Exploitation Based on Migrant Status in the United States: Current Trends and Historical Roots
Bernard Ryan, ed., Migrant Labour and the Reshaping of Employment Law (Hart, Forthcoming).
35 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2018 Last revised: 25 Jun 2018
Date Written: March 20, 2018
This chapter examines the contemporary situation of noncitizen immigrant workers in the United States, grounding that examination in an understanding of its historical antecedents. The first section discusses the past and present use of non-citizen, migrant workers in the United States starting with chattel slavery and continuing to the use of visa workers in industries ranging from agriculture to computer programming. The second section examines the formal legal workplace protections for non-citizen workers, as well the ways in which the formal rules fail to adequately protect these workers. It concludes that, while these workers are formally covered by the laws guaranteeing basic workplace standards, in practice they lack effective remedies due to the structure of the law and problems in enforcement They are also deterred from filing claims due to fear of deportation. This latter phenomenon occurs, at least in part, because United States law, while prohibiting discrimination based on national origin and race, does not prohibit discrimination based on migration or citizenship status. The analytical difficulty in maintaining this distinction has recently been challenged by two separate lines of cases discussed in the chapter. Finally, the third part of this chapter steps back to draw broader lessons by connecting the current exploitation facing non-citizen workers in the United States to the historical treatment of non-citizen workers and to the themes of exit, voice and access to domestic labor markets found in scholarly work dealing with migrant workers in other countries.
Keywords: noncitizens, immigrants, immigrant workers, migrants, migrant workers, noncitizen immigrant workers, visa workers, workplace protections, workplace standards, discrimination, exploitation
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