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How illegals manage to work and study in the USA: answers to the main questions

Millions of illegal immigrants who do not have documents and work permits live, study and work in America. How do all these people manage to circumvent mandatory requirements and get a job in the United States, and their children get the opportunity to go to school?

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Since 1986, U.S. federal laws require employers to fill out an Employment Eligibility Form (I-9) to verify all employees and their work permits in the United States. But the law does not prevent some foreign workers from finding jobs without proper documentation, explains Cleveland.

For Form I-9, employees can provide current identification documents and work permits, such as a US passport, permanent resident card or passport with a work permit. It can also be a driver’s license or a school photo ID, social security card or birth certificate. But not everyone does it.

How do illegal immigrants manage to work in the USA?

Sometimes they work in the shade - while the employer does not submit information about them to the tax authorities. Illegal immigrants also buy fake green cards and fake social security cards in their name from illegal sellers, and some steal or loan documents for work belonging to a US citizen or legal permanent resident.

According to Alex Novraste, an immigration policy analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, there is a huge black market for fake identity documents that can satisfy the paperwork requirements that help illegal immigrants get jobs. Moreover, the illegal use of other people's documents and impersonation of another person was and remains a violation of the law.

According to him, employers are not experts in verifying identity documents, and either can not say or do not care about whether they were presented with fake social security numbers and other false documents. Moreover, an employer who suspects that a job seeker is an illegal immigrant, but cannot prove it and does not hire a person for this reason, runs the risk of facing trial for discrimination, for example, on ethnic grounds.

On the subject: Interesting statistics: how the number of illegal immigrants in the USA has changed in 2019

Do everyone buy or forge documents?

As the specialist explains, documents are not always stolen or bought on the black market. In many cases, foreign workers have the consent of the owners to borrow identity documents. A study by a scientist at the University of Colorado found that most immigrant farmers use borrowed IDs through a manager, friend, colleague, or third party. The “personal loan” agreement helps to get a job and provides the donor with financial benefits when tax deductions from the salary of a foreign worker are transferred to the donor’s social security account.

According to a report by Sarah Bronwen Horton, a professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado, relatives often voluntarily share documents with each other.

“For example, an uncle who has legal status in the US but decided to leave for Mexico forever can lend his nephew his social security number so he can find a better job,” her report said. “Or the daughter can find work using the documents of her newly legalized mother.”

Her report said that supervisors who help illegal immigrants find work sometimes force illegal immigrants to use documents provided by these same supervisors, this is called "working like a ghost." Supervisors can receive kickbacks from document holders, and also allow violations of wages and working hours.

“Under California law, for example, farm workers must receive overtime more than 60 hours a week,” her report said. - But my respondents said that employers usually require illegal immigrants to work without paying overtime on Sundays, calling it a “ghost day”.

How many illegal immigrants work on fake documents?

The Social Security Administration estimates that 1,8 million immigrants worked in the United States with fake or stolen social security cards in 2010, and predicts that their number will grow to 3,4 million by 2040. According to her estimates, 3,9 million foreigners worked in the shade in the 2010 year, and this number will grow to 9 million in the 2040 year.

On the subject: Half of illegal immigrants got to the USA on legal visas: why they cannot be found and deported

How do authorities catch and punish violators?

ICE sometimes gets information that companies have a lot of illegal immigrants, says Novraste. Government checks of forms I-9, which indicate the names and social security numbers of non-existent people, are another way. In 2017, ICE audited I-9 at 1360 companies. This number increased to 2282 by the middle of the 2018 year, according to statistics provided by ICE.

Employers who hire unregistered immigrants may be subject to civil or criminal penalties, which include imprisonment of up to 6 months and fines of between 110 and 16 000 dollars for each illegal, depending on circumstances, such as the number of previous offenses at the company . Unauthorized workers face deportation.

ICE said that in 2017, there were 135 criminal arrests in this regard, and by the middle of 2018, (latest data), 594. Administrative arrests amounted to 172 in 2017 and 610 in 2018. According to the agency, last year 97,6 million dollars in court costs, fines and restitution from violators was collected.

What does the law on the employment of illegal immigrants say?

