IIL Banner 2013
Exploitation of immigrants is a major threat to integration. A $200 million settlement by Herbalife was reached in July 2016 after an FTC investigation in defense of exploited consumers, mostly Latino, hurt by a 'pyramid scheme'. The FTC pursues interstate commerce activities that have victimized foreign-born residents of the United States - and the economic world of newcomers is rife with such exploitive practices (see the Agency section).  From calling cards promising discounts that cannot be delivered or a subprime mortgage broker offering immigrants 'great deals' - only to have those homes repossessed on missed payments -these are but two examples of economic abuse immigrants suffered. If we are to acheive immigrant integration, we must defend the vulnerable from marketplace abuse.

Popular scams include asking for overpayment of a purchase with a check sent overseas (as in buying a car and having some reason to transmit extra money). The sender soon finds himself with the debt but no purchase. Many fall prey to transfer services when families attempt to send remittances via third parties only to find the sums unrecoverable. Neither the sender nor the recipient has the money and the sender still owes the bank. "Mystery shopper business opportunities" cheat many who are given an assignment to test a reputable wire transfer service. After "testing the service," their hard earned cash disappears and no reimbursement ever comes.  Unscrupulous agents often sell credit card payment plans and mortgage reductions, pocket down payments, and then disappear before being identified. False IRS agents prowl among newcomers while others profit from identity theft accomplished after simple purchases and online deals.

Notarios are the most prevalent abusers in the immigrant marketplace, especially for those very eager to unite family members or get work authorization. Many sell papers that the government offers for free and services that they are ill equipped to provide. They often practice law without a license, which is a criminal offense.  Complicated cases regularly result from misfiled applications based on misinformation, and numerous transactions are really empty promises in which nothing is done after collecting hefty fees.  

A rash of harassment against immigrants, especially Muslims, has been reported post election and one response has been to ask minorities to report any hate crime or threat and call their Attorney General.  Massachusetts AG Maura Healy, encouraging other states to do likewise, took action and created a dedicated hotline for complaints or action:  (800) 994 3228
Most of these egregious victimizations go without action because of fear, confusion and lack of empowerment among the victims.  Attorneys General and the FTC are increasingly vigilant and offer assistance but have limited roles and depend on reporting.  When government imposters collect penalties or fines, they prey on those who are out-of-status and those who are duped by newness and confusion about the myriad forms of US taxes.

Many undocumented arrivals are particularly vulnerable, suffering sexual exploitation as told in the Bradenton Herald. Trafficked individuals are sold into prostitution with accompanying large debts to pay (and threats) in order to gain emancipation. Immigrants are often exploited for labor. For example, legal immigrants may take jobs where they are told that they will be paid monthly. However, employers may go missing, taking the last month's pay of their employees with them. Job arrangers who hire crews may take a third or more of the employees' pay. 

Egregious manipulation of workers in the garment industry, along with harvesters, construction and piece workers, is underreported and begs for watchful eyes. The unscrupulous behaviors of Americans who abuse the hungry and vulnerable, luring workers into traps, are seldom mentioned when the discussion focuses on those who are 'illegal.' M any foreign-born have property and investments in different countries and understand currency exchange and transfers better than most natives; but within the broad spectrum of financial literacy, a significant number are highly vulnerable.

Social work agencies join with lawyers to identify the rights of consumers and fight for justice where the rates of abuse are high and the protectors are few. BC Law School has recently joined the Immigrant Integration Lab and the FTC in educating future professionals about exploitation and participated in the defense of new Americans. Such effort is needed across the nation.

Very little research exists on the personal consequences or cost to the nation regarding immigrant exploitation, a challenge to be met by legal scholars and economists. The FTC resources are available for wide distribution but too few frontline agencies assume a proactive role of education and prevention.  Few high schools teach applied economics or consumer science today and thus miss the opportunity to alert whole families of ways to protect themselves. However, micro courses can still educate a generation as could some social work handouts for newcomers.  Similarly, few ESL programs make financial literacy part of the curriculum. Endeavors such as these are part of integration, extending the rule of law to those most easily victimized by the lawless of the marketplace. The pursuit of a just nation calls for more attention to the issue of immigrant exploitation.

