Hiring the Undocumented

This online booklet explains how by hiring a day laborer you help an individual, you get some work done and you do an act of civil disobedience.   It does not encourage or incite you to violate the law.  If however you choose to help the most needy and least enfranchised in our society this booklet will help you do it in a way that is mutually beneficial, sustainable, safe, non-exploitative and righteous. 

Section One — Who can I Hire and How do I Find Them?

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."

John Wooden
Famed UCLA Basketball Coach

Since you have read this far I’m going to assume that you are seriously considering helping a Dreamer or other undocumented worker and contributing to changing a bad law. Let move along.

The next step is to find some work that you need done.  This is not charity.  If you just give money it only helps accomplish one of the three objectives and you will burn out.  Below is a list of some of the types of work that Dreamers and other casual laborers can do.  Use it to get ideas and explore the possibilities.  Before you act be sure to read the chapter on Safety and Fairness.

Finding casual workers is surprisingly easy if you know where to look.  There are many more places to hire someone than the street by the Home Depot.  For instance if you need a painter try the street near a paint store and look for someone dressed in white.  If you need a photographer try Craigslist.

 The following list shows both the diversity of work done by Dreamers and other casual laborers and where you can find people to do this work.

Household Help, Cleaning Ladies or Maids

The standard method for finding household help is to ask your friends or neighbors for recommendations.  But it is even better to ask your friends and neighbors cleaning ladies.  They know people. Anyone working in your house needs to be carefully checked out. See section two for tips on how to check references.


You can help a Dreamer when you need a ride to the airport or someone to drive Aunt Martha, who is visiting from Duluth, to Disneyland on Tuesday.  Try the “services offered” section of Craigslist look for someone local and ask for a reference.

Yard Work 

This is the easy one.  Somewhere in you neighborhood there is a street corner where you can pick up someone to work for a few hours in your yard.  If you don’t know where that place is try this:  Drive along the streets around the large home improvement store near where you live.  When you see some men who appear to be loitering, you have found the place.  In some neighborhoods the casual laborers have to hide from the police.  In some neighborhoods they have casual labor centers where it is easy to hire someone.  

In my neighborhood one of the hiring spots is the corner of a park near a church.  Look around but if you still can’t find someone to do your yard work ask a contractor or gardener working in your neighborhood where you can find a “day laborer?” They will know where the spot is.  Section two has step by step details on how to hire someone the first time.

Other potential areas. 


Office work

, Movers

, Gardeners

Computer Trouble Shooting and Repair


Section Two — Hiring Your First Worker the Safe Way

Latino immigrants aren't "different," just newer.

Jason Riley
Let Them In

We hear a lot about the “exploitation of casual workers.”  An entire body of labor law has been created to protect workers rights.  Yet these laws exclude the people who need them the most the undocumented.  In this chapter we show you how you can hire people to get things done without exploiting them.

How will you know that the person that you find on Craigslist or the street corner will not rip you off?  How will you stay safe when you meet with these strangers or bring them into your home?  Realistically the world is filled with danger but if you understand the needs of the people you are hiring and follow the rules and cautions outlined in this chapter it is extremely unlikely that anything bad will happen to you.  And the potential result of what you are doing is worth the slight risk.

Put yourself for a moment in the position of the typical undocumented immigrant.  Their first objective is to stay here and the best way to do that is to stay as quiet and invisible.  Their second objective is to earn money and the best way to do that is to give extremely good value when they are working.  This leaves the undocumented job seeker extremely vulnerable to exploitation.  How can you avoid exploiting this advantage and still help to end the mistreatment of the newest immigrants?  I suggest two simple rules.  First pay at least 130% of the minimum wage.  Second don’t ask workers to do anything you wouldn’t do.  

Section Three — What do I pay and what can I expect?

“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

French Writer and Philosopher
1694 – 1778

One of the major reasons people don’t hire a casual laborer to help them do small tasks is that they aren’t sure what to pay.  The basic rule is: pay what you are comfortable with but never pay less than one and half times the federal minimum wage.  

In my neighborhood the going rate is about $10.00 per hour for general labor.  It is more for skilled labor like painters and less for full days of work.  There is a general rule that there is a $20 minimum.

In a 2005 study of the Day Labor Market in Los Angeles, CA Professors Abel Valenzuela and Nik Theodore found much the same.  The prevailing wage was about $10.00 an hour.  About a third of the workers reported that they had been exploited in some way or another.