Human Services for Migrant Workers and Non-Citizens
One population that you will often come into contact with as a Human Services worker is that of various migrant worker and non-citizen groups. Most often associated with agricultural work, the population of migrant workers and non-citizens can include many economic fields that aren’t commonly thought of. For example, there are often non-citizens from Asia who have been brought to work in textile factories or restaurants on the West Coast. These people are essentially indentured servants who have been trafficked into the country by criminal organizations. These people are paid criminally low wages that are used to “pay back” the debt they have incurred by being smuggled into the country. This debt is often insurmountable and these people become debt slaves for all intents and purposes.
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It is important to draw a distinction between migrant workers and non-citizens who are in the country legally with work Visa’s or en route to green cards and those who were brought into the country through various illegal means. Workers who are here legally are usually treated better than their illegal peers; however both groups are often exploited by unscrupulous employers in the US. Workers who are here illegally must live a life in the shadows and this can result in them being victimized in a variety of ways, from protection rackets (where someone asks for payment in exchange for not reporting the worker to Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE]), sexual abuse (this is common for female migrant workers who are here illegally), sexual slavery (females are often trafficked into the country to work as prostitutes), domestic abuse (again this disproportionately affects females) and of course criminally low wages that border on a form of slavery. There are also issues of housing, hunger and health all of which impact workers who are here illegally to a much greater degree due to fear of being deported and possibly separated from family already or currently in the country.
Human Services workers must walk a delicate balance between following the law and making sure that they help people who are here illegally but are being criminally exploited in one way or another. Figuring out how to help the vulnerable exploited workers while working within the law is something that will require the human services professional to have a working understanding of their organization’s protocols and state, federal and local law. For workers who are here with legal work visas the boundaries are much clearer and the rights of the worker are much easier to protect.
Some of the many issues that affect migrant worker and non-citizen populations include but are not limited to the following:
- Sexual trafficking
- Sexual abuse
- Domestic abuse
- Worker’s rights violations
- Poor housing conditions
- Migrant/non-citizen health
- Separation from family
All of these issues are extremely impactful to the physical and mental well-being of the migrant and non-citizen workers. Migrant health and sexual trafficking are two related areas that have the potential to greatly impact society as a whole as both can impact the health of other members of society. In the case of Sexual Trafficking victims, women forced into prostitution in this way often are unable to use protection and are denied medical access and therefore can both themselves become ill with STD’s and also pass these along to their John’s who in turn can pass on these diseases to other members of the community. Migrant workers and non-citizens in particular are vulnerable to various diseases due to poor and dangerous working conditions, poor housing and sanitation, hunger, cramped dwelling spaces that allow for disease to spread and in the case of non-citizens lack of access to health care. This can impact society as a whole as these groups being more vulnerable to disease can sometimes act as an epicenter for an epidemic as they have limited or no access to health care that might otherwise stem an outbreak of disease. As a Human Services worker you may be given the opportunity to help migrant and non-citizen populations find access to health care, housing and adequate food thereby helping not only an extremely vulnerable population but also society as a whole. There are many occupations within the field of Human Services that are in a position to help non-citizens and migrant workers. If this issue resonates with you, then you will be able to easily find a niche which can help this population of people be able to live lives of dignity and health.