How many live in the shadows? Houston’s hidden population of undocumented workers

undocumented workers working at booths on  Navigation Boulevard's Esplanade in Houston.
Undocumented workers in Houston are of great significance in the establishment and management of stalls at Houston’s East End Street Fest. This renowned festival, located on Navigation Boulevard’s Esplanade, features artwork, cuisine selections, delightful tunes, and a variety of cultural activities!

How many undocumented immigrants live in Houston?

The most recent data from the Pew Research Center shows that an estimated 575,000 undocumented immigrants live in Houston. This number could be even higher though, as many immigrants choose not to participate in the census or other surveys. While there is no definite data on the ethnic makeup of undocumented immigrants in Houston, reports suggest that the majority come from Mexico and Central America. Using U.S. Census Bureau and other sources, some estimate that there are at least 500,000

Who are the undocumented immigrants in Houston?

Most people typically think of undocumented immigrants as Latin Americans who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization. While most undocumented workers come from Mexico and Central America, The Migration Policy Institute also reports significant numbers from Africa, South America, and Asia. Most entered without authorization or overstayed their visas; others were brought here by young unauthorized immigrants as children and have remained into their adult years.

Why do undocumented workers come to Houston?

Undocumented workers come to Houston for many reasons. Some have family or friends in the area. Others are drawn by the job opportunities that are available. Others have heard that Houston is a welcoming city for immigrants. Houston is also close to the Mexican border and offers a lower cost of living than other areas, like Southern California. There are also large and established communities from Latin America, China, Vietnam, the Middle East and Africa with cultural centers that offer social, cultural and support programs. Whatever the reason, undocumented workers come to Houston in pursuit of a better life for themselves and their families.

What challenges do they face while living in Houston?

One of the challenges that people face while living in Houston is the cost of living. While less expensive than Southern California, the cost of housing, transportation, and childcare can be expensive in Houston. Another challenge that undocumented immigrants face is the crime rate. Houston has a high crime rate, and this can make it difficult for people to feel safe in certain neighborhoods. Additionally, like Dallas and Austin, the traffic in Houston can be very congested, and this can make it difficult for people to get around. Also, new immigrants usually run into language barriers when looking for work, going to a doctor, going to court, and even getting an identification card or driver license. Local translation services can often provide affordable and fast certified translations of medical records, immigration documents and other personal documents that they will need.

What organizations provide free and low-cost services to undocumented immigrants in Houston?

There are several respected non-profit organizations in the Houston area that offer a variety of services to help undocumented immigrants. These organizations provide sliding scale services based on income to low-income families. Some services that are available include legal aid, healthcare, foodbanks, and housing. Educational materials and seminars are also available to communities about immigration issues. The following are some of the most reputable Houston area organizations in the Greater Houston area that specialize in helping those who are undocumented:

RAICES – Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services
1900 Saint James Place #450, Houston, TX 77056
Phone: 832-699-6942

RAICES is a non-profit organization that provides low-cost legal services, social programs, and bond assistance to immigrants and refugees in the United States. Their goal is to provide immigrants with the resources they need to build better lives for themselves and their families. RAICES offers a wide range of services, including legal representation, education and outreach, and advocacy for those facing deportation. They also provide financial support for those who need help with bond payments or other costs associated with their immigration case. With the help of RAICES, immigrants can navigate the complex immigration system with confidence, understanding their rights and access the resources they need to stay safe and secure.

Catholic Charities’ St. Frances Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance
5599 San Felipe St Suite 300, Houston, TX 77056
Phone: 713-595-4100

The St. Frances Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance at Catholic Charities provides low-cost legal services to immigrants and their families. The Center focuses on issues such as family reunification, asylum, deportation defense, and naturalization. It also helps with immigration bonds and social programs for immigrants. With its compassionate staff, the Center provides support and guidance to individuals navigating the immigration system. Their team has years of experience in helping immigrants and they are dedicated to helping you and your family thrive in Houston.

In addition to legal services, Catholic Charities is also committed to providing high-quality, compassionate services to all people in need. The organization also helps immigrants access housing, disaster recovery, food distribution, and other refugee services. They are proud to be a leader in assisting undocumented immigrants and to be able to help so many immigrants in the Houston area achieve their dreams.

Avenue 360 Health & Wellness
Avenue 360 Health & Wellness is a comprehensive community health and wellness center that provides quality medical care, dental services, mental health support, housing assistance and pharmacy services to those in need, particularly those in lower-income communities. The community-based health center offers a sliding scale pricing structure, based on what the patient can afford.

Avenue 360 Health and Wellness operates with the goal of improving the overall wellbeing of the greater Houston area by providing compassionate care and resources to those who need it most. The center strives to provide a safe and comfortable environment for all their guests, while also offering a wide range of services that can help individuals achieve better health and wellness.