Westy Egmont, Director
BCSSW, Immigrant Integration Lab

Immigrants lead a life in the shadows, due to the complex nature of documentation status and policy in the U.S. For this reason, immigrants are often unaware of their rights against immigration fraud. As a result, many immigrants are easy targets for corporations or businesses trying to make money off of their susceptibility. As part of their effort to increase awareness regarding scams targeting the Latino immigrant community, the FTC has developed a series of Fotonovelas in Spanish-short stories and comics addressing common complaints and practical tips to stop frequently occurring scams against immigrants. With titles such as "Maria and Rafael Learn the Signs of a Debt Relief Scam," and "Notario Scams," these stories are based on actual complaints from Spanish speakers across the country and provide practical tips for detecting common scams. These novelas are free and available to be distributed to communities in an effort to increase awareness and prevention.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission  (FTC) is a bipartisan federal agency charged with the dual mission of protecting the rights of consumers and enhancing competition between businesses in the U.S. The FTC protects consumers through preventing unfair or fraudulent practices in the market, investigating violations, and increasing regulation to protect and educate consumers and businesses about their rights. Created in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson, the FTC has enhanced the protection of consumers rights and promoted healthy market competition in the U.S. for over 100 years.
Due to the immense growth in the immigrant sector of our population in recent years, the FTC was charged with creating a section of their consumer information page by to provide information regarding Scams Against Immigrants . With the entirety of the page available in both English and Spanish , the homepage also offers links in Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Russian, and Vietnamese on how to spot and avoid scams, and where to find proper help or intervention. Aside from the novelas, The FTC provides resources regarding common Scams Against Immigrants including discouraging consumers from using " notarios ," or fraudulent individuals claiming to provide legitimate legal aid under the pseudonym of a notario, or Spanish word for notary. The Avoiding Scams Against Immigrants page also gives advice on what forms to use for specific applications, Immigration Help regarding how and where to obtain legitimate help, as well as information surrounding fraud in the following areas: Money & Credit, Homes & Mortgages, Health & Fitness, Jobs & Making Money, Privacy, Identity & Online Security. The page also provides a blog and video & media page demonstrating concrete visual examples of common immigration fraud. 


Kristan, E. & Bamuelos, B. (2015)
Berkley Journal of Employment and Labor Law , 36(1), pp. 169-204.
Low-wage workers often face exploitation in the form of harassment and violence and have little power to challenge workplace injustices. Authors provide examples of low-wage worker exploitation within the restaurant, agricultural, and home-care industries. Barriers to addressing such injustices include geography, language, stigmatization of victims, finances, the difficulties of litigation, and the ineffectiveness of internal investigations and the DFEH complaint process. For undocumented workers, immigration status can be a significant barrier. For example, undocumented workers may fear deportation, retaliation, and limited legal recourse. Authors discuss strategies for advocates including outreach and education, legal representation, litigation protections for undocumented clients, staff and employee training , and monitoring of workplaces.
Quinto, O. (2014)
Rutgers Race & The Law Review, 14(1), pp. 203-250
Immigrants nationwide are exploited by the unauthorized practice of immigration law (UPIL). These fraudulent practitioners are commonly known as "notarios" within Latino and Hispanic communities. The author explores the scope of UPIL and its effects on immigrants. These effects include significant financial losses and debt, as well as the delay or denial of adjustment of immigration status. The author argues for the expansion of the U-Visa program - a program that allows immigrant victims of crimes to apply for status in the United States - to include UPIL. This would mean that victims of immigration fraud would be able to assist in prosecution and adjust their immigration status. The author also addresses critiques to U-Visa expansion, including the critique that it creates incentive for fraud.
Riding the stagecoach to hell: A qualitative analysis of racial discrimination in mortgage lending.
Massey, D.S., Rugh, J.S., Steil, J.P., & Albright, L. (2016)
City & Community, 15(2), pp. 118-136
Minorities, particularly African Americans and Latino Americans, in the U.S. are more likely to receive high-risk and high-cost loans compared to their White counterparts. The authors argue that the long history of U.S.'s racist housing-related practices - such as segregation, redlining, and deed restrictions - are still present today and were particularly apparent during the housing bust and boom in the 2000s. The study probed 220 statements of recent fair lending lawsuits leading up to 2008. The data showed evidence of structural racism in that communities of color were offered high-cost and high-risk mortgages. Similarly, communities of color were given falsified loan documents that used church networks and business records to specifically target communities of color. Additionally, realtors launched "wealth building seminars" to lure and deceive minority populations. The study also found examples of individual racism and cited African American elderly couples who were specifically sought out for subprime loans with high interest rates. These minorities were purposely not offered lower fixed interest rates and fees. 
Taykhman, N.  (2016)
Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, 32(1), pp.96-144
A recent New York Times story exposed how New York City's nail industry is propped up by rampant wage theft of undocumented women workers. The author discusses the problem of wage theft among immigrant women, noting that it can include coercing employees into unfair terms as well as the nonpayment of wages owed. The author also analyzes the range of legal recourse available to combat wage theft. Flaws in available legal tools can be seen in criminal prosecution, private civil suits, agency-led actions, and market-based solutions. The author argues that rather than expand access to the U-Visa to victims of wage theft - which may exacerbate the victimization of undocumented women workers - state legislators should enact policies protecting workers from retaliation. These state policies would render legal tools more effective and are necessary to combat insufficient existing federal law protections. The author provides an example of recent California legislation that has expanded protections for undocumented workers. Specific recommendations are given for how New York can expand upon California's legislation to protect workers from wage theft.  

