Anti Hispanic Discrimination Still Felt Around the Country

A recent survey performed by the Pew Hispanic Center (PHC) found that over 60 percent of Hispanics polled still feel that they are the victims of national origin bias. The PHC – a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group – is focused on tracing trends in attitude and lifestyle that affect Latinos and others of Hispanic origin living in America.

The striking percentage of disenfranchised Hispanics is a sharp uptick in the numbers of those who felt discriminated against in recent years, and most blame the rise in bias as being the direct result of America’s highly publicized debate about illegal immigration. A full 36 percent of Hispanics surveyed said that they felt like the ongoing debate about immigration is the greatest cause of continuing discrimination, regardless of their own residency status.

That number represents a rise over the same question when it was asked in 2007 – then a still-high 23 percent of Hispanic immigrants (both legal and illegal) found that immigration status was the greatest impediment to their enjoying a fair and equal lifestyle.

Changing Trends in Discrimination

Back in 2007, by far the highest number of study participants – 46 percent – felt like the language barrier was the biggest source of discrimination. The language barrier still exists between "native" English speakers and immigrant Hispanics, but since the country has nearly 50 million Latino immigrants now, communication between English and Spanish speakers has become easier. Language barriers have also been embraced, resulting in many more signs, safety warnings, job applications, directions, instructions, maps and product descriptions being printed in more than one language.

Since Latinos make up both the greatest percentage of newly arriving immigrants and the greatest number of illegal immigrants currently living in the states, their perspective is an important one for employers, politicians, governments, fellow workers and society as a whole to keep in mind. They make up a huge part of our work force, and, as our economy recovers, their numbers will continue to be important to the country’s financial stability.

Employment Discrimination

Federal law requires employers to verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States. However, the law also demands that employers treat all job applicants and employees equally, whether they are U.S. citizens or not.

When verifying if an applicant or employee is a legal worker, employers can only ask for the documents listed on the I-9 Form. Some of these documents include a:

  • U.S. Passport
  • Permanent Resident Card
  • State driver’s license or ID card
  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security card

Employers must accept the documents listed on the I-9 as long as they appear reasonably genuine. Employers may not ask to see specific documents, such as a "green card," and they may not ask for more documents than are required.

Employees must be allowed to choose which documents to present as long as they are on the I-9 list. Asking for documents other than those listed on the I-9 is discriminatory.

How is Immigration Status Handled in a Court of Law?

Immigration status is also becoming increasingly relevant not only to immigration authorities, but also in a court of law. Documented and undocumented workers alike are bringing lawsuits alleging damages caused by anti-Hispanic discrimination.

Courts in the fourth circuit have found that not only can even undocumented or illegal workers bring suits alleging discrimination, but that the courts have a duty to protect the privacy and reputation of those workers. The court has done this by limiting the circumstances in which information about a worker’s immigration status would be discoverable by the opposition in a civil lawsuit and in which such information would be admissible in court. Specifically, courts have found that immigration status information is not relevant to the issue of damage claims seeking back wages. It is, however, relevant and discoverable when future wages are sought.

If you feel you have been discriminated against in the workplace – you have been passed over for promotions, have not been hired in spite of being qualified, receive a lower wage than fellow workers of other ethnic origins, contact us to learn more about you and the options you may have..