Cheap labour that carried a high price: Employing illegal aliens has cost Zoe Baird dearly, but many Washington families turn a blind eye to the immigration laws, writes David Usborne

IN THE comfortable north-western suburbs of Washington DC, it takes only a glance at the noticeboard in the local supermarket to find the solution to all your household dilemmas. 'Domestic help, baby-sitter, call Isabella Lopez on . . .'. She will probably cook too and, above all, she will be cheap.

The chances are, however, that she will also be an illegal alien. The nation's capital is jammed full of Zoe Bairds and examples of the Peruvian couple she employed. More double-income parents live here than in any other American city and the pool of undocumented labour, mostly Hispanic, is deep. Given the chance to hire Isabella, the temptation to turn a blind eye to the layers of federal and state regulations concerning domestic employment can be overwhelming.

Often the applicant will ask for payment under the table to minimise the risk of being detected by the immigration authorities. Such an arrangement can cut the cost of 8-hour-a-day childcare by dollars 100 ( pounds 65) a week.

Couples who have been knowingly transgressing the law may be examining their consciences this weekend. Many others, though, as they contemplate the publicity surrounding the Baird nanny flap, may be discovering for the first time that they have been breaking the law.

A primary legal requirement is that wages paid to a domestic exceeding dollars 50 a quarter must be reported, quarterly, to the Internal Revenue Service (the tax office). According to the IRS, that is fulfilled for about only one quarter of the 2 million home employees in the country. It is permissible to take on an immigrant who does not have the proper papers, on condition that you can find no legal immigrant or US citizen to do the same job and that you apply to the immigration service for the person to be given legitimate residence status. That can take three years, during which time the person in question cannot start the work.

What makes going by the book costly are all the supplements to be paid on top of the wage itself, notably federal Social Security tax, which runs at 15.3 per cent. There is unemployment and accident liability insurance. The most benign employers will also pay for the most basic health care insurance. A typical outlay in Washington for full-time childcare would be pushed up from about dollars 250 a week to dollars 350. Many recoil from all the official paperwork too.

One young Washingtonian father admits he breaks the law and had previously thought little about it. 'We need the help and she needs the work,' he says. 'And I'm not running for Attorney-General.' He admits, though, that he would not take her on as a live-in help because as an alien she has no medical cover and, though healthy now, is 75 years old.

The risk that those illegally in the country might be exploited is obviously considerable. Tales are told of foreign couples, with no English, who work for virtual slave wages because they have been promised help in attaining legal status, only to find nothing is done for them at all.

Some happier cases have been reported however. For instance, one Washington couple paid for their new Peruvian nanny to fly back to Peru to straighten out her immigration papers at the US embassy there before she returned to continue in her position.

(Photographs omitted)

Suggested Topics
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
arts + entsJK Rowling to publish new story set in wizard's world for Halloween
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

Life and Style
tech

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
football

Striker's four-month ban for biting an opponent expires on Friday

News
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin married in Venice yesterday
peopleAmal and George Clooney 'planning third celebration in England'
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: The Job Randstad Education are ...

Business Focused Business Analyst - Finance and Procurement System Implementation

£350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reading are...

Head of Business Development and Analytics - TV

competitive benefits: Sauce Recruitment: Outstanding analytic expertise is req...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM - A high q...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker