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Experiences of Immigrant Workers: Challenges, Opportunities and the Future of our Economy

November 7, 2013

In the United States today, roughly 25 million workers, over 16 percent of all workers, are foreign-born. Immigrant workers contribute skills, knowledge and labor to the U.S. economy through employment in a diversity of sectors, including hospitality, construction, information technology, health care and others. Foreign-born workers also start businesses at higher rates than native born workers, contributing to economic growth and job creation. While some immigrant workers and business owners achieve great economic success, others operate marginal businesses or are employed in jobs where wages are low, working conditions are poor, and safety standards are disregarded. For foreign-born workers that wish to improve their education and upgrade their skills, other barriers may stand in their way, such as limited English skills or poor access to financial aid. Millions of these workers have toiled in the shadows of the labor market, but soon, the nation may have opportunities to both improve job quality and offer ways for these workers to build their skills. These opportunities can help improve employment for the labor market and economy overall in ways that benefit all Americans. In this event, a leading scholar of immigration and immigration policy from the Brookings Institution, a nationally recognized community college president from Prince George’s Community College, a leading advocate for immigrant workers from the AFL-CIO, and a distinguished community organizer and leader of an award-winning Latino services organization, CASA de Maryland, will discuss the immigrant workforce in the U.S. today, focusing on, its past and potential economic contributions, opportunities for gaining skills as well as the implications of immigration and immigration reform for job quality. This is the third conversation in the Aspen Institute’s Working in America series that highlights a variety of job quality issues affecting low and moderate income working Americans.


Ana AvendaƱo
Assistant to the President and Director of Immigration and Community Action, AFL-CIO 

Charlene Dukes
President, Prince George’s Community College 

Audrey Singer
Senior Fellow, Metropolitan Policy Program, The Brookings Institution 

Gustavo Torres,
Executive Director, CASA de Maryland 

Julia Preston, National Immigration Correspondent, The New York Times