Immigrants ‘the new foreign direct investment’ in Ireland

Mark Fielding of Irish Small and Medium Enterprises says such workers are invaluable

Undocumented workers Priya and Jayson Montenegro, members of Justice for the Undocumented. Photograph: Eric Luke

Undocumented workers Priya and Jayson Montenegro, members of Justice for the Undocumented. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Immigrants working here are “the new foreign direct investment” and should be welcomed and, if undocumented, regularised, chief executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (Isme), has said.

Mark Fielding was addressing a conference on the economic and moral rationale for regularising undocumented workers, hosted by Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland (MRCI).

He said immigrant workers were invaluable and when left undocumented – whether because their residency permit had lapsed or their work permit had expired – they were more vulnerable to exploitation.

“There is an unfair competitive advantage which the current system gives to exploitative employers who systematically hire undocumented workers. The resulting ‘race to the bottom’ as businesses try to compete by employing illegal labour, further expands the underground or black economy and reduces tax revenues which the exchequer badly needs,” he said.

“Regularisation rewards compliant employers who want to be fair to their staff.”

He said Isme would be “to the fore” in campaigning with the MRCI for the regularisation of undocumented workers.

“Most immigrants, after all, do not come for social benefits, but to find work and to improve their lives and those of their families. Efforts to better integrate immigrants should thus be seen as an investment rather than a cost.”

The conference heard undocumented children of undocumented parents were at increased risk of mental health difficulties. They were not able to go on to third level education or plan fulfilling careers, a conference heard yesterday.

Anita (not her real name) said she had completed her Leaving Cert but could not go to college or get a job.