The Production of Precarity: How US Immigration “Status” Affects Work in Central Texas

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Rodríguez, Leah

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The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice


This paper analyzes how US immigration law exacerbates the precarity of immigrants’ work situations in ways that demonstrate that insecure work is not a function of the neoliberal economic system alone; rather, it is partly a function of immigration law and bureaucracy. Precarious work situations of immigrants in the US perpetuate social and economic inequality, labor rights abuses, and human rights abuses. The extent to which immigration law is the cause of immigrant workers’ precarious work situations explains why changes in labor law and human rights law are insufficient solutions to the issues that precarious work generates.

First, I discuss the history and uses of the term precarity. I also explain how work authorization relates to immigration status in the US, and the role of the state in producing precarity. In the second half of the paper, I use case studies from central Texas to illustrate why this relationship between worker status and immigration status is so problematic, and the various ways in which it breeds further precarity in work. Ultimately, I address why labor law and human rights law are not the solution, although they can realistically help to mitigate the situation while substantive US immigration law reform is not likely at this political moment.



Leah Rodriguez is a second-year law student at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin, Texas (JD expected 2019). She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American Studies from the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin. She intends to work in immigration after graduating. Her passions include removal defense and ending immigrant detention.

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