Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Latin American, Caribbean and U.S. Latino Studies



Content Description

1 online resource (ii, vii, 179 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

José Cruz

Committee Members

Susan Gauss, Bret Benjamin


immigration, labor, Latino, undocumented, Sweatshops, Noncitizens, Latin Americans, Employees, Work environment, Undocumented immigrants

Subject Categories

Latin American Studies


This dissertation examines how neoliberalism and immigration enforcement between 1980 and 2010 changed the nature of ‘sweated’ work in the U.S. This dissertation focuses on the particular case of Latino undocumented workers in New York State and the organizations fighting to win them protections. In order to answer my research questions, I conducted 30 semi-structured interviews over the course of 2 years (2013-2015), examined immigration enforcement data, and analyzed U.S. immigration and welfare policies between 1980 and the present. Research interviews made clear that both the lack of social and legal protections alongside the threat of immigration enforcement have a definitive impact on working conditions in low-wage sectors. Staff and volunteers from worker justice centers and immigration rights organizations also emphasized the fact that some of the old protections that were hard fought and won by prior generations of labor activists are ill-suited to address the needs of low-wage, non-citizen workers who face a number of new challenges. By focusing on undocumented Latino workers and worker centers in New York State this dissertation shifts the conceptual lens from a particular ‘worksite’ to the forces—historical, legal, and social—which make sweating possible once an individual enters a workplace. This dissertation contends that the specters of wagelessness and deportation collaborate to ensure the flexibility of undocumented labor and that these are the distinctive features of the contemporary U.S. sweatshop.