Conry, C. (2015).
Hastings Women's Law Journal, 26(1), pp. 121-145
Mexican female migrant farm workers experience various forms of sexual harassment, violence, and abuse from their employers and among their peers. In fact, at least 80% of female farmworkers report experiencing some form of abuse. Female workers are deterred to report such forms of violence for a variety of reasons. For example, cultural beliefs regarding patriarchy and masculinity may deter reporting. Additionally, language barriers, lack of understanding of the U.S. criminal justice system, undocumented or guest worker status, and being a primary caretaker of children whose lives depend on wages may dissuade  female immigrant workers from reporting. Although Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Migrant and Seasonal Workers Protection Act (AWPA) provide some protection from employer abuse, they do not protect undocumented workers and also ignore sexual harassment. Thus, an amendment is needed to explicitly include protections for victims of sexual  harassment  and also provide protection for all workers despite of their legal status.

Rosales, R. (2014). 
Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37(14), pp. 2564-2579.
Rosales (2014) challenges the notion of ethnic enclaves in the U.S. as sites of economic upward mobility. Mexican fruit vendors who migrate to Los Angeles to work as vendor-employees for vendor-bosses from migrants' countries of origin often experience intimidation and exploitation by their fellow compatriots. Newly arrived vendor-employees with limited social capital in the U.S. work for well-established vendor-bosses with the hopes of earning enough money to purchase their own food cart and establish their own business. However, vendor-employees are often charged for their transportation to the U.S., daily living expenses, and rent by their vendor-bosses. This may lead to vendor-employees being unpaid for months. Moreover, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) and the Los Angeles Police Department  regularly crackdown on vendors, citing violations of food regulations and county codes, leaving undocumented vendor-employees vulnerable. Such experiences often force vendor-employees to return back to Mexico. Many choose not to discuss their exploitation to family members and their community due to shame, therefore maintaining a pipeline of vendor-employees regularly subjected to the same cycle of exploitation.

Vulnerability, exploitation and migrants: insecure work in a globalised economy
By Craig, G., Waite, L., Lewis, H., & Skrivankova, L.
Palgrave Macmillan (2015)
"Neoliberal globalisation is exacerbating inequality, and creating new forms of exploitation on the basis of race, gender, origins and - above all - legal status. This invaluable book explores the special vulnerability of migrant workers and asylum seekers. It examines the political economy of the production of vulnerability, while case studies from Europe, Latin America and Asia reveal the everyday reality of exploitation and precarity. But the authors do not simply lament such abuses: they map out strategies to fight for the rights of vulnerable workers and to build global citizenship." - Stephen Castles, University of Sydney, Australia

