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How undocumented immigrants are working legally in the US

Innovative young immigrants who entered the country illegally have found a way to make a living without breaking the law by forming their own businesses or working as independent contractors. While federal law prohibits hiring an undocumented worker, the laws say nothing about starting a business or working as a non-employee contractor.

Although this has been a possibility for decades, immigrant advocates said it has become even more popular in recent years with the boom of tech-savvy young immigrants. In some cases, the young entrepreneurs are even hiring U.S. citizens to help them meet the demands of their expanding businesses.

For example, a 20-year-old Arizona woman who entered the United States illegally from Mexico at the age of 7 has found success by launching her own graphic design business. Although she cannot legally obtain a driver's license in the state and must get to client meetings by bus, the young businesswoman has launched campaigns for companies throughout the nation.

After graduating from high school, the young woman knew that her lack of legal status was going to be a problem in becoming a graphic designer, but she remembered that her parents had always told her that anything was possible in the United States.

While working with the Dream Act Coalition, the young woman found out that she could sell her graphic designs without breaking the law. She also learned how to register as a limited liability company and before she knew it, her business was up and running.

As an expert on labor and immigration law at the Migration Policy Institute explains, federal labor laws treat independent contractors differently from employees. Ultimately, people who hire independent contractors are not required to check the worker's legal status like they must for regular employees.

Although immigration reform and a path to citizenship are still major concerns, this is an example of how innovative undocumented immigrants are achieving success in this country yet still abiding by the law.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Immigrants lacking papers work legally — as their own bosses," Cindy Carcamo, Sept. 14, 2013

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