I'm posting this email I got from my brother, Rob, on his experiences working at a restaurant primarily staffed by illegal immigrants:
My time working at the restaurant taught me a few things about illegal workers, and speaking spanish and portuguese I was able to get more of an inside view of things . . . They truly are treated as second class citizens. They pay taxes but never receive a return. They have a hard time getting medical attention, one of my co-workers was saving all his money (and working another job on top of the restaurant, plus buying, fixing up, and selling cars) for an operation to remove gall stones, with no access to any sort of health insurance . . . they work harder than any americans I've ever worked with, and are expected to learn fast, retain a lot of information, and perform consistantly at a high volume.
Since leaving the restaurant I've been working at an office job where our employers give us a lot of training, ample breaks, and generally don't expect us to work that hard. I make much more money than at the restaurant. Many of my co-workers at the restaurant worked 2 full-time jobs, most of them got up around 5 am to begin their first job, then had lunch in the afternoon to come to their next job which they worked until past midnight on the weekends. Usually they'd get one day off per week, rarely this was a Sunday.
Many of the people on my team had come in legally on tourist visas, but had overstayed their time. They were educated professionals back home, and intended to return to their country of origin once they'd saved enough to buy a decent house, which usually was around $20,000 USD. One such did save up enough money after about five years and has since returned home to Brazil. They were argentines, brazilians, colombians, venezuelans, and mexicans. Only few of them actually intended to stay here in the US. They were required to have a substantial amount of money in the bank in order to get their tourist visas in the first place.
Another type of employee at the restaurant were the cooks and table bussers, who were made up primarily of those who'd crossed the border illegally, be it on foot or hidden in the back of a truck. These didn't make as much money as us servers, and many of them had little to no education back home in mexico. They were made fun of by other workers because of their lack of education and poor spanish grammar. for them this was going to be their life, they had no intention of returning home to Mexico.
All of the illegals, regardless of how they'd gotten here, worked extremely hard, as they were expected to . . .
The only other "gringo" on our team was fired by our team leader (an illegal himself on a tourist visa for the past five years), the reason we were given was that he was lazy and didn't push himself enough. This american was a hard worker, but didn't keep up with the pace the team had set. I struggled to work as hard as they did to keep the job long enough to find other employment.
Many of the illegals were treated badly by other illegals. They were ripped off upon first arriving, there are many scams put together by illegals with more time here to rip off those "mojados" (wetbacks) who have just arrived. As my wife and I left a medicaid office a few months ago in a predominantly latino area, we noticed some hispanic men [with] hospital scrubs standing outside the door with clipboards and forms speaking with latinos as they arrived or left the office. They were obviously not affiliated with medicaid, and I can only imagine they were another scam set up to rip off new arrivals . . .
I'm inclined to think that some sort of worker program is the solution.