Conflicting commitments: The politics of enforcing immigrant worker rights in San Jose and Houston
By Gleeson, S.
ILR Press (2012)
"Gleeson captivates her readers with an in-depth, intricate, and diligent ethnographic approach to the question of labor rights enforcement for undocumented immigrants in the United States . . . She reaffirms the hands-on approach to investigating the discrepancy between rights in theory and rights in practice by being present at official meetings, being a scrupulous reader of county council minutes, and partaking in workers' rights rallies, asambleas, and charlas organized by civil society actors . . . Gleeson advances an important argument in explaining the divergent policies, practices, and outcomes of migrant rights enforcement in San Jose and Houston." - Agnieszka Kubal, University of Oxford, American Journal of Sociology (November 2013)

The housing and economic experiences of immigrants in U.S. and Canadian cities
By Teixeira, C. & Li, W.
University of Toronto Press (2015)
"This collected work by Teixeira and Li offers a cornucopia of studies of immigrant integration in the housing market and economy. The comparisons of groups in Canada and the United States illuminate common denominators of success, while also highlighting the variety of adaptive strategies to an uncommon degree." -  Dowell Myers, Sol Price School of Public Policy, University of Southern California (2015)
"This book is an excellent resource to learn about past and current understandings of the processes through which immigrants integrate into the housing markets and economies of the cities in the US and Canada." -Craig E. Jones, Canadian Journal of Urban Research (2015)

Latin American migrations to the U.S. heartland: Changing social landscapes in middle America 
By Allegro, L.
University of Illinois Press (2013)
"Responding to inaccuracies concerning Latino immigrants in the United States as well as an anti-immigrant strain in the American psyche, this collection of essays examines the movement of the Latin American labor force to the central states of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, and Iowa. Contributors look at the outside factors that affect migration including corporate agriculture, technology, globalization, and government, as well as factors that have attracted Latin Americans to the Heartland including religion, strong family values, hard work, farming, and cowboy culture. Several essays also point to hostile neoliberal policy reforms that have made it difficult for Latino Americans to find social and economic stability. The varied essays in Latin American Migrations to the U.S. Heartland seek to reveal the many ways in which identities, economies, and geographies are changing as Latin Americans adjust to their new homes, jobs, and communities." - Publisher's Website

Boston College (November 2016)
Boston College Law School and the Boston College School of Social Work gave a panel discussion on concrete programs and opportunities that exist to work against the exploitation of immigrants. The full panel discussion was filmed and made available on this website. 

This is a list of resources and programs currently working to combat immigrant exploitation. This list was compiled by BCSSW student, Bethany Schmid. 

Urban Institute (2016) 
An interactive feature related to a recent study on labor trafficking in the United States.

U.S. Federal Trade Commission (2016)
A compilation of new resources from the Federal Trade Commission about what immigrants should look for when avoiding scams. Resources include pamphlets, flyers, and a handbook on how immigrants and refugees can avoid fraud and scams.  The handbook and the flyers are available in 6 languages.

USCIS Resource Center
United States Citizen and Immigration Services (2016)
A resource for educating immigrants about scams, including brochures, flyers, and web videos in many different languages. These resources are helpful for providers and lawyers who want to distribute information on exploitation to immigrant clients. 

Farmworker Justice (2016)
Resources on health Initiatives (Affordable Care Act, Health Insurance Literacy, Risk Management) as well as guides for worker's compensation and housing for farmworkers in selected states. Resources available in English, Spanish, and Haitian-Creole.

Worker Justice Center of New York (2016)
Informative podcasts discussing issues that undocumented farmworkers face, particularly trafficking and exploitative labor. 

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center (2016)
This resource provides online training and assessment tools for service providers as well others who may unknowingly work with trafficked populations, like health care providers and teachers.

UNICEF (2009)
This comprehensive training manual provides resources to service providers and policy makers who are working to fight trafficking of children.

Bridging Refugee Youth and Children Services (2016)
Online training for practitioners to learn skills about serving newcomer families. Topics of modules include: Discrimination & Bullying of Refugee Youth, Raising Children in a New Country, Community Engagement in Schools and Preventing Child Maltreatment.
Follow Professor Egmont on  Twitter @wegmont
EDITORS: E. Camacho (managing editor), F. Crutchfield-Stoker, W. Egmont, B. Schmid, E. Siskind, M. Tepper, D. Maglalang & J. Verkamp