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Chipotle, Undocumented Workers, And The Trouble With 'Enforcement-Only' Immigration

Publication Date: 
May 11, 2011
Source: 
The Huffington Post
Author: 
Dave Jamieson

Professor Dan Siciliano spoke to Dave Jamieson of the Huffington Post on whether Chipotle will offer higher wages for documented workers now filling the jobs left by undocumented workers recently let go after an investigation by U.S. Immigration Officials.

Miguel Bravo's year-and-a-half-long stint working at a Chipotle in Washington, D.C., came to an abrupt end on March 9. That day, he says, he and his co-workers learned that their manager had just been let go in the midst of an audit of the burrito chain by U.S. immigration officials. As Bravo tells it, when the workers went to the back of the restaurant to talk with a Chipotle representative, they were replaced with a new crew out front.

Suddenly without a job, Bravo started stretching his dollars, looking for work, and speaking out about what he considered an unfair parting with Chipotle. What the 28-year-old immigrant didn’t do was pack his bags and return to El Salvador. After all, it would have made little economic sense to do so. A worker in El Salvador is lucky to earn a few dollars a day, if he can find work at all. Papers or no, Bravo was staying in America.

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We shouldn’t assume that a more scrupulous Chipotle will necessarily translate into higher wages behind the burrito counter, says Daniel Siciliano, a Stanford Law School lecturer who tracks immigration and labor trends. Siciliano believes that many undocumented workers fill gaps in our workforce, rather than simply steal jobs and depress wages. As for mass exoduses like the one at Chipotle, "Does that improve wages for U.S. workers during a difficult recession? Is there a positive economic impact? There's no evidence of that, unfortunately," he says.