Protecting Immigrants Who Report Labor Violations: A Step Towards Fairness in the Workplace

Immigrants who face labor exploitation must make a difficult decision. They can either stay silent and be afraid or speak up and report the behavior. Unfortunately, this can be a catch-22 given that employers might seek revenge by contacting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or taking other actions which could potentially lead to removal and consequently jeopardize their stay in the United States.

However, with the new policy by the Department of Homeland Security, immigrant workers have been provided a sense of security and assurance. ICE has assured that no employee who reports labor abuse will be removal – keeping the employees safe and maintaining transparency.

The new policy was announced on January 13th. It states that any immigrant worker subject to, or witnesses, labor rights violations can receive “Deferred Action.” It is a provisional right to remain in the United States, during which they can also pursue employment opportunities.

The Biden Administration has worked to ensure worker-friendly policies, with this new process being the latest addition. In October 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas issued a memorandum instructing DHS to prioritize targeting irresponsible employers rather than large worksite raids.

These policies are some of the most ambitious attempts made by a presidential administration to ensure that immigrants in vulnerable situations cannot be exploited for labor.

Deferred Action – The Process Explained

If you have been the victim of a labor violation, you may be able to obtain deferred action. The process is similar to getting a U Visa if you have been the victim of a serious crime. To qualify for deferred action, the employee must report the violation to any of the following:

• Department of Labor
• Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
• National Labor Relations Board
• Any local or state labor agency

Following the complaint submission, the worker must apply to the labor agency for a “Statement of Interest” that affirms their cooperation with this investigation and prosecution. This statement serves as proof that these individuals should be granted prosecutorial discretionr.

Once the worker has obtained this document from the labor agency, they must submit a formal request for deferred action to USCIS, including a Statement of Interest.

For their application to be accepted into the program, evidence verifying their qualifications will also need to be attached, along with biographic information and any additional material that might support a favorable judgment. An application for employment authorization should also accompany these documents.

Once USCIS has collected all the details, a determination will be made regarding the deferred action. If approved, the worker would obtain authorization to remain in America for a fixed duration (usually two years) and receive a work permit.

Efficacy of Deferred Action

Most immigrant workers are afraid to report labor violations because their employers retaliate and harm their immigration status. This fear of reporting has allowed several unscrupulous employers to escape the dire consequences of their malpractices.

In other cases, ICE still removed immigrant workers, citing one reason or another, and sometimes even before the investigation was concluded.

The Biden Administration is working hard to prevent such situations from happening again. Steps such as the Deferred Action policy provide confidence to immigrants who have been too afraid to speak up against violations.

Final Thoughts

The Department of Homeland Security’s new deferred action policy will protect immigrant workers from labor exploitation and abuse while empowering them to fight for their rights. The initiative is an important step forward in securing the legal rights of all immigrants and providing assistance to those who have been vi