Over 17 percent of the US labor force is made up of immigrant workers. As well as permanently living and working in the US, many foreign-born workers undertake temporary seasonal work in a variety of industries such as agriculture. Immigrant workers are an enormous asset to the US workforce, and indeed many of them are considered to be essential frontline workers. However, moving to a different country for work and applying for appropriate visas can be difficult, and even though they file income tax returns each year, many immigrant workers remain unauthorized and undocumented. By helping immigrant workers gain legal status, the country’s economy and welfare can continue to benefit from their hard work.
Supporting The Employment Of Migrant Workers In Agriculture
There are almost 2 and half million farmworkers in the US, but only roughly half of them are authorized to work. Their concerns over their status, combined with a nomadic lifestyle, means that they are often unable to access adequate accommodation, education and healthcare. As well as migrant workers who have a permanent residence in the US, extra workers are brought to the country to undertake seasonal work, particularly during the spring and summer. US employers are required to confirm that all their workers, whether permanent or seasonal, are legally able to work in the country. Temporary workers can be certified by their employers through the federal H2A program, which gives them authorization to work for a certain amount of time. The application process can be complicated, but help is available for employers whose seasonal workers meet H-2A Visa qualifications.
Protecting Immigrant Workers In The Healthcare Industry
According to a recent study by the pro-immigration reform group FWD.US, almost 70% of immigrant workers without official documentation are working in front line jobs that have been considered essential over the last year. As well as jobs in agriculture and food production, over 3 million immigrants work in healthcare, accounting for almost 20% of all care workers. Whether workers are authorized or not, any discrimination against them is prohibited by the Immigration and Nationality Act. Although even undocumented workers are legally protected by labor and employment laws, they may still be reluctant to speak up about being underpaid or working in poor conditions for fear of being reported for their immigration status. As well as improving workers conditions for immigrants, bipartisan changes to immigration law to help workers gain legal status more easily could address ongoing issues in healthcare, such as the shortage and high turnover of staff.
The US relies heavily on immigrant workers, many of whom work in essential industries such as healthcare, agriculture and food production. The roles they undertake are not only vital, but are often those that are unwanted by American workers. By ensuring workers are properly authorized to live and work in the country, not only are their working conditions made more secure, but employers can continue to fill vital roles.