Immigrants typically work harder jobs, for longer, more dangerous, with less training and safety equipment and less pay. These difficult conditions amount to a working population that employers more routinely abuse and are subject to privation and injury than other workers populations. In particular, immigrant populations suffer higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities and poor health conditions.
Occupational Risks for Immigrant Workers
Immigrants in the United States and throughout the world are subject to the same working conditions relative to other populations. According to the Annual Review of Public Health, immigrant workers disproportionately work in jobs known as the “3-Ds” – dirty, dangerous, and demanding. These “Ds” are usually supplemented by degrading and demeaning work as well.
These jobs are typified by long hours, low pay, and dangerous conditions that result in higher rates of injury and death. Moreover, immigrant workers are usually provided less training and safety equipment, and they are less likely to complain about dangerous conditions. Accordingly, an immigrant worker is disproportionately hurt in a workplace accident.
Indeed, in the United States, many COVID-19 outbreaks in small towns throughout the Midwest and South were linked to meat and chicken processing plants where most workers are immigrant labor. These immigrant workers toiled in close working conditions, without adequate personal protective gear, in dangerous work where they are surrounded by heavy machinery that is just as likely to slice them as a piece of meat or chicken. These food processing plants are typified by high rates of injury and low rates of complaints.
Dangerous Workplace Conditions
Immigrants are exposed to more dangerous occupational conditions than native-born workers.
Immigrants working in construction, maintenance, and natural resource industries usually work outside and are subject to weather exposure. These workers face harsh winters and scorching summers. These workers suffer heatstroke and sun exposure, and infections such as tick-borne diseases or even snake bites. In Alaska, three-quarters of its fishing industry workforce is composed of immigrants. These immigrants experience hypothermia and frostbite regularly.
In addition to injuries caused by weather and environmental issues, farm and agricultural workers are also exposed to pesticides regularly. In the United States, a majority of farmworkers are Latino, of which the majority are immigrants. In California, over 90 percent of agricultural workers are Latino immigrants.
Immigrants in the United States disproportionately work in the service sector – especially in hotel cleaning service. These workers are routinely exposed to industrial-grade cleaning solutions which cause respiratory issues, cancer, and skin problems after prolonged and repeated exposure.
Getting Compensation for Workplace Injuries
Workers who are injured on the job can seek compensation for their injuries. Further, it is possible to pursue a claim for workplace injury while defending against deportation. For example, if the worker is undocumented and filed paperwork suggesting they are lawful residents, for example, using another person’s Social Security Number – they could be subject to deportation even if they are the victim. Deportation does not negate their compensation claim. Moreover, immigrants subject to deportation can seek emergency visa relief to remain in the United States.