Immigrants and Work

About 22 million immigrants currently work in the United States, including more than six million who are undocumented and 240,000 temporary guest workers in low-wage industries. Many are paid low wages and work in unsafe workplaces, and those without documents are often excluded from the protection of core labor laws. This structural exclusion, coupled with anemic labor law enforcement and erosion of statutory rights, undermines the economic security of immigrants and non-immigrants alike.

NELP responds by promoting policies that build equality, fairness and inclusion for all those at work in America, in the following areas:

  • State and Local Anti-Immigrant Legislation

    With anxiety about jobs and the economy at peak levels, anti-immigrant legislation has been proposed as a "solution" in states and cities across the country. NELP works with our allies to vigorously fight these measures, and instead promote the real solution of strong labor standards that are enforced for all workers.

  • Worksite Immigration Enforcement and No-Match

    Federal policies requiring employers to respond to Social Security no-match letters or to use electronic verification of immigration status are badly designed and only drive more workers underground. We work with advocates to defend against misguided worker-focused immigration enforcement.

  • Immigrant Workers' Rights and Remedies

    Laws that relegate immigrants to second-class status in terms of labor rights only open the door to exploitative business practices, which inevitably spill over to hurt all of us. NELP promotes laws and policies that afford immigrants full rights and remedies on the job.

  • Human Rights Campaigns

    Using a human rights lens to identify and fight discrimination against immigrant workers has become an increasingly viable strategy. Via the United Nations and other international bodies, NELP is working with affected communities of workers to bring global and domestic attention to discrimination against immigrant workers in the U.S.

  • Health and Safety for Immigrant Workers

    Fatal occupational injuries - on the decline for U.S.-born workers - are increasing dramatically for foreign-born workers. We support community responses and strategic litigation to improve health and safety, as well as access to workers' compensation for immigrant workers.

See also our work in the areas of Enforcement of Workplace Rights, which describes additional strategies for strengthening and enforcing wage standards.

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Rebecca Smith,