A new report released yesterday by the Austin-based Workers Defense Project found that half of all construction workers in Texas are undocumented. The group worked with UT-Austin researchers to determine that nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants worked in the construction field statewide, interviewing 1,200 workers from Dallas, El Paso, Austin, Houston and San Antonio. Results were not broken down by city.
“Despite the fact that many sectors of the US economy are dependent on immigrant labor, immigrant workers have not benefited from their contributions to national progress,” the report reads. “Current federal immigration policy denies them the right to work legally, forcing them into an underground economy where low pay, dangerous working conditions, and illegal practices are rampant. Current policy hurts workers, honest businesses, and taxpayers in Texas and the US. Policymakers and businesses are realizing the importance of creating better federal immigration policies that can meet the needs of our dynamic and growing nation, while ensuring the millions of undocumented people living and working in the US can fully participate in their communities and local economies.”
U.S.-born construction workers earned an average of $3.12 per hour more than undocumented workers, who reported earning an average of $11.10/hour. Construction officials were skeptical of the numbers, the American-Statesman reports:
Construction industry representatives said they couldn’t confirm the report’s conclusion that half of Texas construction workers are undocumented.
“That sounds a little high,” said Frank Fuentes, chairman of the Austin-based U.S. Hispanic Contractors Association. Licensed trades like plumbing and electrical tend to have few undocumented immigrants, he said, while specialties like concrete and drywall probably have more than 50 percent undocumented workers, he added.
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