Experts: New immigration policies aren’t ending practice of hiring undocumented workers

Rice University News & Media

New immigration law enforcement policies are not ending the practice of hiring undocumented workers, according to an issue brief from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.
Credit: 123RF.com/Rice University
“Political Turpitude: The Negative Impact of Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policies on Irregular Labor Markets” was co-authored by Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, a nonresident scholar in the Baker Institute’s Mexico Center and associate professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, and Tony Payan, the Françoise and Edward Djerejian Fellow for Mexico Studies at the Baker Institute and director of the Mexico Center.
The brief explores the impact of zero-tolerance immigration law enforcement policies on labor markets that depend on immigrants, many of whom are undocumented, for their workforce. To understand this impact, the authors focused on the construction industry as an example of an economic sector that relies on migrant workers, both authorized and unauthorized.
“Labor markets have adjusted to the zero-tolerance immigration policy by reconfiguring their hiring processes to find the workers they need, but such workers are now supplied by labor brokers, a kind of middleman between legitimate employers and undocumented workers,” the authors wrote. “This in turn leaves workers, specifically undocumented migrants, extremely vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and even labor trafficking. This is an important consequence of immigration law enforcement today, one that further makes it evident that Congress must act to fix the immigration system, carefully considering the dynamics of America’s labor markets.”
On April 6, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions re-emphasized the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy on immigration by instructing all federal prosecutors to take swift action against all undocumented migrants who enter through the Southwest border. This directive came on the heels of increased efforts by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport indiscriminately all individuals …

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