Events | Immigration

Guestworkers, Unauthorized Immigrants, and the Impact of Immigration Status on Wages

Date: May 21, 2015

This panel explores the relationship between immigration status and wages.

A number of employer associations and legislators have proposed the expansion of U.S. temporary foreign worker programs, also commonly referred to as “guestworker” programs, as a way to supply non-immigrant workers to U.S. employers and limit unauthorized migration. Guestworker programs allow migrants to enter the U.S. workforce temporarily before returning to their home countries. But what would the expansion of guestworker programs mean for the migrant workers themselves? Are guestworkers any better off than unauthorized workers in economic terms? Is there any economic benefit for workers who have a temporary immigration status, but no path to becoming a legal permanent resident or naturalized U.S. citizen?

If guestworker programs are to become a viable alternative to unauthorized migration, they should provide a living wage and reduce the risk of abuses workers encounter at the hands of employers and labor recruiters. New research that will be published by EPI uses Mexican Migration Project data to compare the wage earnings of Mexican guestworkers employed in agriculture and other low-wage occupations, and to compare them to earnings of unauthorized immigrant workers and legal permanent residents.

If implemented, President Obama’s deferred action initiatives for qualifying unauthorized immigrants (DAPA and DACA) could grant protection from deportation and work authorization for up to half of all unauthorized farmworkers. New research will be presented that examines farmworker wages by legal status and how deferred action might be expected to alter the hourly wages and annual earnings of those beneficiaries who choose to remain in agriculture. This research also investigates the effects of legal status on farmworkers’ probability of simultaneously holding nonfarm employment and summarizes what was learned in the wake of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 about the relationship between legal status and the rate at which farmworkers left agriculture for other industries.

What: This panel explores the relationship between immigration status and wages.

Who: Tom HertzEconomic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture [READ: Authorizing the Unauthorized: Labor Market Consequences for Crop Farm Workers or click here to view the Powerpoint presentation]

Lauren ApgarPh.D. Candidate in Sociology, University of Indiana Bloomington [READ: Authorized Status, Limited Returns: The Labor Market Outcomes of Temporary Mexican Workers]

Charles Kamasaki, Senior Cabinet Adviser, National Council of La Raza and Resident Fellow, Migration Policy Institute

Opening remarks by Larry Mishel, President of the Economic Policy Institute

Moderated by Daniel Costa, Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research, EPI

When: Thursday, May 21, 2015, 11:30 a.m.–1:00 p.m. Eastern

Where: Economic Policy Institute
1333 H Street NW, Suite 300 East Tower
Washington, DC 20005

Reporters: To RSVP, please send an email to
For more information and for public RSVP click here.

See related work on Immigration | Work visas | Wages