How Comprehensive Immigration Reform Will Benefit Workers

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Few people would dispute the fact that our country has a broken immigration system. More than 11 million people are living in the United States without legal status, millions of people are waiting to be reunited with their families, and employers are not able to recruit the foreign-born workers our economy needs. But the effects of this broken system extend beyond immigrant workers, their families, and employers; all American workers are harmed by the nation’s dysfunctional immigration policies. Specifically, they are harmed because our immigration system undermines the employment protections of immigrants and subsequently erodes the effectiveness of employment laws for all workers.

To fully understand why American workers are harmed, one must first consider the role of immigration enforcement in the workplace and how it affects the employment rights of immigrant workers. Under current immigration law, it is illegal for employers to knowingly hire undocumented workers. Despite this prohibition, unscrupulous employers use workers’ undocumented status to avoid compliance with employment laws and deter them from filing formal employment complaints with federal agencies. Many of these employers have therefore managed to go unpunished for their unlawful employment actions.

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