Undocumented immigrants make their own legal work

Some undocumented immigrants have discovered a way to work without breaking any laws and thus not having to worry about deportation. Federal law prohibits employers from hiring undocumented immigrants, but there is no law prohibiting an undocumented immigrant from starting his or her own business or becoming an independent contractor.

And so, while immigration reform drags its feet in Washington, many young immigrants are taking matters into their own hands.

A perfect example is Carla Chavarria, a 20 year old graphic designer in Phoenix. She runs a busy graphic design business — sometimes doing so much work she needs to hire on extra staff — but she is still forced to use the bus to travel around the city because Arizona won’t grant her a license.

It all comes down to how labor law defines employees. Under existing law, employers provide equipment and set hours for employees. But independent contractors — or people who run their own business — make their own hours and are paid per project. And someone who hires an independent contractor is not required to verify that person’s legal status.

Said Chavarria at a workshop about the subject hosted by immigrant rights activists: “I didn’t know it was possible. And it wasn’t that hard.”

She’s not the only one. A study recently found that 25,000 undocumented immigrants living in Arizona became self-employed in 2009. This represents an 8% increase over 2008.

More on Immigration Reform:

  • Immigration Reform 2013
  • Gang of 8
  • Earned Citizenship
  • Streamlining Immigration
  • Strengthening Border Security
  • More Accountability for Employers Hiring Undocumented Immigrants