Immigrant Laborers Exploited in Texas, Advocates Say

With Hurricane Harvey having destroyed many homes and businesses in Houston, many immigrant day laborers are working in dangerous conditions while they still face the fear of being detained by immigration authorities.

The destruction or damage of almost 200,000 homes by high winds and flooding created a massive demand for such laborers. But, advocates with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network have conducted a survey that suggests these workers are being routinely exposed to contamination and mold while unaware of legal protections despite their immigration status, and have begun passing out information flyers.

Over 350 immigrant workers were surveyed, around 25 percent of them claimed to have received no pay for cleanup work conducted after Hurricane Harvey, with employers sometimes leaving them at job sites after the completion of the work. Almost 85 percent received no safety training, according to the report on the survey from University of Illinois professor, Nik Theodore. Over 70 percent of the laborers are undocumented immigrants, many of whom have already been deported from the US at least once.

Arrests related to immigration were ramped up earlier this year by the Trump administration. Texas has also passed a law banning police departments from preventing officers making inquiries about the legal status of individuals or giving cooperation to federal immigration authorities. Community leaders in Houston, which has around 600,000 undocumented immigrants as residents, are concerned by the impact on worker safety of such immigration policies.