Immigrant workers pick flowers.

(Photo by Flickr user Remedio Morales)

In popular belief, undocumented workers steal someone else's identification and use false IDs so they can get jobs.  But new research by University of Colorado Denver anthropology professor Sarah Horton shows those workers are more commonly the victims of identity crimes. The perpetrators are their employers.

Horton's study, published in December in the Political and Legal Anthropology Review, found that some employers use a variety of methods to make it appear they are hiring legal workers. They "loan" undocumented workers the identification of legal workers. They "mask" undocumented status with invented documents. And then, the employers reap the rewards from these practices.

Horton found that some work supervisors give the identification of friends or family members to undocumented workers, allowing those friends or family members to gain the unemployment and retirement benefits for someone else's labor.  Employer-provided false or borrowed IDs also allow employers to sidestep labor laws and hide violations. 

Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner speaks with Sarah Horton of the University of Colorado Denver.