Its a very tense time to be an undocumented immigrant in Texas.
The Trump administration is lobbying for stricter immigration laws, and trying to get state lawmakers and law enforcement to do the same, but a large number of the people already working to clear out houses and rebuild properties damaged by Harvey are immigrant day laborers. Some of them are undocumented.
The pool of skilled workers in the area of construction is already smaller than normal in Houston, so if these people leave, it could make efforts to rebuild more difficult, according to news website Vox.
“This could have a chilling effect on the community,” Laurel Fletcher, a law professor at the University of California Berkeley, told Vox in an interview. Fletcher studied working conditions surrounding laborers in New Orleans after Katrina. “A lot depends on what the climate will be like for Latinx and undocumented residents in the greater Houston area.”
According to the National Association of Home Builders, construction workers are in short supply not just in Houston, but around the state, and the damage from Harvey is already being estimated at around $180 billion.
According to a report from the Berkeley School of Law, Latino workers did some of the most grueling work after Katrina. The suspension of some law, designed to make it easier for them to be hired and expand the workforce, also led to some abhorrent treatment for these workers, something Houston should try to avoid moving forward as it decides how and where immigrant laborers fit into the post-Harvey workforce.