Immigrants Lacking Papers Work Legally–As Their Own Bosses

Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times, September 14, 2013

At just 20 years of age, Carla Chavarria sits at the helm of a thriving graphic design business, launching branding and media campaigns for national organizations. Some of her projects are so large she has to hire staff.

Still, Chavarria has to hop on buses to meet clients throughout Phoenix because Arizona won’t give her a driver’s license. The state considers her to be in the country illegally, even though she recently obtained a two-year reprieve from deportation under the Obama administration’s deferred action program.

She may not drive, but along with thousands of other young people who entered the country illegally, Chavarria has found a way to make a living without breaking the law.

Although federal law prohibits employers from hiring someone residing in the country illegally, there is no law prohibiting such a person from starting a business or becoming an independent contractor.

As a result, some young immigrants are forming limited liability companies or starting freelance careers—even providing jobs to U.S. citizens—as the prospect of an immigration law revamp plods along in Congress.

Ever since 1986, when employer sanctions took effect as part of the immigration overhaul signed by President Reagan, creating a company or becoming an independent contractor has been a way for people who are in the country illegally to work on a contract basis and get around immigration enforcement.


How is this possible? Though the issue is complex, the answer boils down to how labor law defines employees, said Muzaffar Chishti, an expert on the intersection of labor and immigration law at the Migration Policy Institute.

For example, employees often have set hours and use equipment provided by the employer. Independent contractors make their own hours, get paid per project by submitting invoices and use their own tools. Also, someone who hires an independent contractor isn’t obligated by immigration law to verify that person’s legal status.


It was as easy as downloading the forms from the Internet, opening up a bank account and turning in paperwork to the state along with a $50 fee. Proof of citizenship is not required. Regulations vary, but similar procedures exist in other states. In California, the fee is a bit higher and there’s an annual minimum tax of $800, but the process is similar to Arizona’s.

It’s unclear how many entrepreneurs there are like Chavarria. Immigration experts say anecdotal evidence suggests interest in such businesses has grown in recent years as more states have adopted tougher illegal-immigration laws. But research is scant.

Indications of a trend could be found, however, in a Public Policy Institute of California report on the effects of Arizona’s 2007 mandatory E-Verify law, which forced businesses to use a federal system intended to weed out people working in the country illegally.

The study found that 25,000 workers living in Arizona illegally became self-employed in 2009. That was an 8% jump over the number a year earlier. They probably formed limited liability companies, created their own businesses or even left employers to become independent contractors.


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  • borogirl54

    Illegal immigrants can get become independent contractors because they can get an ITIN numbers to pay taxes.

    • joesolargenius

      Yes borogirl54 and then when they file those taxes they can get $1,000.00 back for every child that they claim to be supporting including nieces and nephews , all twenty seven of them.

  • JohnEngelman

    If we know who illegal immigrants are we should deport them.

    • ThomasER916

      No, we should shoot them.

  • kjh64

    “Still, Chavarria has to hop on buses to meet clients throughout Phoenix because Arizona won’t give her a driver’s license. ”

    Since when do illegals not drive? (She could drive on a Mexican driver’s license for that matter.) Illegals all the time drive with no license, no insurance and if caught, the cops don’t check their immigration status because they can’t.

    “As a result, some young immigrants are forming limited liability companies or starting freelance careers—even providing jobs to U.S. citizens”

    Providing jobs for US citizens would be rare and these US citizens would almost certainly be fellow Hispanics.

    • Mike Conrad

      You know? That slipped right by me, that the lack of a license has never stopped a single illegal from driving in the USA. SMH! I thought I was more alert than that. Scary how the MSM can lull us into complacency if we’re not careful.

    • borogirl54

      From what I understand, she got DACA but in Arizona, DACA recipients cannot get drivers licenses. They are still fighting that in court.

    • GeneticsareDestiny

      She might be too scared of going to jail. Women tend to be more risk-averse than men, among all races.

      That being said, your average illegal woman probably drives.

      • kjh64

        All I know is that illegal migrant women aren’t “risk-averse”, plenty of them drive in Texas. No license, no insurance, no problemo

        • GeneticsareDestiny

          Yes, most of them do drive. However, I bet it’s a slightly smaller percentage than the percentage of illegal men who drive.

