With health care reform wrapped up (at least for now), immigrant rights groups and other concerned parties hope that the White House will take on comprehensive immigration reform, although Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein believes it's "pretty unlikely" it will be accomplished by the end of this year.
The columnist, however, seems to think it would be politically shrewd given that President Obama won 67 percent of the Latino vote and mentioned the need for Republicans to win over a portion of America's fastest-growing demographic.
Closer to home, immigration rights activists recently held a rally at the Teamsters Local 705 hall in the Windy City, as covered by the Chicago online news outlet Gapers Block. Hometown U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) attended the rally, which is a good sign for those supporting reform.
One of the main reasons behind the Teamsters' support is the employment angle. In the absence of legitimacy, they claim that undocumented workers are left without the protections of established labor laws and therefore are routinely exploited in the shadows.
Pat O'Connor, President of the Illinois Police Chiefs Association, also spoke at the rally and expressed these concerns:
"Many family members are forced into below minimum wage jobs because their immigration status is being used against them."
In other words, undocumented immigrants often refrain from complaining about unpaid wages or dangerous working conditions because they fear that they will be arrested and deported. Since most so-called "illegal" aliens do not understand US law, they believe they lack the same protections enjoyed by legal residents.
But that's simply not true, as explained by the Legal Aid Society's Employment Law Center. The web site discusses California law, but explains how federal employment law applies to all undocumented workers in the US. For violations such as discrimination or anything else covered by federal law, undocumented immigrants have the right to file complaints and/or file lawsuits.
It's also important to understand that federal employment agencies are not allowed to question anyone about their immigration status. That means undocumented Chicago workers have just as much access to Illinois employment lawyers as do legal residents and citizens.
If you have specific questions about this, consulting a Chicago employment lawyer could be helpful.