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Labor Rights for All? The Role of Undocumented Immigrant Status for Worker Claims Making

  • Shannon Gleeson

Abstract

Drawing on forty‐one interviews with both documented and undocumented Latino restaurant workers in San Jose, California, and Houston, Texas, this article examines how documentation status shapes the legal consciousness of immigrant workers. I identify three common narratives that undocumented workers provide to justify not making claims on workplace protection. First, I highlight that an ever‐present fear of deportation inhibits any formal confrontation. Second, I demonstrate how undocumented status leaves undocumented immigrants with a particularly pragmatic and short‐term understanding of their working life in the United States, rendering their working conditions temporary and endurable to them. Third, I expand Gordon and Lenhardt's (2008) discussion of the centrality of work to the American conception of citizenship. I reiterate that this particular sense of belonging is situated vis‐à‐vis other low‐wage workers. These findings provide sociolegal scholars important theoretical contributions for crafting a research agenda on the role of undocumented status and legal mobilization.

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