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Thread: Report: Half of Texas construction workers undocumented

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  1. #1
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    May 2006

    Report: Half of Texas construction workers undocumented

    Posted: 3:51 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013
    By Dave Harmon
    American-Statesman Staff

    Half of the construction workers in Texas are undocumented, according to a new report by an Austin immigrant rights group and University of Texas researchers that surveyed nearly 1,200 workers throughout the state.

    The report released Thursday by the Austin-based Workers Defense Project and a team of UT academics estimates that as many as 400,000 undocumented immigrants work in construction statewide. Those workers receive lower pay than their U.S.-born counterparts and are less likely to receive safety training or be covered by workers’ compensation if they are injured on the job, according to the report.

    The report says the state’s construction industry is at a crossroads — that it is dependent on undocumented workers and unable to find enough qualified workers to keep pace with the state’s growth. That situation should be addressed through federal immigration reform, the report says.

    “Now that undocumented immigrants comprise significant portions of industries like construction, more employers are left with few choices other than to hire unauthorized workers, or risk going out of business,” the report says. “Employers need an immigration system that allows them to legally hire the workers they need so they can focus on managing their businesses, not managing immigration policy.”

    “Our immigration policies are broken,” said Cristina Tzintzun, the group’s executive director. “They’re not working for businesses, they’re not working for our workers and they’re not working for our state.”

    The group was founded in 2002 to address the problem of unpaid wages for low-income workers.

    The report, based on a survey of 1,194 workers at randomly selected construction sites in Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio, found that:

    *U.S.-born construction workers earned an average of $3.12 per hour more than undocumented workers, who reported earning an average of $11.10 per hour.
    *73 percent of undocumented workers reported they had not received basic safety training, while40 percent of U.S.-born workers had not received such training.
    *29 percent of undocumented workers said they were covered by a workers’ compensation policy, compared to 65 percent of U.S.-born workers.

    The study says that 81 percent of the workers surveyed were Hispanic and 73 percent were foreign born.

    Construction industry representatives said they couldn’t confirm the report’s conclusion that half of Texas construction workers are undocumented.

    “That sounds a little high,” said Frank Fuentes, chairman of the Austin-based U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association. Licensed trades like plumbing and electrical tend to have few undocumented immigrants, he said, while specialties like concrete and drywall probably have more than 50 percent undocumented workers, he added.

    Tzintzun said researchers surveyed both licensed and unlicensed workers. She said undocumented immigrants make up such a large part of the construction workforce because they are hired through a vast network of subcontractors who typically pay them in cash and classify them as independent contractors rather than employees — which means they’re not officially working for the developers or general contractors in charge of a project.

    There are 5.7 million construction jobs in the United States, and 591,000 construction jobs in Texas, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The researchers estimate that 41 percent of construction workers don’t show up in government statistics because they’re misclassified as independent contractors instead of construction employees.

    By improperly classifying workers, employers avoid paying payroll and unemployment taxes, which helps them underbid competitors who follow the law, Tzintzun said.

    With President Barack Obama and members of Congress saying they’re serious about passing immigration reform this year, groups like the Workers Defense Project are trying to help shape the debate.

    The researchers focused on construction because of its prominent role in the state’s economy: the industry generates one out of every 20 dollars generated in Texas, which had 16 percent of the nation’s new housing construction permits in 2011, the report found.

    Phil Thoden, president and CEO of the Austin chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, said his group supports immigration reform and said he is more optimistic that it will happen than he’s been in more than a decade.

    “In order to grow, you need to build, so we need a talented and available workforce,” said Thoden, whose group represents roughly 300 local general contractors and subcontractors. “Immigration reform is key to the future growth of not only Austin, but all of Texas.”

    Thoden said he doesn’t agree with all of the report’s conclusions, adding that his group’s members for the most part follow the law, give workers safety training and want to do the right thing for their business and their workers. “I get frustrated when the industry as a whole is painted in a black light,” he said.

    Carlos Arellano, a 19-year-old construction worker from Mexico, said it’s harder to find good work without the proper documents. He and seven other workers, including his father Juan Cruz, said they went to the Workers Defense Project after an Austin subcontractor didn’t pay them about $2,500 in wages for jobs they did in College Station and Austin.

    “We can’t speak out because we’re not from here,” Arellano said.

    Patricia Zavala, the group’s workplace justice coordinator, said the Austin contractor who hired the subcontractor paid six of the workers more than $1,500 last week and two others still hope to receive their money.

    “We are here asking for an opportunity to have papers and be documented, and the same for our children so they can study,” said Luis Rodriguez, a construction worker from Mexico who lost part of a finger in a workplace accident.

