Immigrant workers are a large segment of the lower echelon of the U.S. labor force, and as many as 3.6 to 6 million of these workers and their families are living in the U.S. illegally. This paper examines who the recent immigrants are; explains why their current situation in the U.S. is an important public health matter; discusses the ethical and policy issues stemming from their health needs and from illegal status; and concludes with a brief look at some implications of the Simpson-Mazzoli Immigration and Reform Act, currently before Congress. The paper suggests that the illegal status of undocumented workers intensifies their health risks; that the immigrants' responsibility for budget shortfalls in public services is not as clearcut as frequently assumed; and that legislation aimed at regulating the status of immigrant workers in the U.S. is unlikely to solve many of the central problems.

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