New Options for Undocumented Workers Who are Victims of Labor Rights Violations

National Mall

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently made a notable announcement that should increase protections for noncitizen workers from exploitation by their employers.

DHS is now offering a new “streamlined and expedited” process for workers who have been victims or witnesses to the violation of labor rights. The goal is to improve the process for requesting deferred action, which shields these workers from being deported, when they stand up for themselves against unfair practices in the workplace.

In cases like these, workers are frequently fearful of coming forward and reporting labor law violations perpetrated by their employers, or cooperating in investigations related to employment and labor standards, due to the possibility of employment or immigration-related retribution.

This not only impacts the workers themselves in a negative way, but is also detrimental to the agencies that work hard to ensure labor laws are enforced; they rely heavily on the contribution of these workers in order to do their job. When people remain silent out of fear, it creates an uneven playing field in the labor market and allows unlawful and immoral acts carried out by employers to go unchecked. These acts may include refusing payment of wages, subjecting workers to hazardous environments, as well as preventing them from organizing together or negotiating collectively for better working conditions.

Now, individuals will be able to access information and submit requests through in both English and Spanish, making it easier than ever before to get necessary protection without fear of retribution from their exploitative employers. According to the announcement, the new process will:

  • provide for a single intake point for deferred action requests from non-citizen workers that are supported by labor enforcement agencies, and
  • provide new guidance to labor agencies regarding processes to seek deferred action for certain workers

In short, noncitizens will now be able to submit requests to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through a central intake point established specifically to support labor agency investigative and enforcement efforts. Requests from noncitizens who are in removal proceedings or have a final order of removal, will be reviewed for completeness by USCIS, but forwarded to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which will make a final determination on a case-by-case basis.

If deferred action is approved, it may be granted for a period of up to two years, subject to termination at any time. The recipient may also be eligible to make subsequent requests for deferred action, which will be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.
Ultimately, this move by DHS makes it easier than ever before for noncitizen workers to seek justice without fear of retaliation or intimidation from unscrupulous employers looking to take advantage of them, and this is a great step forward for immigration (and labor) policy.

If you think you might benefit from these new policies, or have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to reach out to me!