The Southern Poverty Law Center, one of the foremost research and legal civil rights organizations in the US fighting hate and bigotry, has released a new report highliting the role and injustices against immigrant women in the food industry. The profiles, put together from interviews with 150 women, and statistics from a broad range of sources, expose the injustices and exploitation that is commonplace in the food industry, painting a picture of the struggles facing the women that put food on our plates.
SPLC researchers interviewed approximately 150 women who are either currently undocumented or have spent time in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants. The women all have worked in the U.S. food industry in Arkansas, California, Florida, Iowa, New York or North Carolina. A few have now obtained legal status. The interviews took place from January through March of 2010. Researchers also interviewed a number of advocates who work with immigrant women and farmworkers.
Facts About Immigrant Women Working in the U.S. Food Industry
Undocumented women are among the most vulnerable workers in our society today. They fill the lowest paying jobs in our economy and provided the backbreaking labor that helps bring food to our tables. Yet they are routinely cheated out of wages and subjected to an array of other abuses in the workplace. They are generally powerless to enforce their rights or protect themselves. The following are facts from the SPLC report Injustice on Our Plates.
- There are an estimated 4.1 million undocumented women in the U.S. today. In addition, 4 million U.S.-born children — citizens by birthright — live in a household with at least one undocumented parent.1
- Undocumented women typically earn minimum wage or less, get no sick or vacation days, and receive no health insurance.
- Legalizing undocumented workers would raise the U.S. gross domestic product by $1.5 trillion over a decade. On the other hand, if the government were to deport all 10.8 million undocumented immigrants living on U.S. soil, our economy would decline by $2.6 trillion over a decade, not including the massive cost of such an endeavor.2
- Each year, undocumented immigrants contribute as much as $1.5 billion to the Medicare system and $7 billion to the Social Security system, even though they will never be able to collect benefits upon retirement.3