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 the idea is that upon arrival they will have a better life. However, in the U.S. in particular many skilled workers come here and are unable to speak the native language, their certifications are not understood, or they cannot find work, leading to the inability to achieve this better life.  (Bowen & Elejalde-Ruiz, 2017). This is central to the idea that immigrants are disadvantaged in the United States, 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 many U.S. born citizens have against immigrants 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 the U.S. is central to the concept that immigrants are disadvantaged in this country. The two main problems people face when trying to find work in the United States are being undocumented and lack of knowledge of the English language (Rodriguez, 2002). Being undocumented in the United States 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 their jobs. 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-keeping or construction work (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 U.S. citizens with a bachelor degree make a weekly wage of on average of 837 dollars, documented 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 are less likely to be able to afford the cost of living 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. (Nuñez, 2014) However, this often leads to a crowded home environment that does not allow for comfortable living, studying, or sleeping. (Nuñez, 2014) 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 U.S. 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 many services deemed 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). 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).


Often when immigrants come to the United States they believe that they will have access to better job prospects, and therefore a better quality of life (Rubenstein, 2011). 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. One way to fix the disadvantages that people face when the migrate to the United States is to institute policies to help immigrants overcome the barriers they face in terms of employment in the United States. If these barriers are more easily come then there will be more job opportunities opened to them, this will likely include better jobs. Access to more formal, and skilled employment will increase their economic standing, which in turn can 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

Rubenstein, J. (2011). The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography(11th Edition). In J. Rubenstein, The Cultural Landscape: An Introduction to Human Geography(11th Edition) (pp. 81-85). New York: Pearson.



May 6, 2018