Seven days a week, Martha Lopez arrived before dawn at the Target in Brentwood, Tennessee, to make sure the store in the Nashville suburb gleamed for shoppers. For about two years, Lopez said, she emptied trash, scrubbed the toilets and polished the white floors to maintain the “wet look” the retailer demands. The pay wasn’t bad, but payday gave her pause.

Twice a month, her wages—$11.50 an hour—were loaded onto an electronic pay card that she’d been given. The card was stamped with somebody else’s name: “M Hernandez Cleme.”

Lopez didn’t ask questions. As an undocumented immigrant, she’d learned long ago to accept all kinds of oddities and indignities at work. Then earlier this year, the pay card stopped working. She complained to her boss and, eventually, got a new one. This one had no name on it. Lopez lost several weeks’ pay in the transition, she said, but her boss told her she could gripe all she wanted—no one would listen. She’d been working under the name of a person who’d come and gone long ago, she recalled him saying, so there would never be any record that she’d even picked up a broom on this job.


Lopez wasn’t working directly for Target, but for a company called Diversified Maintenance Systems LLC that has had contracts to clean Target Corp. stores across the country since 2003. The company has faced serious allegations of labor violations in lawsuits and regulatory actions previously—including claims that it put undocumented immigrants to work under assumed names, as Lopez describes.

Amid the searing debate over President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, Diversified and other contractors have provided a way for some of America’s biggest employers—including Target and Walmart Inc.—to effectively benefit from cheap, undocumented labor without fear of meaningful penalties. Diversified, Walmart and Target all say they don’t hire undocumented workers.

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