When warm summer weather arrives, inviting New Yorkers to go out, Annamaria celebrates. The busiest season for catering means the waitress will work seven days a week and save money for the winter, when work is scarce. Since she arrived from Lima, Peru, ten years ago, Annamaria learned how to deal with the ups and downs of the informal market.
“We, undocumented, must manage well our money,” she said. “At anytime we can find ourselves without work, and there’s no one to help us.”
The low wages Annamaria and her husband, both undocumented immigrants, found in New York were enough for raising their two daughters, but never left something to spare. The girls, now in their 20’s, started working early in the restaurant business and earned enough to pay for their own college studies. All the support Annamaria’s family had was their own labor.
The planned minimum wage increases across the country are expected to benefit millions of American workers. But higher wages will be particularly important for undocumented immigrants, who can’t count on the government benefits that help support other low-income populations.
In New York, the raises planned throughout the state may benefit about 400,000 foreign-born workers with no legal status, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute, an independent organization focused on researching economic issues. The same may happen in California, where the labor force includes about 1.85 million undocumented immigrants.
Photo: Paul Sableman
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