A couple of weeks ago, a proposed bill in Texas caused some surprise. As proposed, House Bill 2012 would create tough state punishments for those who “intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly” hire an unauthorized immigrant. Violators could face up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. But there is an exception included in the bill that is drawing attention. Those who hire unauthorized immigrants would be in violation of the law — unless they are hiring a maid, a lawn caretaker or another houseworker. See the link to this CNN article http://articles.cnn.com/2011-03-01/politics/texas.immigration.bill_1_immigration-bill-unauthorized-immigrants-issue-of-illegal-immigration?_s=PM:POLITICS.
Now let me tell you, living in Arizona for about 3 years now, proposed anti-immigrant bills are no surprise to me anymore. It has become a common day thing here in Phoenix and even though they are infuriating and cause me sadness, the passage of these bills is reality. However, this bill kind of stunned me. Why? Well because at first I thought it was hypocritical that you would let undocumented workers in the country only for the benefit of rich Texans (and I am sure other states will follow). Secondly, I am originally from Texas and I never really thought Texas would follow suit with Arizona, as we have the second largest Hispanic population in the US and Latinos (both US born and not US born) in Texas essentially benefit the economy, diversity and everything else in Texas. Riddle’s chief of staff, Jon English, admitted that the exception was to avoid “stifling the economic engine” in Texas. So as I continued to think about the impact this bill would have in Texas and on people, I remembered that my graduation paper (in Critical Race Theory) was on undocumented domestic workers and workplace rights. At that point my focus on this bill being wrong and hypocritical shifted to the possible positive impact this bill could have on undocumented immigrants.
In my paper (which is more concise than this and I am not giving it justice), my central thesis revolves around making an exception to the immigration law so as to allow these people- house workers, nannies, caretakers, etc- to stay in the country. Not only does it benefit the economy but the people themselves as they will be able to stay in the country legally. However, and this is the most important part, there have to be security enforcements in place so as to give these workers full work-place rights, which for the most part they do not have. People treat these people as indentured servants, sometimes even worse. There are plenty of horror stories from undocumented workers working in these jobs, so after looking through various immigration statutes I came to the conclusion that new laws have to be written so as to allow these workers things such as worker’s comp, back pay if there is a dispute, reasonable work hours, access to the courts, etc. Although there are some laws in the books speaking to these things, they are either rarely enforced or the person is too afraid they will get deported or just do not have the means to go through a process like this. Thus, workplace rights for these people can be enforced and should.
So in conclusion, if such a bill is going to be brought up, then I think all these other factors should be part of the discussion as well. We cannot allow such a bill to pass just because “When it comes to household employees or yard workers, it is extremely common for Texans to hire people who are likely undocumented workers.” “It is so common, it is overlooked.”If this bill is going to “benefit” anyone or anything, it should benefit everyone! Now, if Arizona could only take some of this into account, it would be a different environment right now, but this is not the case- Arizona simply wants to get rid of all of their Mexican population.
Grisel Galvan is a third-year student at Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and serves as NLLSA’s Mountain Regional Director.