Saturday, January 07, 2017

Researcher finds 'identity loan' common in undocumented workers

Public Release: 12-Dec-2016
Researcher finds 'identity loan' common in undocumented workers
University of Colorado Denver researcher finds employers often furnish with workers with borrowed work documents
University of Colorado Denver


Research published by anthropology researcher Sarah Horton, PhD, this month in Political and Legal Anthropology Review shows that many employers furnish workers with invented or borrowed work authorization documents, a practice she has termed "identity loan."

Horton suggests that many employers encourage workers to use the work documents of others. In fact, some even supply workers with documents belonging to their friends and family. Then they divert the deductions from the undocumented worker's check to the unemployment payments and retirement accounts of the employer's acquaintances.


Horton's research questions the practice of charging undocumented immigrants with identity theft prior to deporting them--a practice common during the Bush administration.

"My research illustrates that charging undocumented workers with identity theft neglects the active role employers play in subverting immigration law," Horton said. "In industries reliant on undocumented immigrants, it's common for employers to turn a blind eye to employees who use fake documents or to even provide the illegitimate documents themselves."

Horton shows that employers differ in their attitudes towards invented and borrowed documents depending on company size and fear of audits. Large agricultural companies are more commonly targets of federal audits and often have explicit policies of only hiring workers with valid documents.

Smaller contractors have less fear of federal audits and often openly condone and accept documents that do not match the employee's face.

Horton has found that some employers take advantage of prospective workers and make loaned documents a condition of their employment. The most frequent targets of these "forcible identity loans" are the most vulnerable--recent undocumented arrivals and teens.


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