    Report: Half of Texas construction workers undocumented |
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  2. #2
    Junior Member theRose's Avatar
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  3. #3
    Senior Member avenger's Avatar
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    May 2007
    Royse City, Texas
    I used to work in construction in Texas. I saw the quality of workmanship decline to amateur levels along with the hourly wage. I would never buy a home in Texas and I don't feel safe driving over bridges or riding elevators in high rises because of big business's greed and the federal governments refusal to do their job. The only growth is because of the increase of illegal aliens breaking into our country and stealing our jobs. If laws were enforced we wouldn't have this problem!!!
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  4. #4
    Senior Member HAPPY2BME's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
    Illegal Aliens Taking U.S. Jobs (2011)
    Illegal Aliens Taking U.S. Jobs (2011)

    The defenders of illegal aliens – ethnic advocacy groups, employer groups, and church-based groups – often assert that illegal aliens only take jobs unwanted by U.S. workers. This is patently false because they are working in jobs in which U.S. workers are also employed – whether in construction, agricultural harvesting or service professions.
    Illegal aliens come to the United States to take jobs that offer them greater opportunity, and they are often welcomed by U.S. employers who are able to hire them for wages lower than they would have to pay to hire U.S. workers. This employment is illegal under a law enacted in 1986, but some employers ignore the law and hire illegal workers in the underground economy. Others simply accept fake employment documents and hire the illegal workers as if they were legal. Because there is no requirement to verify documents presented by workers, employers can easily evade compliance.

    The illegal alien workers are mostly persons who sneaked into the country – nearly all Mexicans or Central Americans who enter from Mexico. There is also, however, illegal entry across the border with Canada, with apprehensions by the Border Patrol of more than 6,000 aliens in 2010. There is also a significant portion of the illegal alien population that arrives with visas and stays illegally. These ‘overstayers' are estimated variously to between one- third and 40 percent of the illegal alien population.

    The defenders of illegal aliens – ethnic advocacy groups, employer groups, and church-based groups – often assert that illegal aliens only take jobs unwanted by U.S. workers. This is patently false because they are working in jobs in which U.S. workers are also employed – whether in construction, agricultural harvesting or service professions.

    If the hiring of illegal alien workers is prevalent in a sector of the economy, as it has become the case in seasonal crop agriculture, the willingness of foreign workers to accept lower wages because of their illegal status acts to depress wages and working conditions for all workers in that occupation. This in turn makes employment in that sector less attractive to U.S. workers who have other options. The result is a form of circular logic, i.e., the more that illegal aliens are able to take jobs in a sector of the economy, the less attractive the sector becomes to U.S. workers, and the greater appearance of validity to the lie that only illegal aliens are willing to take jobs in the sector. Only by enforcing the immigration law against employment of illegal alien workers can this spiral to the bottom be broken and employers forced to restore wages and working conditions to levels that will attract U.S. workers and legal foreign workers.

    How Many U.S. Jobs Are Taken by Illegal Aliens?

    Just as the size of the illegal alien population can only be estimated, the number of illegal aliens working in the United States is also subject to estimation. A large share of the illegal alien population is generally accepted as being in the workforce because that is what motivates most illegal immigration. However, there are some family members, especially children of illegal aliens not in the labor force, while others may be in prison. One recent estimate by researchers at the Pew Hispanic Center puts the number of illegal aliens in the workforce at 8 million out of an overall population of 11.2 million illegal aliens, i.e., 71.4 percent.1 That estimate is generally accepted as reasonable.
    FAIR's estimate of the illegal alien population in 2010 is slightly higher than that of the Pew estimate, i.e., 11.9 million. FAIR's estimate of the number of illegal aliens in the workforce – using the share estimate of the Pew study – is similarly slightly higher, i.e., slightly fewer than 8 million jobs encumbered by illegal alien workers.
    Where Are the Jobs Taken by Illegal Aliens Located?

    Below is a listing of the estimated number of jobs encumbered by illegal alien workers by state (and Washington, DC). The estimate is proportional to FAIR's estimate of the illegal alien population residing in each state. The listing does not include an estimate for those states that have estimated illegal alien populations of 5,000 or fewer (Maine, Montana, North and South Dakota, Vermont, W. Virginia, and Wyoming).

    State Jobs Taken
    Alabama 185,940
    Alaska 7,140
    Arizona 217,200
    Arkansas 43,200
    California 1,549,210
    Colorado 100,555
    Connecticut 89,405
    DC 21,420
    Delaware 24,990
    Florida 505,360
    Georgia 292,090
    Hawaii 32,130
    Idaho 16,065
    Illinois 278,690
    Indiana 93,470
    Iowa 54,850
    Kansas 49,980
    Kentucky 39,665
    Louisiana 64,260
    Maryland 248,545
    Massachusetts 69,335
    Michigan 82,110
    Minnesota 71,400
    Mississippi 25,705
    Missouri 51,410
    Nebraska 28,560
    Nevada 136,000
    New Hampshire 10,710
    New Jersey 244,945
    New Mexico 75,160
    New York 401,625
    North Carolina 311,750
    Ohio 107,995
    Oklahoma 60,690
    Oregon 165,075
    Pennsylvania 165,240
    Rhode Island 21,865
    South Carolina 46,650
    Tennessee 93,470
    Texas 1,344,330
    Utah 71,400
    Virginia 163,615
    Washington 239,985
    Wisconsin 71,600

    [COLOR=#666666][I]Updated November 2012
    Last edited by Jean; 08-27-2013 at 04:34 PM.
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