Workers without documents, as a rule, have the same rights to wages per hour as legal employees, writes Legal aid at work. In practice, obviously, there are loopholes and abuses, which we wrote about above. The employer cannot refuse to pay the employee on the grounds that he does not have documents. For example, in California, an illegal person may file a complaint with the state's Labor Standards Division or sue your employer or contact the US Department of Labor (DOL). None of these agencies has the right to ask a person about immigration status and report somewhere about the lack of status, if he is disclosed in any way.

All workers injured in the workplace are entitled to compensation payments to cover medical expenses and, in some cases, loss of wages. But illegal immigrants may not have the right to some benefits for retraining. Health and safety laws protect all employees regardless of their immigration status. Therefore, undocumented workers have the right to refuse unsafe work if they reasonably believe that this will create a real and obvious danger to them or their colleagues.

An illegal immigrant cannot get unemployment insurance because he does not have a legal right to work. But he can get disability insurance funded by employee contributions. An illegal employee has the right to use the money that he has contributed - at least in the event of his disability, he will receive the same amount that he invested. The state employment development department also should not ask a person about his status or report about him in case of disclosure.

Under U.S. anti-discrimination laws, employers may not discriminate against an employee, including illegal immigrants. This means that the employer does not have the right to dismiss, refuse to accept a job or take other actions against a person because of his national origin (including knowledge of English), race, color, sex, pregnancy, religion, age or disability , sexual orientation, gender (e.g. transgender status), marital status, and political beliefs. But if this happened and the person, for example, was fired, it is not a fact that the illegal will be able to return the lost income or recover at work.

Sometimes employers dismiss workers, using as an excuse that they did not have documents when the real reason for the dismissal was something else. But unregistered workers are still subject to general anti-discrimination laws when hiring, so the employer is breaking the law in this case.

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Employers often dismiss workers because of information received from the Social Security Administration (SSA) that there is a problem with the employee's social security number (SSN). Often, employers receive letters from the SSA stating that the agency "does not find a match" in the number. Technically, a letter is sent to SSA only to make sure that employees receive the proper credit for their earnings, which could affect future retirement or disability benefits. Employers, however, believe that this relates to the immigration status of workers. Some employers even use these letters to intimidate vulnerable workers, including immigrant workers. In both of these cases, the employer is breaking the law.

The greatest risk in working without documents is that the employer, in response to an employee’s attempt to protect their rights, may or may threaten to take any action against the employee, report or threaten to inform the ICE about it.

It is important to know that even if the employer acts illegally, the ICE is allowed to monitor his message. The ICE may try to deport the employee, and if he used false information or documents when applying for a job, he could be penalized, fined, deported and / or deprived of the opportunity to ever return to live and work in the United States. These serious penalties can be applied even if the person who is illegally married to a US citizen, has US children, or has lived in the United States for many years.

How do children of illegal immigrants study?

In the 1982 year, the US Supreme Court ruled that undocumented children and adolescents receive the same right to attend state primary and secondary schools as US citizens and permanent residents, writes Superintend of Public Instruction. Like other children, undocumented students are required to attend school until they reach a certain age. Public schools do not have the right to:

  • refuse admission to the student during the initial enrollment or at any other time on the basis of an undocumented status;
  • treat the student differently than others;
  • in any way affect his right of access to school;
  • require students or parents to disclose or document immigration status;
  • Interview students or parents who may reveal unregistered status
  • require social security numbers from students, as this may reveal illegal status (adults without social security numbers who apply for a free lunch or breakfast program on behalf of the student should only indicate in the statement that they do not have a social security number).

A school district cannot request a student or parent's social security number if:

  • Does not inform the person that data disclosure is voluntary;
  • does not provide a legislative or other legal basis for why the district requests this number;
  • does not explain how the school district will use the number.

Districts are strongly discouraged from requesting social security numbers to avoid any of the frightening effects this request could have on students due to their race, color, national origin, citizenship, or immigration status.

Changes to the F-1 visa program (for students) do not change the obligation to undocumented children. These changes apply only to students who apply for a student visa outside the United States. In addition, school staff — especially school directors and student admissions — should be aware that they have no legal obligation to enforce U.S. immigration laws.

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