Saturday, September 19, 2020
News, analysis and commentary by UBC Journalism students


Undocumented immigrants on the rise – who's to blame?

The Repubic and Saigon Grill incidents that occurred in New York City during December 2008 started off as minimum-wage law…

By amanda sung , in The Immigrant , on January 26, 2009 Tags: , , ,

The Repubic and Saigon Grill incidents that occurred in New York City during December 2008 started off as minimum-wage law violation cases. These two restaurants have been accused of abusing their employees, in particular deliverymen, who the public frequently assumes to be undocumented immigrants. As a result, these landmark cases in recent labour movements have turned into debates on whether or not the U.S. should encourage immigration.

Throughout the story, the reporter Larry Tung never clarified if any of these deliverymen are truly undocumented immigrants just like the readers assumed.  The assumptions were never questioned. It seemed to be acceptable to generalize and stereotype those at the bottom of the economy as illegal immigrants just because they are undocumented.

A blogger who goes by the name TheCitysDoormat said on New York Daily News that Americans are lucky to have these immigrants because they do the jobs nobody else wants. These unwanted jobs leave the immigrants with no choice but working 65 hours a week for wages as low as $2.70 per hour and without overtime pay.

“They also wire all their money home, use the emergency room we pay, send their kids to school, pay no taxes, use “free” clinics, etc.” said blogger TheCitysDoormat.

It is easy for him to judge the immigrants and condemn them. As an American citizen, he is eligible for decent education, able to apply for a fair-wage job, and protected by labour and union law. Little does he know that many immigrants, before coming to the foreign lands, probably had good education and respectable jobs, which, unfortunately, are not recognized in the West. Otherwise, some of these immigrants could probably be in the same social class as he is.

Not all American citizens have sympathy for immigrants who live with such strong discrimination every day. Instead, some of them think they deserve it.

“These are clearly illegal immigrants. ICE should just go there and round them up ands send them back to where they came from,” a blogger named Michael F. wrote in a New York Times post. “It is their presence in this country that allows an employer to get away with those kinds of wages.”

This blogger did not comment on whether or not violating minimum wage policy was illegal on the part of the employers. Instead, he suggested that the immigrants were the ones to blame and that such thing would not happen if the deliverymen had not been immigrants, whom he assumed right away to be illegal without any proof.

Income gap does not exist only between citizens and immigrants. It exists between genders as well regardless of what status they hold, White or Black, Asian or Hispanic. Of course, the gender gap in earning is not as extreme as the cases of abusing immigrant employees, but you get the idea.

I highly doubt that the blogger Michael F. would go as far as claiming that it is women’s presence in this world that allows this society as a whole to get away with not paying men and women exactly the same amount of salaries for performing the same tasks.

In the bigger picture, Obama’s nomination of Janet Napoiatno, who’s known for advocating amnesty for illegal immigrants and guest worker visa, might escalate the heat at some point of policy making.

The writer of the opinion piece More immigration will test U.S. economy, unity wrote that racial violence may escalate, especially in the context of a recession in which over 10 million Americans of diverse racial backgrounds are out of work.

There will be competition for jobs and other resources, which will, if not already have, strain race relations.

If the current American citizens already hate immigrants so much, even when they are getting wages so inhumanely low, I expect a rise of the hatred with more people added to the U.S. population, on top of the existing immigrants.

At the end of his comment, blogger TheCitysDoormat said, “Get a visa or stay tf home.” I would love to say that I agree, but the truth is, many white Canadians still tell me (in my face, too) to get my sorry asses back to China (and I’m not even from China!) even though I have passed my citizenship test, taken the oath, and lived this country for eight years.

It’s not about being documented or not. It’s about being an immigrant.