[Congressional Record: February 14, 2002 (Extensions)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
CHICAGO'S UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS
HON. JANICE D. SCHAKOWSKY
in the house of representatives
Wednesday, February 13, 2002
Ms. SCHAKOWSKY. Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight a recently
released study entitled: ``Chicago's Undocumented Immigrants: An
Analysis of Wages, Working Conditions, and Economic Contributions.''
This report details the importance of the undocumented immigrant labor
force to the local economy and the poor working conditions that many
endure. I have included a Washington Post article that appeared on
February 10, 2001 and the Executive Summary from the study, which
underscores some of the study's most significant findings.
This study was carried out during the 3rd quarter of 2001 through 38
community based organizations, community colleges, social service
providers, and churches. In total, over 1,600 immigrants were surveyed
in the Chicago area. The results revealed that the estimated 220,000
undocumented immigrants in the Chicago area contribute close to $5.5
billion to the local economy. Furthermore, undocumented immigrants
create more than 31,000 jobs, make up about 5% of the labor force, and
7 out of 10 or 70% pay income taxes through payroll deductions. The
overall impact on the economy is dramatic considering immigrants
without legal documentation earn anywhere from 22-36% less than those
This study provides a glimpse into the urban picture of the enormous
contributions undocumented immigrants provide to our economy and the
deplorable conditions under which they are subjected to work. With
close to 6 million undocumented immigrants working and living in the
United States, the potential impact on the national economy and the
potential to improve the lives of this population through a
legalization program are immeasurable, but they all point in the right
direction. I urge my colleagues to look through this study and see for
[From The Washington Post Feb. 10, 2002]
Chicago's Undocumented Immigrants
(By Robert E. Pierre)
The push for the legalization of undocumented immigrants
was put on the back burner after September's terrorist
attacks. But a study released last week reopens the question
of what they contribute to the U.S. economy.
The estimated 220,000 undocumented immigrants in the
Chicago area add nearly $ 5.5 billion to the local economy,
creating more than 31,000 jobs, according to the study by the
Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of
Illinois at Chicago. These undocumented workers make up about
5 percent of the labor market, the survey indicated--and
seven out of 10 pay income taxes through payroll deductions
taken by their employers.
Still, the survey of 1,653 legal and illegal immigrants
living in Chicago and five surrounding counties also found
that those without legal documentation generally are paid
less than those who are legally in the United States. That's
true regardless of their education, skill level and English
proficiency, particularly among immigrants from Latin
``You can have two workers with exactly the same
characteristics, and one will earn 20 to 25 percent less
because they don't have legal status,'' said Chirag Mehta, a
UIC research associate.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
urged amnesty for such immigrants: ``Such findings confirm
the importance of a new legalization program and the positive
impact that undocumented immigrant labor has on the United
States,'' it said in a statement.
[From the University of Illinois at Chicago]
Chicago's Undocumented Immigrants: An Analysis of Wages, Working
Conditions, and Economic Contributions
Undocumented immigrants are strongly committed to working
in the United States and they make significant contributions
to the economy. Undocumented workers account for
approximately 5% of the Chicago metro area labor market and
represent a growing segment of the low-wage workforce.
Undocumented immigrants earn low wages, work in unsafe
conditions, and have low rates of health insurance.
Juxtaposed against these harsh realities is the fact that the
undocumented workforce supports thousands of other workers in
the local economy, pays taxes, and demonstrates little
reliance on government benefits.
This study reports the findings of a survey of 1,653
documented and undocumented immigrants living in the Chicago
metro area. Using a standardized questionnaire, immigrants
were asked a series of questions regarding their employment
status, wages and working conditions, access to health care,
utilization of government safety-net programs, demographic
characteristics, and legal status. The key questions that
guided this analysis include:
To what extent does working without legal status increase
the likelihood of unemployment and depress workers'wages?
To what extent do undocumented immigrants more often work
in unsafe working conditions?
To what extent do undocumented immigrants utilize
government safety-net programs?
What economic contributions do undocumented immigrants make
to the local economy?
1. Labor force participation and unemployment
Undocumented immigrants seek work at extremely high rates
(91%), and most do not experience unemployment at rates that
are significantly different than the Chicago metro area
average. However, undocumented Latin-American women
experience unemployment rates that approach 20%, five times
as high as the average unemployment rate for the remainder of
the undocumented workforce. Factors that significantly
increase the likelihood of unemployment include:
the combined effect of undocumented status, being female,
and being of Latin-American origin;
the lack of dependent care; and
obtaining work through temporary staffing agencies.
Most undocumented immigrants are employed in low-wage
service and laborer occupations. Approximately, 30% of
undocumented immigrants work in restaurant-related, hand-
packing and assembly, and janitorial and cleaning jobs. The
average (median) hourly wage earned by undocumented workers
All else being equal, working without legal status, in
combination with the effects of national origin and gender,
induces significant wage penalties for Latin Americans:
Undocumented Latin-American men and women experience
statistically significant wage penalties--22% and 36%--
respectively-after controlling for length of U.S. work
experience, education, English proficiency, and occupation.
Eastern-European women experience wage penalties as a
result of their national origin and gender, but they do not
experience penalties associated with their legal status.
Eastern-European men, documented Latin-American men, and
immigrants from Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe do
not experience wage penalties associated with their national
origin, gender, or legal status.
Factors including English proficiency, unionization, and
obtaining employment in higher-paying occupations help
undocumented Latin Americans earn higher wages. Educational
attainment, however, does not have significant positive wage
effects for undocumented Latin Americans. Importantly,
attaining additional levels of education, having English
proficiency, and accumulating additional years of U.S.
residency do not neutralize the negative wage effect of
working without legal status.
All else being equal, securing work in higher-wage
occupational categories induces significant wage advantages
to undocumented workers and neutralizes the negative wage
effect of working without legal status. However, undocumented
status limits Latin Americans' access to higher-wage white-
3. Working conditions
Undocumented immigrants report working in unsafe conditions
at considerably higher rates relative to immigrants with
legal status. Moreover, immigrants without legal status also
report alleged wage and hour violations at considerably
higher rates relative to documented workers.
Lack of access to health insurance is a significant problem
for undocumented workers. Only 25 percent of undocumented
workers currently employed are covered by health insurance.
The most commonly reported reason for not having health
insurance among immigrants who are currently employed is that
their employer did not offer health insurance or the
employer-sponsored plan was too expensive to access.
4. Use of government benefits and economic contributions
The vast majority of undocumented immigrants reported that
they, and adults in their household, do not receive benefits
under government safety-net programs, despite their low
earnings. Benefit utilization is comparably low among
immigrants with legal status.
The consumer expenditures of undocumented immigrants in the
Chicago metro area generate more than 31,000 jobs in the
local economy and add $5.45 billion annually to the gross
regional product. While exact tax contributions were not
calculated, the survey data indicates that approximately 70
percent of undocumented workers pay taxes.
The results of this study strongly suggest that attaining
legal status would improve the wages and working conditions
of undocumented immigrants. Estimating the size of any wage
increase and subsequent wage effects as a result of any
changes to federal immigration policy, such as legalization
or guest-worker programs, is beyond the scope of this study.
The survey was carried out during the 3rd quarter 2001
through 38 community-based organizations, community colleges,
social service providers, and churches. This study was made
possible by a grant from the Woods Fund of Chicago.
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