How Illegal The Project Began
He may not have known it at the time, but Illegal The Project began when Laz Ayala was 14 years old crossing the border to the United States as an undocumented immigrant in the trunk of a brown Cadillac. 37 years later, Laz is a naturalized citizen, entrepreneur, and philanthropist with a story to tell and a film crew to help him tell it.
Illegal The Project was founded in November 2018 by Laz Ayala and a small group of supporters seeking to bring justice to immigrants in the United States. Together, they are shedding light on the facts and myths about undocumented immigrants starting with a feature-length documentary that tells Laz's story and the story of so many others who make the long, dangerous, and uncertain journey to the U.S. in search of new opportunities.
There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States today. As the debate rages over Trump's policies to increase deportations of those with criminal histories, Laz and his team worry that all immigrants are being vilified.
Meanwhile, there is little to no conversation taking place around the root of this debate — why immigrants are coming into the US illegally in the first place.
They come because many of our industries rely on cheap labor which is often met by undocumented immigrants. Why is it that workers are imprisoned, detained, criminalized and dehumanized while their employers face no consequences?
In Ayala's words, Illegal The Project "seeks to bring an end to luring desperate workers by a system of employment that not only puts lives at risk but also separates families here and abroad. I want to end a highly politicized system that is dividing this country along racial lines. We can end this divisive topic that has mushroomed into an issue of race and antisemitism. We must change and enforce our laws around employing immigrants. Doing so will dry up the demand for cheap and exploited labor and will lead to legislation that establishes a legal process, under which employers can hire immigrant workers that come to the U.S. in a safe and legal manner. Why is it that we deported 226,000 immigrants, the vast majority of whom came to the US to work, while fewer than 2,000 employers were audited for hiring undocumented workers?"
Our country is experiencing an illegal employment epidemic fueled by a lack of blue-collar, domestic workers and functional guest worker programs.
These two factors have created a labor crisis that is negatively impacting our economy and creating fertile ground for illegal employment to grow. Faced with a lack of workers, our agriculture, hospitality, and construction industries are left with no other option than to hire undocumented labor thereby perpetuating illegal employment and a system that exploits undocumented workers.
We propose that Congress pass legislation that creates functional guest worker programs (that meet the needs of our industries) in tandem with tough enforcement of a revamped E-Verify system (that accurately verifies the legal status of employees).
Why is this not a part of the national conversation? Why are the workers we lure into our country criminalized while the employers are not held accountable?
We firmly believe that if legislation is passed to address these two points we would not only significantly reduce undocumented immigration but also solve the national emergency debate surrounding the border. A win-win for all.
We believe that only then will this issue be resolved and allow us to move forward as one nation, under God, with liberty, and justice for all!