Each day in Florida hundreds of laborers, many from Latin America, gather in parking lots and along streets. They wait; hoping that contractors or people needing work done around their homes will offer to hire them for a day or two.

This practice may soon come to an end if a proposed Florida immigration bill finally passes the Legislature. The bill, initially debated in March, would prohibit laborers without proper immigration status from gathering and soliciting jobs in public places.

Those laborers affected say they already feel marginalized and this bill threatens to limit their rights even further. They feel such a law would affect their very survival, not allowing them to earn money to provide food and shelter for their families. They also would be unable to send money back to their home country, to those members of their families who rely on that income to meet their basic needs.

Part of the current focus on such immigration laws in Florida may have to do with the recent release of economic reports that suggest a connection between undocumented immigrants and the national unemployment rate.

A recently released study by the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University said that over one million immigrants, most illegal, found work during the last two years of the economic downturn. Nationwide unemployment during that time reached almost 10 percent.

The laborers, however, argue that the work they do is not the type of work most Americans would want, and without them such work would not get done. Far from hurting the country, they feel they are making a valuable contribution to America.

Source: Miami Herald, “South Florida laborers feeling nervous over proposed immigration bill,” Alfonso Chardy, 23 January 2011