An In-Depth Look at the Food Industry’s Undocumented Labor Force

Immigrants are integral to the function and sustainability of the U.S. food supply chain. Over 2 million immigrant workers pick and grow our food at the farm level and another 2.3 million work in restaurant kitchens. Combined, sources estimate 65% or more are undocumented. And despite being unauthorized, undocumented workers pay over 11 billion dollars in U.S. taxes each year.

Undocumented labor is one of the most divisive and fraught political discussions in the U.S. How did our food system become so reliant on migrant labor? And what fuels the many misconceptions regarding undocumented labor? How does this population impact our economy? And how has the Covid-19 pandemic changed the way we look at migrant workers? 

Life & Thyme Founder Antonio Diaz welcomes Claudette Zepeda, former Executive Chef at San Diego’s El Jardin and Top Chef Mexico competitor; Co-Founders of No Us Without You, an organization dedicated to feeding undocumented workers throughout Covid-19, Othón Nolasco and Damian Diaz; and postdoctoral scholar at UC Merced with a PhD in sociology Stephanie L. Canizales, to answer these questions and more. 

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