate the law to fines and imprisonment. More recent proposals range from withholding medical care and driver’s licenses from undocumented people to denying citizenship and education to their children born in the United States. Despite the laws designed to keep them out, undocumented immigrants continue to live and work in the United States.’ The exact number, though, is extremely difficult to determine.

Perhaps the best post-IRCA evidence of workplace trends comes from a study of the employment patterns of southern Californian businesses that are dependent on the use of undocumented workers. Nearly half of the study participants stated that they thought they currently employed undocumented workers,’ and 80 percent said that IRCA had not affected in any way the type of worker they were currently hiring. Seventy-five percent anticipated no future changes in the way they hired workers.” Employers continue to use un- documented workers because of a perceived lack of enforcement, I low fines relative to the benefit of hiring these workers, the possibility of technically following the law while still employing undocumented workers,” and the ability to discharge workers prior to INS inspections.

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Michael M. Oswalt∞ Organizing is risky. Some workers join in and get fired, others face intimidation and drop out, while most—sensing the tension between legal rights and remedial realities—simply opt out. And more and more, the campaigns—and the campaigners—are getting