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The Day Labor Market In Phoenix, Arizona

2834 words - 11 pages

The Day Labor Market in Phoenix, Arizona

Introduction
This paper focuses on the Macehualli Day Labor Union located in Phoenix, Arizona in
the 85032 area.
Throughout the history of the United States, illegal immigrants have come from
all over the world to find work and a better way of life. It is estimated that right now
there are about seven million illegal aliens living in America. About 69% of these illegal
immigrants are Mexican and over 283,000 of them live in Arizona1. In this paper, we
presuppose that the illegal aliens we refer to are Mexican. This is because the aliens
living in the geographic area around the day labor center we examine are over 99%
Mexican (Reza, 2003, personal interview).
Many Mexicans risk everything they have, including their lives, in their attempts
to cross the border and live the “American Dream.” Most immigrants are motivated by
the lure of lucrative employment across the border. They come to this country with the
hope of finding a higher paying job. In most cases, the immigrants are young men who
leave their families behind, but intend to earn enough money to eventually bring their
loved ones across (Reza, 2003, personal interview).
Over the past three decades, the influx of illegal immigrants has become even
more noticeable (Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1999). In the year 2000,
unauthorized immigrants accounted for about 2.5% of the U.S. population2. These
immigrants’ illegal status is a serious obstacle in their search for employment. Almost all
employers require some proof of United States citizenship. For citizens and legal
immigrants, this is easily established through a driver’s license or state identification
card. Illegal workers, on the other hand, obviously cannot rely on these, and thus are
severely limited in the type of work they can find. This has created a large surplus of
immigrant labor—immigrants who are willing to work, but do not have the means to do it
legally.
Background of Day Labor
3
These circumstances have lead to the reemergence of a concept that has existed
for a long time: day labor. Day labor used to be geared more towards American citizens
looking for temporary jobs, but has now taken a new turn in order to fit the necessities of
illegal workers. Day labor is defined as “a practice of searching for work in open air,
informal markets such as street corners or in formal temp agencies” (“Work,” 307).
Under this type of labor, the undocumented immigrant is considered an independent
contractor or a temporary domestic worker, and therefore employers are not obliged to
ask for work authorization (“Work,” 325). Day labor is extremely beneficial to aliens in
that it allows immigrants to enter the work force without being required to have legal
immigration status.
There are two types of day labor industries: informal and formal. Informal day
labor consists mostly of men gathering on street corners or parking lots to solicit work. It
is...

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