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Why Are Domestic Workers Ignored in Immigration Reform?

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: abuse, americans, congress, corruption, democrats, dishonesty, Dreamers, ethics, Govtfearmongering, lies, Immigration reform, media, obama, politics, propaganda, republicans )

- 1937 days ago -
Eight senators released a broad proposal for immigration reform yesterday. One detail nestled within it was highlighted by Seth Freed Wessler at Colorlines: the proposal includes special treatment for agricultural workers and DREAMers.

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Kit B (276)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 1:30 pm
( Photo Credit : Reuters/Luke MacGregor )

Eight senators released a broad proposal for immigration reform yesterday. One detail nestled within it was highlighted by Seth Freed Wessler at Colorlines: the proposal includes special treatment for agricultural workers and DREAMers. For farm workers, the proposal states (my emphasis):

( [I]ndividuals who have been working without legal status in the United States agricultural industry have been performing very important and difficult work to maintain America’s food supply while earning subsistence wages. Due to the utmost importance in our nation maintaining the safety of its food supply, agricultural workers who commit to the long term stability of our nation’s agricultural industries will be treated differently than the rest of the undocumented population because of the role they play in ensuring that Americans have safe and secure agricultural products to sell and consume. These individuals will earn a path to citizenship through a different process under our new agricultural worker program.)

This could be seen as a cynical move to hand select the low-wage workers who perform jobs that many believe other Americans won’t yet that are such a huge and important part of our economy. (All other undocumented workers would also have the chance to apply for citizenship, but they’d have to go to “the back of the line” and only be considered after all others who have applied go through the process.) But it is heartening to see this work recognized as being so vital to the economy while also being backbreaking and paying poorly.

But that very description could apply just as well to another group of workers who are also often undocumented: domestic workers. In its recent report on the domestic workforce, the National Domestic Workers Alliance reports that 46 percent are foreign born and 35 percent are non-citizens. While federal researchers haven’t asked about documentation status, the interviews conducted for the report, it notes, “verif[y] that substantial numbers of domestic workers are undocumented immigrants.” It found that of the over 2,000 nannies, caregivers and housecleaners it spoke with, 36 percent were undocumented immigrants.

Do domestic workers not perform “very important and difficult work” that is of “the utmost important in our nation”? Without their care, many working parents wouldn’t be able to go to work. They helped free up a generation of women, previously relegated to unpaid care work in the home, to enter the office, and we all benefit from that trend. The US economy would be a quarter smaller if women hadn’t sought jobs outside of the home. Domestic workers helped (and continue to help) make that possible.

Yet just as with agricultural workers, this work pays poorly. Even worse, the NDWA found a significant wage penalty for being undocumented. Overall, domestic workers who are US citizens have a median $12 hourly wage, but undocumented immigrants are paid $10, a 17 percent difference. For nannies specifically, the penalty is 21 percent. Unsurprisingly, undocumented workers also struggle to get by. More than 60 percent spend more than half of their income on housing, compared to just 50 percent of US-born workers, and over half report struggling to pay essential bills, compared to about a third of native born people.

Given the increased fear undocumented workers likely feel of bringing complaints against their employers, they also report higher levels of abuse. About three-quarters have been injured on the job, compared to 54 percent of the US-born. Nearly 80 percent have worked while sick, injured or in pain, while 56 percent of native workers have done the same. Undocumented workers are also more likely to be asked to do work outside of their job descriptions or do heavy, strenuous work.

Why were they excluded from the fast track yesterday? Part of it is likely because of the fact that this work is so invisible, taking place in private homes. Is it cynical to also wonder whether the fact that the workforce is 95 percent female has something to do with it? Whatever the reason, domestic workers also deserve national recognition of how vital their work is and to have access to an easier path to citizenship.

The rights of domestic workers isn’t just an American issue. For more, read Covert’s post, “The Global Domestic Workforce Is Enormous—And Very Vulnerable.” (link at VISIT SITE)

By: Bryce Covert | The Nation Magazine |


Past Member (0)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 2:09 pm
Every single worker should be entitled to receive a minimum wage that guarantees a decent life relative to the cost of living.

Rose Becke (141)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 3:10 pm
I agree with Brian Ty Kit

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 4:32 pm
o no, not another dirty coup in that new regulation-what an outrage. Obama couldn't reach a better deal? what an injustice! YOU NEED UNIONS, more unions, and you need them fast!

