Latin American Laborers and U.S. Black Market Money

Mexico, shown in orange, bordering with the United States to the north.
Migrant worker trimming grapes.
Shanty town in Guatemala, a Latin American country just south of Mexico.

Over fifty-five million Latinos live in the United States, with the majority being of Mexican descent. The overwhelming reasons for these people, or their relatives before them, to have come to the U.S. have been to escape war or persecution, find better-paid jobs and unite with their families.

Out of all of the tens of millions of Latinos who live in the U.S., most are either natural born citizens or have been granted visas and citizenship. Others, including those who have not been eligible for visas, have entered and stayed in the United States illegally. This, given the large number of migrants who have arrived in recent years, has resulted in many millions of Latinos now living in the United States without legal permission.

Black market jobs

Because undocumented Latinos live in the United States without permission, they cannot register with the authorities, take legal market jobs and pay taxes in the same way as American citizens can. Instead, in order to get by, the generally low-skilled migrants often have to take black market jobs, with manual labor positions in the agriculture, service and construction sectors typically being what is available to them.

With the aforementioned jobs in the agriculture, service and construction sectors being relatively low-paid already in the legal economy, the even lower salaries for workers in the underground economy mean that Latin American migrants are very low-paid by American standards. Still, the migrant workers’ salaries may be very valuable for the workers themselves and their families. This is because the salaries that the migrants earn often cover their basic needs and sometimes even allow money to be sent back home to poor relatives in Latin America. Quite naturally, then, staying in the United States and working in the black market may well be more attractive for Latinos than going back to their home countries, where even poorer and more uncertain conditions might await them.