After making the journey to the United States and preparing to make the most out of the new life that waits ahead, there lies in the difficulty of finding a job to support one’s family as an undocumented immigrant. In addition to other struggles such as acculturation, language barriers, and the fear of deportation or family separation, job searching while keeping all of these factors in mind is one of the largest stressors among the immigrant community. Although, it can seem as though all hope is lost, there are opportunities that present themselves in the form of work that allow for advancement and prosperity.
An important aspect of the immigrant job search is to keep in mind that legally DACA and other undocumented individuals are not required to disclose their citizenship status to potential employers when in an interview process, however, this is a question that is brought up as the employment process furthers. Another thing to keep in mind is there is no such thing as an “immigrant job”. The stigma, negative connotation, and stereotypes of seeing immigrants working only jobs in the agricultural and service industry, unfortunately, translates to those who have recently arrived in the United States as they may feel that only those trades apply to them. It can get to be discouraging when you feel as though you are only delegated to one thing that may not align with your interests or abilities and for immigrants, this struggle multiplies as sometimes certain trades may be their only source of income.
This does not mean, however, that the search for job security is completely over as there are opportunities such as working as a contract worker or applying for different immigration waivers to allow coverage for work. While the ultimate goal in terms of living in the U.S. would be eventually gaining citizenship to work in a desired profession with a liveable income, the process of this goal may be a bit difficult as citizenship applications may take time to review or finding legal help may be expensive. However, undocumented individuals may apply for immigration waivers such as an exceptional hardship waiver, VAWA waiver, t-visa, u-visa, and political asylum and use other services in addition to the immigration waiver application, such as clinical evaluations, to assess and present evidence of trauma if they were to return to their home country. In addition to providing a secure living situation, immigration waivers may also greatly aid in the work visa process or possibly even increase one’s chance of attaining a position. One must keep in mind, however, that waivers do not grant citizenship; they serve as a temporary placeholder until reaching citizenship is possible.
Looking towards contract work or starting your own business is also helpful in terms of building different skills and working in a comfortable environment. Contract work essentially means that you are not an official employee of someone, but rather an independent worker that provides services for them as part of a contract agreement. This type of work is not limited to any set of skills or job sector as contracted workers perform in any type of service whether it be health, food, even art. It is important to note, however, that different types of clients and areas of work may require disclosure of legal employment status upon hiring.
In situations such as finding work as an immigrant without facing risk of deportation, it is always important to keep in mind that there are organizations and people out there that are aware of the never ending struggle and are there to help this community. One organization that is dedicated to help build the lives of our most vulnerable members of society is the Houston-based non-profit organization The Alliance where there are employment workshops and opportunities as well as English as a second language classes and legal help to immigrants. There should be no embarrassment in seeking help as just a conversation with someone can change a life forever. The journey that lies within the post-migration process is one that will be filled with obstacles but will also be filled with life long changes that contribute to the development of yourself as a person.