Damaged Bodies, Damaged Lives: Immigrant Worker Injuries as Dignity Takings
30 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2018
Date Written: 2017
Government data consistently affirm that foreign-born workers in the U.S. experience high rates of on-the-job illness and injury. This article explores whether—and under what circumstances—these occupational harms suffered by immigrant workers constitute a dignity taking. The article argues that some injuries suffered by foreign-born workers are indirect takings by the state due to the government’s lackluster oversight and limited penalties for violations of occupational safety and health laws. Using a framework of the body as property, the article then explores when work-related injury constitutes an infringement upon a property right. The article contends that the government’s weak enforcement apparatus, coupled with state-sanctioned hostility towards immigrants, creates an environment where immigrant workers are deemed to be sub-persons, and where employer impunity abounds. Drawing upon data gleaned from a research study of immigrant day laborers in northern Virginia, the article describes a range of practices by employers in cases of workplace accidents, noting the circumstances that are indicative of dehumanization, and thus, dignity takings.
Keywords: immigrant, worker, immigrant worker, immigration, workplace safety, OSHA, dignity, takings, dignity takings
JEL Classification: J61, J81, J83, K31, K37
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation