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Ethics and Moral Obligations: Hiring Illegal Immigrants

Paper Type: Free Assignment Study Level: University / Undergraduate
Wordcount: 2481 words Published: 22nd Dec 2020

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Executive Summary

The topic I have decided to research is the practice of hiring illegal aliens and the ethical and moral issues related to it. I researched why managers are inclined to hire illegal workers even if they know is not a legal practice. The research will focus around the question: is it ethical to hire an illegal immigrant?

It is important to understand the social environment around the issue before digging deep into the problem. When people from other countries migrate to a new one, they bring with them their culture and traditions. When we talk about almost 12 million individuals, it is inevitable that they will have an impact on society, changing communities they end up living in. Also, understanding why they are forced to leave everything behind to look for a job in another country will clarify our ideas and it will be easier to come up with our own answer to this ethical dilemma. I also focused on the society point of view, and the impact that the influx of undocumented workers and immigrants had on demographics and lifestyle.

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I found my sources on our college library website, two books provided by the Pennsylvania State University and the University of Notre Dame websites, and many other reliable online websites with statistics and articles that show what are the thoughts of the population. I also conducted few anonymous interviews to illegal immigrants to hear their point of view on this ethical issue.

It is understandable that people are concerned, and hiring illegal aliens is definitely against the law, as a consequence is wrong, and both the employer and employee are subject to penalties. But legislation penalize those people on many aspects of their daily existence, when they have, as every other human, their rights and belong to the same human family. What is illegal, is also unethical per definition. However, in my opinion, the government should come up with a solution to legalize alien workers and give them a chance to support themselves and their families without risking their freedom every day.


The United States has been a country of immigrants since before the nation's founding, and with almost 12 million illegal immigrants approximately living here, their presence raises some question among the population as well as social, political and especially economic concerns. However, there are significant moral obligations to illegal immigrants, which is a topic that has been neglected in discussion of this problem.

Every person in this country, as of in any country, has the right to work in order to provide for themselves and their families. This country is known to be the country of opportunities, and this is the reason why all this people from different countries come here, hoping for a better future. Being an immigrant myself, I know what it means and how difficult it is to leave behind your own traditions and comforts. I also know how lucky I am to be a citizen of U.S. and to benefit of all the rights I have in this country. But what about all the other people that came here for the same reason I am? Don’t they deserve a chance too?

The Americans are worried because illegal aliens are taking over their jobs, but they accept low-skilled jobs and working conditions that no other U.S. citizen seems willing to undertake. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the largest chunk of people currently not in our labor force is men and women who simply do not want to be.

Different Views

One of the biggest mistakes in thinking about illegal aliens who enter a country seeking for a job, is that they take job opportunities away from American people, who lawfully live in their own country. Many believe that they do not pay any taxes and that they do not want to blend into society. However, studies done by the Pew Research Center hints that these opinions are a product of anti-immigration context which has been sustained and reproduced by the political climate. It is both unethical and socially wrong to punish people for choosing to move to another country without having the proper documents.

Views about being in favor or against the practice of hiring illegal immigrants are opposed. Currently, 49% agree with the statement “immigrants today strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents.” Somewhat fewer (41%) agree with an opposing statement: “immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care.” However, opinions regarding these questions has fluctuated over the years, since also politics have a huge impact in influencing people opinions in regard.

Over the last few years, there has been little change in opinions about the impact of newcomers from other countries on traditional values. About half (52%) say the growing number of newcomers from to the United States strengthens American society, while 43% say they threaten traditional American customs and values. (Pew Research Center, 2018)

Economic Impact

Undocumented migration has many important economic and fiscal effects.A divided opinion exists also regarding the impact that illegal immigrants have on the economy of our country. People believe that undocumented migration is responsible for the lowering of wages while others believe that the hiring undocumented immigrants is vital to the operation and health of the United States economy.Many factors influence people opinion regarding what side to choose, such as the number of undocumented people coming to the United States, how long they will be illegally staying in the country before they can get any documentation, if they ever will, and how many children they have and what kind of services they will benefit from.

Immigrants come into the United States for two main reasons: to find a job and to be with their family. Two thirds of documented migrants are admitted not because of needed skills, but because of familial relations. Most of the undocumented people instead are here seeking work, and if they could not find it, they would not come. When they enter the U.S., they fill the demand for low-skilled labor, which has a shrinking supply of workers. In this way undocumented workers benefit the economy, by filling a demand and providing a service as well.

Immigration also has an important impact on taxes: The Social Security Administration found that nearly seventy-five percent of undocumented workers pay payroll taxes, without receiving any social security benefits. Moreover, employers at the same time cannot deduct taxes from the pay of undocumented workers. (Sweeney Yu, 2014)

Why Manager Hire Illegal Workers

Although managers and owners know it is an illegal practice, they still hire illegal aliens. If they think that is worth taking the risk, then there must be a reason. Either because of their talent and them being hard workers, or because they are cheaper than American citizens workers.

Managers have taken advantage of unauthorized workers as a cheap labor supply. Usually, an undocumented worker receives a wage that is about twenty to thirty percent lower than a regular salary for the same position in the same industry, a wage called the “tax free” wage, which allows employers to gain an extra profit. (Sweeney Yu, 2014)

Also, managers take routinely advantage of these workers, subjecting them to physical or verbal abuse and to hazardous working conditions, with the most frequent abuse being wage theft that happens when an employer denies payment for work that they had completed. Those behaviors from managers and employers is very unethical. They know they can take advantage of those undocumented workers because having no documents and being in an unlawful position, there is not much they can do to fight for their rights. (Turnovsky, 2006)

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Those are some of the reasons that managers consider when hiring undocumented workers knowing there is the risk of getting a fine. However, the law states that for them to be held liable, they must have known they were hiring undocumented workers. An official from the Migration Policy Institute told The Associated Press that “the ‘knowingly’ term has proved to be a huge defense for employers, they just say, ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t know they were unauthorized.” During fiscal year of 2018, ICE was able to convict just 49 company managers for breaking the law in hiring illegal immigrants. (Andersen & Smith, 2019)

Impacted Industries

Because of their low level of education and limited by their legal status, unauthorized immigrants are more likely than U.S.-born workers to be employed in industries that offer low-skilled jobs. Though many people associate illegal workers with the harvesting of field crops, The Pew Research Center estimates there are 7.5 million unauthorized workers in the United States concentrated in agriculture, construction and the hospitality industry. In 2014, about 1.1 million, or 10%, of restaurant workers were unauthorized. (Passel & Cohn, 2015)

Journalist John Burnett interviewed the owner of a restaurant, Lynn, in a city somewhere in Missouri. When he asked what was the percentage of restaurants hiring undocumented workers in her Midwestern city, Lynn said: "A hundred percent. You cannot hire American here that will show up to work. They will not be committed to their job. In America," she says, "restaurant work is not a serious profession." As a restaurant manager, working within my family business for five years, I personally agree with what stated by Lynn. It is becoming really hard to find legally professionals willing to take a low skill job. (Burnett, 2019)


When it comes to hiring undocumented immigrants, the solution to the ethical dilemma appears to be straight forward: it’s wrong to break the law. However, when talking to the same undocumented immigrants that I had the opportunity to interview for my research, the answer to the question does not appear cut-n-dry anymore. They are human beings with the same rights and duties as everyone else. They were just not lucky enough to be born in a country that offers opportunities.

I agree, going against the law is not ethical, but then it is our government responsibility to come up with a plan to legalize those workers and give them the opportunity to provide for their families, because if they do not they automatically become a burden for society.

As the philosopher Michael Dummett affirmed “no state can claim that its duties extend only to its own citizens, any more than any head of a family can declare that he has no duties except to those who belong to his family: he has special duties towards them, but he has duties to all who can be affected by his actions, inasmuch as they and he belong to the same worldwide human family. By just the same token, the citizens of any country share with others the citizenship of the universal society of human beings, and the state which represents them therefore has moral duties toward other states and citizens of those other states.” (Dummett, 2001)

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Work Cited

  • Andersen, Gary, and Lee Smith. “What about Companies That Hire Illegal Workers?” What about Companies That Hire Illegal Workers? | News, Sports, Jobs - Fairmont Sentinel, 19 Aug. 2019, https://www.fairmontsentinel.com/opinion/local-editorials/2019/08/19/what-about-companies-that-hire-illegal-workers/.
  • Burnett, John. “Employers Struggle With Hiring Undocumented Workers: 'You Cannot Hire American Here'.” NPR, NPR, 21 Aug. 2019, https://www.npr.org/2019/08/21/752336132/employers-struggle-with-hiring-undocumented-workers-you-cannot-hire-american-her.
  • Cimini, Christine N. “Ask, Don't Tell: Ethical Issues Surrounding Undocumented Workers' Status in Employment Litigation.” Stanford Law Review, vol. 61, no. 2, 2008, pp. 355–415. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40379688.
  • Dummett, Michael. “On Immigration and Refugees.” Google Books, Google, 2001, https://books.google.com/books?id=1AIOUz92LosC&pg=PT52&lpg=PT52&dq=michael+dummett+no+state+can+claim+that+its+duties+extend+only+to+its+own+citizens&source=bl&ots=GRLUHphfXC&sig=ACfU3U1wkMRGQOvSUT9w_fhlxRIeAijJ0g&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjJvMPP1JPmAhWKpFkKHbBnBiQQ6AEwAnoECAwQAQ#v=onepage&q=nostate can claim that its duties extend only to its own citizens&f=false.
  • “Most Say Illegal Immigrants Should Be Allowed to Stay, But Citizenship Is More Divisive.” Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, 24 Sept. 2018, https://www.people-press.org/2013/03/28/most-say-illegal-immigrants-should-be-allowed-to-stay-but-citizenship-is-more-divisive/.
  • Passel, Jeffrey S., and D’Vera Cohn. “Industries of Unauthorized Immigrant Workers.” Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project, Pew Research Center, 26 Mar. 2015, https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2015/03/26/chapter-2-industries-of-unauthorized-immigrant-workers/.
  • Sweeney Yu, Elisabeth J. “Addressing the Economic Impact of Undocumented Immigration on the American Worker: Private Rico Litigation and Public Policy.” Notre Dame Journal of Law, Ethics & Public Policy, Feb. 2014, https://scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=10&ved=2ahUKEwjnqMTC5d3kAhVSmuAKHfPgB_oQFjAJegQICBAC&url=http://scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1189&context=ndjlepp&usg=AOvVaw2hD-LAIERo00mrKYCqfTyR&httpsredir=1&article=1189&context=ndjlepp.
  • Taylor, Michael R. “Illegal Immigration and Moral Obligation.” Public Affairs Quarterly, vol. 22, no. 1, 2008, pp. 29–41. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40441477.
  • Turnovsky, Carolyn Pinedo. “Ethics on the Corner.” Greater Good, 1 Mar. 2006, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/ethics_on_the_corner.


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