Friday, September 24, 2004

Forced Labor

While I'm on the subject, the Washington Post has another article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43473-2004Sep22.html reporting on the latest estimate that "10,000 people are working as forced laborers at any given time across the United States" The report, titled 'Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States,' was released by the University of California at Berkeley's Human Rights Center and the Washington-based anti-slavery group Free the Slaves. I haven't read the report yet, so I can't comment on it, but I will be interested to see what the tiest to immigration are. You can access the report at http://www.hrcberkeley.org/download/hiddenslaves_report.pdf. Hat tip: CIS.

Posted by Catfish DuBois

That's what I'm talking about . . .

David Cho has an interesting article in the Washinton Post about the results of a survey of day laborers in Fairfax County, VA. Read the whole thing at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41909-2004Sep22.html. Now most of these workers were immigrants. No effort was made to ascertain whether they were documented or not, but the article takes pains to point out that some are likely legal immigrants due to assylum rules and testimony or individuals workers. This article dovetails nicely with the point I was making yesterday. Clearly, many of these workers are able to find jobs that pay a legal (if not reasonable) wage. In fact, overwhelmingly, these workers reported earning more than $5.15 an hour and a sizable percentage earned over $10 an hour. However, as I pointed out yesterday, this informal labor market is clearly open to abuse by employers. Two quick quotes:

"At the same time, 84 percent said they have had problems with their employers. The most frequent issue cited was a lack of breaks. Others complained they were paid less than what was agreed upon, and some said they were not paid at all. Other problems included robbery, police harassment and in some cases violence."


"We are not even covered by the company's insurance when we have work accidents and get injured."

Keep in mind that the numbers interviewed was something like 200, and the reports authors do not make any policy recommendations because of the need for more data.

Hat tip: Center for Immigration Studies (http://www.cis.org/support.html ), a restrictionist group that collects wonderful daily summaries of immigration news.

Posted by Catfish DuBois


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Always a Laborer, Never a Citizen

The above was the title of an article that I read about migrant labor from Mexico in the 1920s. In fact, it was one of the first things that I read on the subject. Unfortunately, I have mislaid the cite, but I seem to recall that it appeared in a collection edited by David Guttierez. The reason that I bring it is that it represents my reall fear about contemporary immigration. Let me say that, in general, I am in favor of liberal immigration policies. In fact, I agree with many of my friends on the right that relatively open borders has provided the best anti-poverty program in US history. Studying immigrants has also given me an admiration in what can be accomplished by even the poorest and "unskilled." Still, the one that I find really worrying is the possible erosion of labor standards that mass immigration somethimes brings. In particular, I am referring to illegal immigration and some guest worker programs in which immigrant workers are denied all three of the basic protections of workers in a free labor society--the right to quit/seek more renumerative employment, the right to organize unions, and the right to basic legal protections. Anything less than this is some sort of quasi-slavery.

The Nation has an article about this very topic. It appears that blacklisting and intimidation of guestworkers has been a problem for North Carolina Tobacco Growers. Now, some progress has been made, but this is the kind of issue that I would like to know more about. Is anyone aware of other sources out there. The Nation article can be found at

Posted by Catfish DuBois


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