Report: Tough Immigration Enforcement Leading to 'Labor Brokers'

Researchers at Rice University say the White House 'Zero Tolerance' program on illegal immigrants has not stopped employers from hiring illegals, especially in today's super tight labor market, and it has only created another class of criminals, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Dr. Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, one of the authors of the report, tells News Radio 1200 WOAI's Michael Board that 'Zero Tolerance,' combined with stricter anti illegal immigrant laws in Texas, have had the 'unintended consequences' of creating new profit opportunities for criminal gangs--'labor brokers' who deliver illegal immigrants to job sites, in exchange for a cut of their pay.

"With this course of  'Zero Tolerance,' the labor brokers then tell the illegal immigrants, 'I can just contact ICE and tell them you are here illegally, so I'm not going to pay you minimum wage, I'm just going to pay you four dollars," she said.

The report points out that from construction, to agriculture, to service industries like restaurants and hotels, many key parts of the Texas economy are dependent on immigrants, many of whom are undocumented, for their work force supply.

She says the 'labor brokers' are complicit in the process of getting illegal immigrants to the job sites, and, frequently, the immigrants consent to it as well, because the alternative in many cases is not working or deportation.

"Modern day slavery," she calls it.  "And many of the workers are willing to do that, even if they are paid almost nothing."

She says the 'labor brokers' actually relieve the employers from the possibility of ICE raids targeting illegal immigrants.  She says the labor brokers actually employ the illegals, so the employer can claim, if immigration officials ask, that the workers are 'independent contractors' and not their employees.

Correa-Cabrera says in a common scenario, a construction employer will pay the broker $10 an hour for a laborer.  The broker will pocket $6 of that, and deliver the worker to the job site and take the worker home after the shift.

"Labor markets have adjusted to the zero-tolerance immigration policy by reconfiguring their hiring processes to find the workers they need," she said.  "Such workers are now supplied by labor brokers, a kind of middleman between legitimate employers and undocumented  workers.  This in turn leaves workers, extremely vulnerable to exploitation  abuse and labor trafficking."

She says this is another reason why Congress needs to approve an immigration reform measure which includes the ability of workers to tap into immigrant labor when necessary to fulfill needed jobs.

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