Skip to main content

KPBS Radio is undergoing scheduled upgrade work which may result in temporary signal outages.

LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Tokyo Olympics

Employment Changing For Immigrants Living Illegally In San Diego Area

More are getting hired into white-collar jobs than before


A Pew Research Center study says the number of these immigrants in the U.S. with managerial, administrative and other professional jobs jumped by 180,000 between 2007 and 2012, while those in blue-collar industries dropped by 475,000 for the same period.

Immigrants who came to the region illegally are increasingly getting white-collar jobs, San Diego attorneys said.

This trend reflects the findings of a new Pew Research Center study, which says the number of these immigrants in the U.S. with managerial, administrative and other professional jobs jumped by 180,000 between 2007 and 2012. Meanwhile, those working in blue-collar industries dropped by 475,000 during the same period.

In San Diego County, the white-collar increase may be a result of state education policies that help immigrants become better educated. Assembly Bill 540 allows certain people without documents to go to college in the state, while the California Dream Act lets them apply for state financial aid.

"If they're pursuing higher education, then they're naturally going to be drawn to more white-collar jobs," said San Diego immigration lawyer Ginger Jacobs, a partner at Jacobs & Schlesinger LLP.

She said some San Diego County immigrants who arrived illegally have become architects, therapists, nurses and even doctors.

They find ways around laws requiring companies to verify legal employee status, Jacobs said. Sometimes they use fake documents or the documents of close relatives. Some companies just aren't that diligent.

At the national level, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals gives deportation relief and work permits to young student immigrants. Local attorneys believe this program is also contributing to the trend.

Jacobs said she believes the share of immigrants with white-collar jobs is going to keep getting bigger in the region and across the country.

"This trend is going to continue as educational opportunities continue to be opened to that population," she said.

Most of these immigrants are still employed in blue-collar industries such as construction and agriculture. In California, the service industry had the largest share of workers who came to the U.S. illegally. In 2012, the number was 29 percent and included jobs such as house-cleaning, according to the Pew Research Center.

Matthew Holt, the San Diego chapter chair for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said he has a rising number of clients in management and supervisor roles.

"When I take my clients into immigration court, I've typically got a stack of letters of support from co-workers and employers who hold my clients in high esteem and value their continued work," he said in an email.


San Diego News Now podcast branding

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.

  • Need help keeping up with the news that matters most? Get the day's top news — ranging from local to international — straight to your inbox each weekday morning.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Curious San Diego banner

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.