Criminalize Employers not Undocumented Workers

Criminalize Employers not Undocumented Workers

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Dear United States of America,

We are a nation that has a large population of undocumented immigrants. As of 2017, there were 45.6 million foreign born people living in the United States. 10.5 million of that population is undocumented immigrants. 

In August of 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted what is said to be one of the largest worksite enforcement action in a single state. Over 600 ICE agents showed up to four poultry plant worksites in Mississippi with federal warrants to search the premise. About 700 undocumented workers were taken from their jobs and placed on buses. Children were left parentless, families were separated, and communities were fractured. Workers of the poultry plants faced sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, and they were paid low wages. The poultry plants stated that they utilized the government verification system, E-Verify to verify the legal status of their employees. It is highly speculated that these employers were fully aware of their employees citizen status, however they were never criminally prosecuted for breaking the law. It is illegal to hire or exploit undocumented workers. "Criminal penalties against employers were enacted by Congress in 1986. The number of prosecutions since then have rarely surpassed 15 per year.

This is just one example of the many companies that exploit undocumented workers for cheap labor. Undocumented workers experience abuse, harassment, and threats in order for them to be able to provide for themselves and families yet the employers walk away with no punishment. 

Many would say, "why don't undocumented workers just become citizens then?"

Obtaining citizenship in the U.S is extremely complex. Before applying to become a U.S citizen, immigrants must first obtain a Green Card to become a permanent resident. The process to obtaining a Green Card itself is long and has many requirements. Usually due to eligibility requirements, many immigrants do not qualify. If immigrants are eligible to obtain a Green Card, then there are additional requirements to becoming a U.S Citizen. 

Due to the process of citizenship, in 2018- only 756,800 of 10.5 million immigrants became citizens. Furthermore, the process of becoming a citizen takes a minimum of one year long and the minimum cost is $725 (not including lawyer fees, whom many immigrants consult with). However, the cost is typically in the thousands. Inevitably, these are factors that contribute to the delay of citizenship which many find unrealistic and unattainable. Therefore, many remain in the U.S undocumented, discriminated, and exploited. It is time for change.

By charging employers, we will help end a cycle of fear that undocumented workers face everyday. Large corporations continue to have ICE raids leading to the deportation of many individuals and with little to no repercussions. Instead of the current system, employers can hire foreign workers through the H-2a and H-2b classifications created by the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services. Through these programs, immigrant workers will be able to work in the U.S. The current industries using H-2b workers include:  food service and processing, construction, retail as well as hospitality services. 

“The H-2a Temporary Agricultural Classification allows U.S Employers to bring foreign nationals to the U.S to fill seasonal and temporary agricultural jobs.”

“H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Classification will allow U.S Employers to Bring foreign nationals to the U.S for temporary non-agricultural jobs.”

We are fighting to pass the H.R. 5038, also known as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act of 2019. This act contains provisions of H-2a and H-2b.

This act seeks to:

1. Create a new visa program 
2. Create a legal path to residency for long-term farmworkers
3. Reform wages
4. Enhance worker protections

This act will allow undocumented workers to be employed legally through temporary workers visas while forcing companies to abide by US law. This will also allow undocumented workers to work legally and avoid exploitation, deportation, and family separations. 

“Only by holding the corporation accountable can we ensure that criminal violations do not keep occurring. Only the corporation can usually pay appropriate fines, but more important, only the corporation can fix systematic failures in its compliance,” said Garrett, the Duke professor.


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