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Despite extensive and ongoing immigration enforcement efforts, undocumented workers continue to have a place in the United States’ economy, primarily in the low-wage labor market. I argue that this is a result of immigration law and enforcement reducing undocumented workers’ workplace rights. First, I draw on court cases and legislative history to illustrate how laws such as the Immigration Control and Reform Act have been interpreted and expanded to limit undocumented workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Second, I examine the meatpacking industry to illustrate how immigration enforcement has reduced undocumented workers’ willingness to access workplace rights, which has only made undocumented workers more desirable to employers who seek a compliant and manipulable workforce. I use newspaper articles, Immigration and Customs Enforcement reports, and think tank reports to demonstrate how immigration enforcement tactics, including workplace raids and employment verification programs, have heightened undocumented workers’ fear in meatpacking plants but not reduced their presence in the industry. I incorporate past research concerning behavioral trends among undocumented workers, as well as studies concerning the conflict between immigration and labor laws, to explain why immigration enforcement has compounded undocumented workers’ exploitation in the workplace and cemented, rather than disturbed, their presence in the United States’ workforce.



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Workplace Immigration Enforcement and Undocumented Immigrants' Continuing Presence in the Low-wage Labor Market