Topic of the Week Undocumented Workers
Undocumented migrant workers have employment rights regardless of their citizenship status under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). It is important for undocumented workers to be informed about the protections they have from discrimination, unfair wages, harassment,and disclosure of citizenship status.
In the United States, an undocumented worker or undocumented immigrant is a foreign-born person who is not a permanent resident or a U.S. citizen. "Undocumented immigrant" may refer to a person whose immigration status is not resolved. Due to the unresolved status, the worker does not have permission to work in the United States.
1. What is an "undocumented worker" or "undocumented immigrant?"
In the United States, an undocumented worker or undocumented immigrant is a foreign-born person who is not a permanent resident and is not a U.S. citizen. "Undocumented immigrant" may refer to a person whose immigration status is not resolved. Due to the unresolved status, the worker does not have permission to work in the United States. For information on types of immigrant status visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website
2. What is the difference between an "undocumented" and an “illegal” immigrant?
These two terms are sometimes used to mean the same thing. An illegal immigrant/alien is an individual who has entered the U.S. illegally and can be deported. It may also refer to a person who entered the U.S. legally but who has lost their legal status and can be deported. An undocumented immigrant/worker has entered the U.S. legally but has overstayed the time limits of their original status. Overstaying time limits makes their presence in the U.S. unlawful.
"Illegal immigrant/alien" is an offensive term to some people because it implies that the person is somehow "illegal." While the person may be in the U.S. illegally, they are not "illegal," only their status is. "Undocumented" better describes the situation of an immigrant who doesn't currently have valid legal status in the U.S.
3. Can I be fired for being an undocumented worker?
Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) it is illegal for employers to knowingly employ undocumented workers. When employees are hired, their employer is required to ask for documents. The documents must show their identity and authorization to work in the U.S. Those documents must “reasonably appear to be genuine.”
Employers must terminate, or refuse to hire, an undocumented worker if the find the worker is unauthorized to work. But, the employer cannot use immigration status as an excuse to fire undocumented workers who make discrimination complaints. Undocumented workers are covered by federal discrimination laws. The law prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who assert their legal rights. If an employer retaliates against an employee for exercising their right to file a discrimination complaint, the employer is breaking the law.
Thought of the Week
"In 2012, the Obama-Biden Administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which has allowed hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to remain in the United States, to live, study, and work in our communities. Nine years later, Congress has not acted to provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers... It is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means, Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear."
–President Joe Biden
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