Are undocumented workers more at risk on the job than others?

Immigrants come to America to find a better life. Often, they find the opposite when they are mistreated and threatened by their employers.

Imagine being forced to work in dangerous conditions like a slave, with few rights or freedoms, or living in fear daily of being deported for standing up for one's rights or trying to seek compensation for a workplace injury. These are scenarios that people assume happen only in underdeveloped countries or stopped occurring centuries ago. Tragically, these horrific conditions still exist in the United States. Countless undocumented immigrants in Florida and elsewhere face workplace injustices all the time.

Unauthorized workers make up a significant portion of those who work in dangerous and backbreaking industries in the United States, including construction, farming and food service. Due to numerous opportunities for their employers to mistreat and misinform this vulnerable portion of the working population, undocumented immigrants are more likely to be injured at work and less likely to seek workers' compensation than U.S.-born citizens.

Employers exploit immigrants' fears and lack of knowledge

According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, many employers realize they can take advantage of undocumented workers' ignorance of labor laws, eagerness to work despite poor conditions and fear of deportation. Common instances of abuse include the following:

· Not paying minimum wage, failing to pay overtime or withholding paychecks

· Forcing employees to work long hours or work in dangerous and inhumane conditions

· Not allowing bathroom or meal breaks

· Retaliating against employees who file a workers' compensation claim

· Threatening to deport workers

One woman described her experience as a teenager who had arrived in the country from Mexico. When she began working on a farm, a supervisor attempted to sexually assault the young woman. After she was rescued by another worker, she and the other worker were terminated the following day.

Immigrant abuse resembles slavery

Immigration authorities and human rights advocates have described situations in which undocumented workers in Florida were beaten, locked in trailers at night and held against their will at gunpoint. Many attempts have been made to stop these incidents of modern slavery - sometimes called labor trafficking - and to hold the responsible parties accountable. Today, a great deal of effort is being spent on educating employers and workers on their rights and preventing this type of treatment.

Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, dignity and compassion, regardless of their immigration status. Those who come to America in search of a better life should not find themselves living a nightmare instead. It may be necessary to speak with an experienced Florida immigration attorney after experiencing labor injustices or being threatened with deportation.