        • ThomasER916

          That’s because there’s no risk for illegals. If you’re an American you’re risking everything. If you’re illegal nothing will happen.

  • T_Losan

    Wow! She owns an ad firm at 20? National accounts? She must be really good (check site) Hang on a minute…all of her clients are political organizations which support illegal immigration.

    But the article didn’t mention that. Guess it’s more dramatic to depict her as, you know, an actual contributing member of society rather than someone helping out fellow line-cutters.

    • ThomasER916

      This is typical of all Leftist groups. They leave out the real information. Her so-called success is paid for with Taxpayer money.

  • bigone4u

    If the 20 year old Hispanic female featured in the story were really such a business success, I think she could afford to take a taxi rather than ride a city bus to visit clients. I therefore conclude that the story of immigrant success in business is trumped up, mostly existing in the imagination of the writer. The story is just propaganda designed to convince us that illegals will not burden us with their dysfunctional ways.

    • T_Losan

      From her website: work: Por Ella campaign, IDREAM campain, Su Voz Mi Voto, Jose Penalosa for congress, Somos America, No Dream Deferred…you get the idea.


      • T_Losan

        PS: Jose Penalosa is an immigration lawyer. His congress bid failed.

      • Greg Thomas

        Yeah, I get the idea. She’s an illegal invader rabble rouser. Why is she still here is my only question, She certainly is not “living in the shadows.”

  • Puggg

    She probably doesn’t really have a business. This has been a common scam all around, to reclassify employees as independent contractors.

  • Spartacus

    Still living in the shadows, I see…

  • Mike Conrad

    Quote: “immigrants are forming limited liability companies or starting freelance careers—even providing jobs to U.S. citizens”

    Wow, this is a new level of MSM misinformation. Not only do they not take American jobs, or “only take the jobs Americans don’t want”, now they’re actually providing jobs to Americans. Thank God for “undocumented workers”!!! Without them America would have no jobs and we’d all starve to death.

    Orwell would be so proud of the American MSM.

    • kjh64

      Yes, whatever did people back in the 1930’s and 1940’s do? How did they eat, how did restaurants exist, how were houses cleaned or even built without all of these illegal migrants to do the work? Why they must have been running around living in shacks and starving because there were no Mexicans to build their houses or pick crops.LOL

      • Bossman

        Blacks did all of that and back then nobody paid any attention to so-called illegals. During WWII, there was a labor shortage and millions of Mexicans were invited to come to the USA.

    • Bossman

      Anyone from anywhere will be given an entrepreneurship visa if they invest half a million dollars in a business that create jobs for Americans. What if an undocumented migrant starts a business that create jobs for Americans, shouldn’t they also be given a visa? After all, it amounts to the same thing.

  • Luca

    We have lots of those self-employed types in the greater LA area.

    They come here illegally. They sell oranges or fruit on street corners out of stolen shopping carts. They do not have a business license. They do not pay income taxes. There are no food or health inspections. They do not have insurance. They compete unfairly, undercut and damage the local legitimate businesses.

    So therefore, forgive me if I do not see them as entrepreneurs. The mere sight of them involves a level of disgust in me not only for the fact that are simultaneously breaking about six local and federal laws, but that law enforcement must turn a blind eye to this harmful injustice.

    And the media has the nerve to call them entrepreneurs.

    • Sick of it

      Yet law enforcement may bug some American kids for having an unlicensed lemonade stand.

  • At just 20 years of age, Carla Chavarria sits at the helm of a thriving graphic design business, and yet a native American has to have an $80,000 college degree to get even similar work.

    And she is being paid as a 1099 …. writing off everything, including the bus fare, so she ends up paying no taxes. Whereas the person with the $80,000 college degree is paying taxes.

    • MBlanc46

      I’m self-employed and I sure pay taxes.

  • Bossman

    Even to get a telephone number, to rent an apartment and to get cable TV, you’ll be asked for your social security number.

  • Bossman

    An escort service should be as legitimate as any other service. I view people who are against this business as near-apes and half men.