Engage with migration status or identity as a locus of disadvantage


To escape conflict, poverty, persecution, to find better opportunities, and reunite families. These are all reasons people immigrate, and they all have in common the idea that when they arrive they will have a better life. That is not the case however for many, in America in particular many skilled workers come here and are unable to speak the language, or their certifications are not understood, and therefore they are unable to find jobs in their profession (Bowen & Elejalde-Ruiz, 2017). This is central to the idea that immigrants are disadvantaged in America, because the inability for them to find a skilled job leads to a majority of immigrants doing menial, low-wage labor (Nuñez, 2014). This in turn promotes the cycle of disadvantage and poverty within this community because immigrants are unable to find a high-level job, or earn the money they need. The implicit bias against immigrants in the US leads to an inability for immigrants to find skilled work, which continues the cycle of poverty and disadvantage within the immigrant community.


The idea that it is difficult to find work after migrating to America is central to the concept that immigrants are disadvantaged in this country. The two main problems people face when trying to find work in America is being undocumented and lack of knowledge of the English language (Rodriguez, 2002). Being undocumented in America means that immigrants are unable to get a good and permanent job, meaning that their only option is labor jobs. These often are not paid through formal institutions, which allows them to be extremely low paying jobs (Rodriguez, 2002). The inability to speak English at all, or knowing a limited amount of English is also a hindrance to immigrants who are looking for work (Rodriguez, 2002). ‘Nearly 2 million college-educated immigrants and refugees in the US are unemployed or working in low-skill jobs’, showing the level of disadvantage that they face in their employment options (Bowen & Elejalde-Ruiz, 2017).


Employers’ inability to evaluate foreign credentials, language, and legal status, cripples the employment options for immigrants in the US, leading to a surplus of foreign born workers who are overqualified for the jobs that they have (Bowen & Elejalde-Ruiz, 2017). This means that many who had high skilled jobs in their home country are unable to use these skills in the US. Although almost half of adults who entered the U.S. between 2011 and 2015 were college graduates, the majority of immigrants take lower paying jobs such as house-keepers or construction workers (Bowen & Elejalde-Ruiz, 2017).


Many jobs that immigrants have are not paid through formal channels, therefore employers are not accountable for paying immigrants a living wage. While native born Americans with a bachelor degree make a weekly wage of on average of 837 dollars, immigrants on average only make 681 (Gillespie, 2016). Not being paid a living wage puts many immigrants in poverty and means that they will not have access to many state provided services. As well as not having access to state provided services, they often also do not have the funds for things such as safe, affordable housing, quality education, and transportation (Nuñez, 2014).


Safe and affordable housing is often times expensive, meaning that immigrants who are in low paying jobs often cannot afford to live in these places (Nuñez, 2014). This means that immigrants often live in homes with relatives, or other families in order to make it more affordable. However, this often leads to a crowded home environment that does not allow for comfortable living, studying, or sleeping. Another problem immigrants face in terms of housing is land lord exploitation, often meaning they are tricked into paying extra exorbitant fees. Immigrants’ lack of knowledge of the English language and American laws allow for the land lords to exploit them, because they do not know that they are being exploited (Nuñez, 2014).


Another issue that comes from immigrants only being able to earn low wages, is that they have trouble accessing state-provided services, and other services. These are often services many of us deem necessary for a high quality of life, such as health care, legal services, mental health services (Nuñez, 2014). Access to health care is an issue due to low rates of insurance coverage, and high cost of quality health care (Ku, 2006). Poor health care in turn ends up limiting immigrants’ ability to be employed, and participate in many of the jobs which are available to them. This in turn lowers economic status and continues to disadvantage this group of people (Ku, 2006). Access to mental health services is difficult for similar reasons, including that it is difficult for immigrants to find these resources because they are unsure how to seek help (Nuñez, 2014). In addition to this, mental health concerns are often taboo in other cultures making these resources difficult to access. Finally, many immigrants may be scared to get legal help for fear of not being believed based on stereotypes, as well as undocumented immigrants fear of deportation (Nuñez, 2014).


When immigrants come to America in search of a better life, they believe that they will have access to better job prospects, housing, and a quality of life if they come here. Often this is not the case, the only job options are low-skill and low wage, even for college educated immigrants who worked in high skill professions before. Due to their low income many immigrants can’t afford basic human necessities such as safe, affordable housing, medical care, mental health care, legal help, and even taking care of and educating their children (Nuñez, 2014). This often leads to them falling into poverty, and becoming trapped in the cycle of poverty. This is perpetuated by their inability to access the resources they need to escape it. The way to fix the disadvantages that people face when the migrate to America is to institute policies to help immigrants overcome the barriers they face in terms of employment in America, which in turn will help to reduce their overall disadvantage in the country.



Works Cited

Bowen, A., & Elejalde-Ruiz, A. (2017, 03 27). Skilled immigrants often struggle to put degrees, credentials to use in U.S. Chicago Tribune, p. N/A.

Gillespie, P. (2016, 08 19). America’s immigrant economy: more work, less pay. Retrieved from CNN Money: http://money.cnn.com/2016/08/19/news/economy/us-immigrant-economy/index.html

Ku, L. (2006, 08 01). Why Immigrants Lack Adequate Access to Health Care and Health Insurance. Retrieved from MPI: https://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/why-immigrants-lack-adequate-access-health-care-and-health-insurance

Nuñez, C. (2014, 12 12). The 7 biggest challenges facing refugees and immigrants in the US . Retrieved from global citizen: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/the-7-biggest-challenges-facing-refugees-and-immig/

Rodriguez, M. (2002, 12 31). Finding a Job: A Big Problem for New Immigrants. Retrieved from Silver International: http://silverinternational.mbhs.edu/v162/V16.2.03a.Findingjobs.htm




April 27, 2018