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Immigration reform would provide workers with rights

Immigration reform is one of the hottest issues in the United States right now. Immigrant advocates say that immigration reform is not only needed to provide a path to legal residency for millions of undocumented immigrants, it's also needed to regulate the many businesses that take advantage of immigrant workers.

Especially in hard economic times, businesses including car washes, corporate farms, construction companies and lawn care businesses have been known to lure immigrants into the United States with offers of work and fair wages. However, once the immigrants arrive, they are often paid less than minimum wage and are forced to deal with poor working conditions.

A man who came to the United States from Guatemala recently told his story to the Huffington Post. He said he came to the country five years ago at the age of 16 after he was promised a job. Since then, the young man has worked at a car wash that has cheated him out of earnings. He said the car wash employs undocumented workers, knowing that they have little recourse if they are abused.

According to a 2008 investigation by the Los Angeles Times, car washes in that city were known to "brazenly violate basic labor and immigration laws with little risk of penalty." The report revealed that some car wash companies were paid workers just $1.63 an hour, while others only paid workers in tips, so they made between $10 and $30 a day.

Immigrant advocates say companies throughout the country frequently violate labor laws, commit wage theft and expose workers to hazards on the job. In order to get this treatment to stop, these workers need rights, the advocates say. Otherwise, this poor treatment of workers could become the norm in the United States.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Immigration reform prevents employer abuse," Leo W. Gerard, Feb. 4, 2013

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