Undocumented Workers: Definition, History And Effects

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With over 320 million people residing in the United States, this makes the country one of the most populated in the world. Although there are millions upon millions of people living in the United States, not all of them are in legal residence. Although there has been much controversy surrounding all of the undocumented people in the country, there have been some minor pushes to help better things for these workers. This paper will analyze undocumented workers and their lives, history and demographics.

Who are these Undocumented workers and where do they come from?

According to research done by the Urban Institute Immigration Studies Program, there are approximately 9.3 million undocumented immigrants in the country as of 2004 and they represent roughly 26 percent of the total foreign population. Only about 6 million of them are working and they represent about 5 percent of American workers (Passel, et. al. 2004). Of these 9.3 million undocumented people, about 57 percent are from Mexico, 23 percent are from other Latin American countries, 10 percent come from Asia and the remaining 10 percent come from the rest of the world (Passel, et. al. 2004). This data shows the immense amount of these undocumented people in the United States. Many of these people live in hiding as they cannot do a whole lot besides work and support their families for fear of being found and deported. As the data shows, undocumented people come here from all over the world which means they come from many different backgrounds and perspectives of life.

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They are residing all over the country, however a vast majority (65 percent) are located in just six states. This consists of California with 27 percent, Texas holding 13 percent, New York with 8 percent, Florida with 7, Illinois with 6 and New Jersey with just 4 percent (Passel, et. al. 2004). The majority of these people come from Mexico and that speaks miles about just how many Mexicans come over seeking a new and better life. Most of the time, these are people who are willing to work in whatever jobs they are offered in order to make a living for themselves and/or their families.

Undocumented and Documented Mexican Workers Difference in Pay

Generally, undocumented workers are payed significantly less than those who are documented and working legally. This has to do because they have no other option than to accept whatever pay they are offered. In an 1897 survey by Douglas Massey of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, he found that undocumented workers are paid 37% less than those who are documented (Rivera-Batiz, 1998). There is also a gap when it comes to genders, the same research found that undocumented males earn approximately 36% more than females. Different factors play into their earnings such as years of schooling, English language proficiency, and time spent in the United States.

Many Mexican workers who come illegally come over seeking temporary work. In fact, temporary Mexican laborers range from 500,000 to 2 million persons per year and they stay around 6 months on average (Ranney, Kossoudji, 1983). These workers don’t earn much themselves either. In 1978, these migrants’ earnings were around $23 per day (Ranney, Kossoudji). This data provides an understanding of how many undocumented workers are underpaid and are seemingly underappreciated. The money they earn is usually saved to take back to Mexico in order to help support their families once their temporary stay is over.

Interestingly enough, the rate of return for experience is higher for illegal immigrant males than it is for legal immigrant males, however it is the opposite for females. These workers are predominantly employed in blue collar jobs with about 93% of Mexican males and 87% of females working these jobs (Rivera-Batiz, 1998). There is obviously a significant premium when it comes to the pay legal Mexican workers. These pay differences may reflect discrimination against illegal immigrants.

Industries of employment for Undocumented Workers

These workers are employed in a variety of different industries. However, they are more likely to work in industries which offer low-skill jobs than U.S. citizens are of course. According to research by the Pew research-center, 22% of them work in professional, business and other services. While about 18% work in leisure & hospitality, 16% work in construction and 13% work in Manufacturing. Other major industries for them include agriculture, forestry and mining, wholesale, retail trade, education, health services among others. The industry with the smallest percentage of undocumented workers is Transportation & utilities with only 3 percent (Passel, Cohn, 2015). This data shows the diversity of work that udocumented workers tend to perform.

The undocumented labor force, as states before consists of millions of workers. A vast majority, 96 percent of all undocumented males are working in the labor force. As for women, only about 62 percent of them are in the labor force. This is because many of them remain in the home as housewives and many are of childbearing age (Passel, et. al 2004). This makes sense in relation to Mexican heritage. In Mexican heritage, the male is usually head of the household and provider whereas the female is more likely to stay home and take care of the house and children.

For undocumented workers, virtually any type of job offer is acceptable. Most of them want to survive in this country so they will take what they can get. They are mainly here to secure a home and make a living. Most of the time all they want is to provide a better future for their children. Although there is much understandable controversy surrounding them, they also have a reputable argument sometimes, so this is a very difficult dilemma to try and fix.

Early history of Mexican workers

Undocumented workers in the United States have had a long and rough history. They have gone through much controversy and turmoil while trying to be present and work in the U.S. This is obviously because they should not be residing in the United States in the first place since they are not documented and most of the time have entered the country illegally. Many of them enter in secret crossing the river in stealth or walking through the desert.

The implementation of the Border Patrol in 1924 was a huge step by the U.S. towards fighting undocumented workers and illegal immigration. This made it more difficult for Mexicans to come over illegally and start a life, it also finally created an obvious distinction between people who come over legally and those who violated immigration laws (Bustamante, 1972). However, this of course did not stop illegal immigration altogether. Between 1921 and 1930, “Coyotes” became a scapegoat for this illegal migration. Coyotes are people who help sneak others across the border. During this era, there was massive illegal immigration from Mexico due to the help of these so-called coyotes (Bustamante, 1972). It makes sense that coyotes arose greatly during this time period because of the fact that the border patrol was making it very difficult for people to cross on their own.

During this time period, there were significant deportations, however deportation wasn’t exactly the consequence of having entered the U.S. illegally. It was instead a consequence of having committed some type of criminal offense and then having been found to be residing in the country illegally (Bustamante, 1972). People who were deported were sent back to Mexico and back to their families as many of them would come over for temporary work in order to save money to take back to Mexico.

The border patrol was a game changer not only for authorities and the illegal Mexican worker but also for employers and their workers (Bustamante, 1972). This is because workers now were afraid to have a say in what they were being paid for fear of the employer turning them in to authorities.

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Undocumented Workers: Definition, History And Effects. (2022, February 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 23, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/undocumented-workers-definition-history-and-effects/
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