The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Attacking Immigrant Workers Hurts All Workers

Jan 29, 2024

Cracking down on immigrant workers is framed as a way to save “American” jobs and drive up “American” wages. Both Democrats and Republicans, for instance, have pushed greater use of the “e-verify” system to make sure workers entered in the Social Security and tax systems have the legal right to work. They say this will stop bosses from hiring undocumented immigrants, forcing them to hire people who are legally allowed to work. And without those desperate undocumented workers, politicians in both parties pretend that the bosses will have to pay more.

But this is the opposite of reality.

What’s true is that bosses use the most desperate workers to drive down everyone’s wages and benefits. But that is exactly why anti-immigrant rhetoric and anti-immigrant attacks hurt all workers, since they make these workers more desperate.

For instance, in the last two years, about 400,000 children have crossed the border into the U.S. without their parents. They can’t get many services, they are often in debt, and their families are desperate, so they have to work.

Bosses use subcontractors to hire these children to work in the meatpacking and roofing industries, for instance—under the table of course, so e-verify would never catch them. Increasing numbers of teenagers and children, sometimes as young as 10 years old, carry heavy bundles of shingles around hot roofs without safety training or safety harnesses, sometimes falling to their deaths or suffering severe injuries. Or they clean machines that cut up chicken carcasses, sometimes losing fingers or hands.

But no matter how dangerous the job, no matter how low the wages, because these child workers are threatened with deportation, the bosses know that they have little to worry about from OSHA and the Department of Labor. Who will call the government when you know the government is out to get you?

The threat of deportation hanging over the heads of these workers hurts all workers, including those born in this country. If the bosses can get immigrants to do the job for dirt cheap—and with no complaints—why would they hire an adult for decent wages? Child labor may be the most shocking aspect of this, but the same logic holds for all undocumented workers—and even workers with legal rights, who are also pressured by the anti-immigrant rhetoric we hear to keep their heads down and not complain.

Attacks on immigrants cannot stop desperate people from trying to get here or from looking for work to survive. These attacks can only make people more desperate—and that hurts us all.