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Undocumented Immigrant


The United States is known around the world for the freedom that it offers its citizens. In the past and today, many people have fled countries with oppressive governments in an attempt to build a better life in the United States.

While many people come to the United States legally, some come to the country under extreme duress and enter as undocumented immigrants. In states like California, Arizona and Texas, a significant percentage of the workforce is made of up of undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented immigrants are often forced to forge citizenship documents in order to get work. Others obtain work under the table or take low-paying labor jobs to support themselves.

In a country where all citizens have equal rights, what rights do undocumented workers have? Do they have any rights at all? Many people in the United States, including undocumented workers, aren’t sure.

Federal Laws

In the United States, undocumented workers have almost the same rights as workers who were born in the United States or moved here legally however, not every right granted to citizens is granted to undocumented workers.


Unions are an important part of the American workforce, and they generally help employees get better pay and benefits for themselves and their family. Unions are especially important when it comes to lower paying jobs that require manual labor, where work conditions, hours and pay need to be closely monitored.

Undocumented workers are not allowed to join unions in the United States. Therefore they aren’t able to enjoy the same privileges as workers that do the same job who are members of a particular union.

Unemployment Insurance

Along with not being able to join unions, undocumented workers are not allowed to apply for or collect unemployment benefits, even if they are terminated from their job.

Unfortunately, that also means that many undocumented workers who are wrongfully terminated have no way to take care of themselves after being let go from a job.

Wage Rights

wage withholding

Undocumented workers in the United States are allowed to collect state and federal minimum wage rates for their work. As of January 2013, the Federal minimum wage is $8.00 per hour.

While many employers will not offer undocumented workers more than minimum wage, it is illegal to pay any person, undocumented worker or citizen, less than the federally-mandated minimum wage.

Many states offer a higher minimum wage because of increased living costs. Undocumented workers should be paid the state minimum wage for their work.

Wage Withholding

Some unscrupulous employers have hired illegal immigrants to do a job for them and then withheld their pay because they are undocumented. This is illegal in the United States. Whether somebody is a citizen or not, they are supposed to be paid for time worked.

Fighting Wage Withholding

Wage withholding is so common that many undocumented workers will face this problem at one time or another. Some choose only to work for cash that will be paid immediately after a job is completed.

Some undocumented worker’s rights organizations have even recommended accepting only cash pay for a single day of work however, some undocumented workers may find it difficult to get enough work to support themselves if they won’t wait a week or two for their pay like documented citizens.

Undocumented workers who are not paid for time that they’ve worked should file a formal complaint with the state labor commission.

The Federal government claims that undocumented workers who seek payment for work that they’ve done will not face deportation or fines because of their undocumented status or illegal entry into the country.

Overtime Pay

Undocumented workers are legally allowed to collect overtime pay for working more than 40 hours in a single week. While there are some exceptions to this, all workers paid on an hourly basis should be getting overtime pay after 40 hours.

Workplace Safety

Undocumented workers also have same workplace safety rights as citizens.

That means that undocumented workers should never be asked to work in an unsafe environment, or told that not doing so could result in termination or reduced wages.

Undocumented workers asked to work in an unsafe environment should contact OSHA in order to file a formal complaint.

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