“Modern day American slavery” was the topic of discussion Wednesday before a panel of Indiana state lawmakers.
That’s how the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Immigration summed up the plight of the undocumented immigrant in the U.S.
“We’ve allowed a subculture which I consider modern day American slavery where we have people who come to this country to find a better life, they do so illegally, they’re paid below market wages, and they don’t live in freedom,” said Ind. Sen. Mike Delph, (R) Carmel. “They’re in constant fear for themselves and their family which invites exploitation. Not everybody exploits them, but there are employers that exploit them and there are criminal elements that exploit them, and that is offensive to the American ideals this country was founded upon.”
Testimony indicates that there are 106,590 undocumented immigrants living in Indiana which represents about two percent of the population.
One study shows that 37 percent of undocumented workers in the U.S. were paid less than minimum wage while a whopping 84 percent who worked full time were not paid overtime when they earned it.
“Unauthorized workers are often afraid to complain about unpaid wages and substandard working conditions, because employers can retaliate by taking actions that can lead to their deportation,” said Daniel Costa with the Economic Policy Institute. “This gives employers extraordinary power to exploit and underpay them.”
While the ball is clearly in the court of congress when it comes to addressing the most serious problems with immigration, state lawmakers were asked to consider granting driver’s licenses to the undocumented.
“If they had a driver’s license they would be eligible to purchase personal auto insurance and would be able to legally drive their children to school to church and to shop,” said Vincent Hernandez of Union City.
California and Illinois are among a couple dozen states that now offer driver’s licenses to the undocumented.