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Nev. home to largest share of illegal workers
by Cristina Silva - Associated Press
Feb 02, 2011 | 961 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LAS VEGAS — Nevada has the largest share of illegal workers in the nation, with roughly 10 percent of its work force not authorized by the federal government, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group.

The report published Tuesday shows a slight jump in illegal workers as Nevada's job market has shrunk amid record unemployment. Nevada's population of illegal workers was 9.4 percent in 2009. The Silver State's unemployment rate has since climbed to 14.5 percent, the highest in the nation.

Nevada also has the largest share of illegal immigrants at 7.2 percent. Only 3.7 percent of people in the United States are illegal immigrants.

The Pew Hispanic Center report comes as Nevada lawmakers from both political parties call for legislation that would require employers to verify the immigration status of all job applicants.

Assemblyman Pat Hickey, a Reno Republican, said businesses who hire illegal immigrants should be fined. He said his proposed legislation would help replenish the state's diminished coffers and put Nevadans back to work.

"I challenge the notion that those are jobs Nevadans wouldn't do anyway," he said. "I think that doesn't necessarily apply anymore."

Nevada's tourism-rich economy lured foreign workers for years with promises of plentiful jobs in its construction and service industries. Immigrants urged friends and relatives to relocate to Nevada with their stories of fair wages. Employers fueled the migration, sometimes sending headhunters to Mexico and other Latin American nations to recruit affordable laborers.

"They help to put people in contact with landlords and others, where sometimes immigrant workers or migrants could share rent and make living situations affordable," said John Tuman, director of the Latin American Studies Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The density of illegal immigrants in Nevada could stifle serious debate on immigration legislation as Republicans and Democrats try to court Hispanic voters to prepare for the 2012 presidential election, Tuman said.

Nevada's illegal immigrants are far from the mightiest immigrant community in the United States. California's 1.85 million illegal workers, for example, are the largest in the nation. But they represent only 9.7 percent of the Golden State's work force.

Nevada's illegal workers soared in 2007 before the recession hit, climbing to 240,000 employees. That number dropped to 190,000 in 2010.
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