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Labor Rights for All? The Role of Undocumented Immigrant Status for Worker Claims Making

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Drawing on forty-one interviews with both documented and undocumented Latino restaurant workers in San Jose, California, and Houston, Texas, this article examines how documentation status shapes the legal consciousness of immigrant workers. I identify three common narratives that undocumented workers provide to justify not making claims on workplace protection. First, I highlight that an ever-present fear of deportation inhibits any formal confrontation. Second, I demonstrate how undocumented status leaves undocumented immigrants with a particularly pragmatic and short-term understanding of their working life in the United States, rendering their working conditions temporary and endurable to them. Third, I expand Gordon and Lenhardt's (2008) discussion of the centrality of work to the American conception of citizenship. I reiterate that this particular sense of belonging is situated vis-à-vis other low-wage workers. These findings provide sociolegal scholars important theoretical contributions for crafting a research agenda on the role of undocumented status and legal mobilization.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2010-06-01

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