Labor Day: Remembering the Contributions of Immigrant Workers

Aug 29, 2014
Debbie Smith

As we gather with friends and family on Labor Day, we say goodbye to summer and celebrate the dignity of work and the contributions of immigrant workers to the building of the United States.  Immigrant workers -- from the Chinese workers who constructed our country's railroads, and the Irish miners who dug the coal that powered our industrialization, to the Latino and Filipino farm workers who make the United States the world's largest exporter of agricultural products -- fuel the strength and dynamism of the United States.  We see the legacy of immigrant workers in their role in building the labor movement and unions that have created labor protections and safer workplaces for us all.  The landmark economic and social justice successes -- the eight-hour day, prohibitions on child labor, wage standards -- were achieved with the participation and courage of immigrant workers.

Immigrant workers continue to face unfair and abusive labor conditions, however.  Dangerous working conditions, low-pay, and job discrimination are challenges that confront immigrant workers who fear retaliation and deportation if they complain.  In defiance of these obstacles, the accomplishments of janitors, hotel workers, and other low-wage workers in obtaining better wages and working conditions is inspiring.

At the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., we believe that people have the right to decent and productive work, fair wages, and economic initiative.  Work is more than a way to make a living; it is integral in achieving full participation in society. 

For information on employment based immigration, work authorization and eligibility, visit our archive of resources at


Debbie Smith is an attorney in CLINIC’s Training and Legal Support section.