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'U Visa' debate: Should illegal immigrant workers have more rights? [Most commented]

June 24, 2011 |  3:34 pm

Farm workers

In the 1930's, occupations held largely by African Americans were not protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Today, there is still little federal protection for professions many undocumented workers hold -- namely agricultural laborers and home healthcare workers.

Agricultural workers do not have the right to collect overtime; home healthcare workers and "tipped" workers are afforded a minimum wage of $2.13 an hour; and agricultural and domestic workers are, federally, not allowed to unionize. This lack of protection encourages employers to hire undocumented workers and to ignore labor laws, Harold Meyerson wrote in an Op-Ed in Friday's pages.

Last week, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez and California Reps. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park) and George Miller (D-Martinez) introduced legislation (the POWER Act) that would give workers like Diaz provisional "U visas." The visas were designed to provide temporary legal status to immigrant victims who come forward to report violent crimes, and the proposed legislation would expand the protection to those who come forward to report workplace violations. Such legislation, Menendez pointed out, would not only protect immigrants but keep unscrupulous employers from lowering labor standards generally. "When some workers are easy to exploit," Menendez said, "conditions for all workers suffer."

Readers are overwhelmingly against providing illegal workers anything, really, aside from a jail sentence and a ticket home. Still, there are a few people who feel employers should face consequences too. And some readers do weigh in on the side of undocumented workers.

Focus on the legal immigrants, not the ones breaking the law

If a legal worker wants to get a visa, the have to go through an application process, pay a fee, and line up outside a US Embassy in a foreign country to get 'interviewed' and the forms accepted, then wait a week to get their passports with their visas back.

If a legal worker is in the US and working on a visa, and needs to get it renewed, they have to go through the exact same process again, including leaving the US to lineup outside an Embassy in another country, wait a week, etc.

My point is that I wish our representatives would give some thought to fixing the 'process' that legal workers have to follow, before spending their time and our money legislating for new visas for illegal aliens so that they can claim a kind of 'whistleblower' status.

The only good thing that will come of this is that no one will want to hire day laborers anymore.

--psb962

Don't reward illegal workers

I wonder if the latest barrage of pro illegal alien articles and editorials from the Times is changing anyone's minds or even adding anything to the discussion.  They sure seem repetitious.

We get it, the Times and the Sanctuary crowd sees no difference between a legal immigrant or someone on a work visa and an illegal alien, except maybe the legal immigrant is wasting the time and expense to get a visa.

I guess as long as they repeat themselves we need to rebut these silly requests for more privileges and benefits for illegal aliens as well as the new and creative "paths to citizenship."

Nobody should abuse their employees and yes these employers should be prosecuted for A) hiring illegal workers and B) ignoring workplace standards and employment laws.

However, the illegal workers should not be rewarded with a visa.  Let them report the violations anonymously if they're afraid of deportation, like that is a real possibility.

--areeda

Put the employers in jail

Mandatory jail time for executives of companies that hire illegal aliens will help stop this from happening. 

Solutions are already in place.... we simply lack the backbone. 

--trust no one

The solution is to enforce U.S. law

The statement is true enough: "When some workers are easy to exploit," Menendez said, "conditions for all workers suffer."  However, it is the presence of illegal aliens in this country that makes them exploitable.  Their numbers combined with their willingness to work for meager wages and allow themselves to be exploited that is the problem.  In a tight labor market, potential employers willingly make concessions with regard to wages, working conditions and benefits.  The solution is not a path to citizenship, rather a vigorous enforcement of our laws.  This includes jailing employers. . .

-- lynnke

Send them home instead of passing more laws

Here's the easiest protection of all, send them back.  Solves all their problems about being exploited, fearing reporting crimes against them, etc.  The solution is so simple, yet the government keeps piling laws and regulations on top of laws and regulations to try and solve additional problems caused by not solving the first one - deporting illegal immigrants.

--Anonymous.

The economy needs these workers; let them unionize

Sending all of these workers back would send the economy into a tailspin, the housing market in particular couldn't lose them. Despite all the rhetoric the pro-corporate Republican party (democrats too) will never effectively 'go after' the employers of undocumented workers.  The right wing makes a lot of noise but really doesn't have real solutions.  Best way to 'go after' exploitive employers: Let the workers Unionize! Its always been the case and always will be.

--ScottLamson

Day laborers are hardworking and take jobs others won't

1. Day laborers fulfill a market need. They would not be here if the mostly white, upper-middle class employers would not solicit work from them. Furthermore, they provide services that many, if not all of you, benefit from...immigrants & day laborers pick fruits & vegetables, clean & maintain the hotel & stores you frequent, maintain the yards and landscapes of the offices you work at, cook, clean and wash the dishes in restaurants you go to...also, these people also contribute to the economy with the rent/mortgages they pay, fuel they purchase, goods & services they pay for, etc. They also pay sales taxes & many also pay income taxes and cannot apply for a refund.

2. This country is quintessentially a nation of immigrants & just because your ancestors came at a time when there were little to no regulations or restrictions does ...not mean you're above anyone else.

3. These people are being criminalized for WORKING. Wow. What a crime. MOST immigrants are hard-working, decent people who just want to earn a living for themselves and their families and you and I benefit from the services they provide. There will always be "bad apples" in ANY group but you can't scapegoat all of society's problems onto people you don't know. If you're so against them, don't buy, shop or visit any place where immigrants have provided a service...you won't have too many places to go...

--lowera

*Spelling errors in the above comments were corrected.

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--Samantha Schaefer

In this June 16 photo, farm workers load a truck with cucumbers on a farm in Leslie, Ga. Credit: John Bazemore / Associated Press

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