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 4:34 pm
Somehow that special deal for agricultural workers smells to me... suspiciously..

JL A (281)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 6:05 pm
CA's legislature passed legislation that would have ensured domestic workers are covered under FSLA given all the data and research about the needs that Gov. Brown vetoed unfortunately. Many a politician's scandal relates to hiring undocumented immigrant help for their personal needs--am I a cynict o wonder if it was self-interest that kept this group from making it in the framework?

Barbara F (47)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 6:31 pm
OH BOY! Here we go AGAIN! YEP, AGAIN! This is NOT the first time, IF I'M REMEMBERING CORRECTLY?

Tamara Hayes (185)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 7:24 pm
I am so tired of this crap! I can't even come up with a profound statement right now. Thanks Kit

Fiona O (565)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 9:02 pm
Thank you, Kit. What would we do without Caturday, without Miss Kity, and without the Nation.

In this case (this terrible deja vu case), I propose we use the Earth First motto: "We are not going to stop, until you stop."

Elle B (84)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 9:16 pm
Ty Kit ~ Agree with all above ~ And. . .what about ALL of the employers of those without documentation. . .they should pay the fines and back taxes. . .what a sham scam. . .same ole same ole. . . this tired boring re-run ad nauseam flim-flam of a show more than obvious by now to the majority by now. . . enduring mindless nonsense ad infinitum must be some type of training for an eternal tenacity. . .but surely there is an alternate and i must have inadvertently checked the wrong box in signing up for such a strange course. . .

"When it shall be said in any country in the world, my poor are happy; neither ignorance nor distress is to be found amoung them; my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars; the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive; the rational world is my friend, because I am the friend of its happiness: when these things can be said, then may that country boast its constitution and its government." ― Thomas Paine, 1791/1792

marie C (163)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 4:13 am
Noted thank you

Ro H (0)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 5:01 am

. (0)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 5:18 am
thanks and excellent comment, Elle!

Sertap Çalışkan (44)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 6:16 am

. (0)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 6:32 am
Noted & posted

Bruno Moreira (61)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 8:49 am

Kit B (276)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 9:27 am

I worry that by forcing very poor people to pay fines and back taxes we keep them from coming forward to gain citizenship.

pam w (139)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 9:44 am
I categorize the DREAMers in a separate area. These are children, brought here illegally through no fault of their own and, like my young friend, they now find themselves facing deportation to a "foreign" nation they know nothing about, with no connections to support them.

Agricultural workers traditionally came here to pick seasonal crops and then went home! Put specific requirements on their comings (AND GOINGS) and they're in a separate category, too.

HOWEVER....illegals work here in every job imaginable and knowingly broke more than a few laws to get here. I don't think they should be given blanket amnesty. Fines are appropriate.

Nancy M (197)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 12:18 pm
I agree Pam with your post just above about DREAMERS. I have been reading about these kids here in my state. Many of them don't know that they are not US citizens until they want to go to college.

I found the whole premise of these agricultural workers though to be really bizarre. And again, in my own state here In Indiana a few summers ago, companies hired US citizens realizing that they needeed the work and would do the work.

Beverly T (82)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 3:49 pm
Could it be that almost EVERY LAST ONE of these workers are WOMEN !!!!!
My Spidey senses are sure tingling over that idea.

Elle B (84)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 3:55 pm
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last week.

Lois Jordan (63)
Saturday February 2, 2013, 1:52 pm
Noted. Yeah, I have a bit of a problem with those "back taxes" too. When dirty energy corporations and other corporations are given subsides, breaks and loopholes....this just seems petty.

Esther Z (94)
Saturday February 2, 2013, 7:16 pm
An immigration reform bill should cover ALL immigrants, regardless of the industry they work in to make a living. I think on focusing on certain specific industries, like agriculture,the reform bill tends to serve the needs of corporations than of the workers. I mean, really who tends to lose more when workers become citizens, and are able to demand fair wages, benefits and the right of litigation? I also worry about the "fine" that's be alluded to; most illegal immigrants don't make decent wages and barely make ends meet, so how in the world are they supposed to come up with a fine that might range in the thousands?

Kit B (276)
Saturday February 2, 2013, 7:24 pm

Back of the line, back taxes plus an outrageous "fee", reform? Not really.
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