Avenue 360 has 8 offices located throughout the Houston area, including

Avenue360 – The Heights
2150 West 18th Street, Suite 300, Houston, TX 77008
Phone: (713) 426-0027

Avenue360 – Midtown
2920 Fannin St., Houston, TX 77002
Medical: (713) 426-0027 Dental: (713) 341-3790

Avenue360 – Memorial City (Memorial Hermann Hospital at Memorial City)
902 Frostwood, Ste. 142, Houston, TX 77024
Phone: (713) 827-8266

Avenue360 – Montrose
602 Branard St, Houston, TX 77006
Phone: (713) 523-7110

Avenue360 – Southwest
14095 S Main St., Houston, TX 77035
Phone: (832) 830-8345

Avenue360 – Humble
9816 Memorial Blvd., Suite 120, Humble, TX 77338
Phone: (281) 570-2525

Avenue360 – South Central
4405 Griggs Rd., Houston, TX 77021
Phone: (832) 962-4111

Avenue360 – Spring/Cypress
17010 Sugar Pine Drive, Houston, TX 77090-2213
Phone: (281) 537-8627

FIEL Houston Inc.
6610 Harwin Dr. #214, Houston, TX 77036
Phone: 713-364-3435

FIEL is a Houston-based organization that advocates for laws that are just for immigrant youth and their families. They also fight for access to higher education for all people, regardless of immigration status.

undocumented workers at the Port of Houston
Houston proudly hosts a vibrant, cosmopolitan society thanks to its considerable undocumented immigrant population. Everywhere you go in the cityscape is an opportunity for cultural enrichment as people of all backgrounds have gathered here to make Houston their home. An image snapped at the Port of Houston perfectly illustrates America’s New Melting Pot!

How can we help undocumented immigrants in Houston?

According to KDFW Fox 4, “an estimated 11 million immigrants live in the U.S. illegally.” That’s 3% of the population! In Houston alone, it is believed that there are over 500,000 undocumented immigrants. So how can we help?

Primarily, we must remember that these people are human beings just like us. They came to this country seeking a better life for themselves and their families – something we can all relate to. Unfortunately, they often face discrimination and hatred simply because of their status. We must be allies and stand up against bigotry whenever we see it happening.

Secondly, we should try to put ourselves in their shoes and understand what they’re going through on a daily basis – living in constant fear of being deported back to a country they may not even remember anymore; working long hours for little pay with no benefits; struggling to provide for their families while also dealing with language barriers; being afraid to seek out help from authorities when crimes are committed against them… The list goes on. Showing compassion and lending a helping hand can go a long way in making someone feel welcome and valued here in America – something everyone deserves regardless of where they come from or what papers they do or don’t have.

So, let’s start by doing our part to create an inclusive society that values diversity instead of demonizing those who are different from us!

What are the benefits of helping undocumented immigrants in Houston?

There are many benefits to helping undocumented immigrants in Houston. Firstly, it is the humane thing to do. These people often experienced terrible conditions and risked their lives to get here, and they deserve our help. Finally, helping undocumented immigrants helps make Houston a stronger and more vibrant community for everyone who lives here. Aside from these things, undocumented workers perform essential duties that Americans won’t do. What sorts of jobs to undocumented workers do in Houston? The undocumented workers in Houston typically hold jobs that other citizens are not willing to do. These jobs include manual labor, agriculture, and domestic work. The pay for these positions is often very low, which makes it difficult for undocumented workers to make a living wage. In addition, many of these workers are poor and lack health insurance or other benefits. This makes it hard for them to get the care they need when they become ill or injured. How do undocumented workers pay for medical treatment?

Undocumented immigrants work hard to provide for themselves and their families, and they contribute to our economy. They should be given a chance to stay in this country and live their lives without fear.


Can undocumented immigrants apply for food stamps in Houston?

No, they cannot. This may come as a surprise to some people, but undocumented immigrants are not eligible for food stamps in Houston or anywhere else in the United States. Some people believe that because they pay taxes, they should be able to access government benefits like food stamps – but that’s simply not how it works.

To be eligible for food stamp benefits, recipients must meet several requirements related to income and citizenship status. And unfortunately for those who are in the country illegally, one of those requirements is having a green card or being a naturalized citizen. So even if an illegal immigrant does have low income and meets all the other criteria for food stamp eligibility, he or she will still be denied due to their lack of legal status in the United States.

Can undocumented immigrants go to college in Houston?

Undocumented students in Houston and throughout Texas can still pursue higher education at many colleges and universities throughout the state. The Texas DREAM Act, known as House Bill 1403, provides in-state tuition rates for eligible undocumented immigrants attending public institutions of higher learning. This bill classified undocumented students as residents of the state and pay reduced tuition costs instead of being charged out-of-state or international student rates.
Because these students remain undocumented, most forms of financial aid are unavailable to them. However, undocumented students may be eligible for some scholarships from private organizations and through distinguished scholar programs offered by the school. Tus, undocumented students are encouraged to complete the Texas Application for State Financial Aid.

Another option for undocumented workers is to attend a private college or university. Some private schools in Texas offer scholarships and other financial aid opportunities specifically designed for undocumented students.

Can undocumented immigrants see a doctor in Houston?

There are multiple paths that undocumented workers can take to access medical treatment. Most doctors and hospitals require insurance, but for those who cannot afford it there is still hope. Undocumented immigrants may be able to purchase a plan from the marketplace (, however they won’t qualify for subsidies which means paying full price will be necessary in most cases.

For undocumented workers who are unable to pay out-of-pocket costs, charitable organizations or free clinics offer an alternative solution providing help with healthcare services as well as social support if needed. In Houston specifically RAICES, Catholic Charities’ St. Frances Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance, Avenue 360 Health & Wellness, and Immigration Legal Services Collaborative all work together towards advocating fair legal representation while also helping fight against discrimination affecting undocumented residents.

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