Published October 17, 2013 | October 2013 issue
Unauthorized workers are the hidden face of immigrant labor. Despite decades of enforcement efforts by immigration authorities, undocumented workers continue to find jobs in the district. Most, including temporary workers and tourists who overstay their visas, work in low-wage industries such as farming, food service and child care.
However, the undocumented—a political flashpoint in Washington, D.C., and southern border states such as California and Arizona—make up a relatively small share of the foreign-born and total workforce in district states. A 2011 report by the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington estimated that there were 60,000 unauthorized immigrants working in Minnesota and 65,000 in Wisconsin.
Those are sizable numbers, but to put them in perspective, the estimate for Minnesota represents 18 percent of the foreign workforce and just 2 percent of the overall workforce. In comparison, Pew estimated that unauthorized workers accounted for 9 percent of the overall workforce in Texas and 10 percent in Nevada.
Other district states had fewer than 10,000 undocumented workers each—less than 1.5 percent of the total workforce in 2011.
Many unauthorized workers carry fraudulent papers indicating that they’re permanent residents or U.S. citizens. The Senate immigration bill would require all employers to verify workers’ credentials through a federal online database, making it harder for unauthorized workers to keep their jobs.