Immigrant Workers Protected for Reporting Workplace Violations

Erick Widman

A recent policy change by the Department of Homeland Security offers protection to immigrant workers who report labor exploitation, shielding them from deportation. Under this policy, immigrant workers who are the victim or witness of labor rights violations may be granted temporary permission to remain in the United States legally, with eligibility to apply for work authorization. This move builds on previous efforts by the Biden administration to protect vulnerable immigrants from labor exploitation, and also combats the accusation by the anti-immigrant right that liberal support for immigrants results in an exploitable underclass of workers.

To qualify for deferred action, the worker must report the violation to the Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or any state or local labor agency, and then request a “Statement of Interest” from the labor agency expressing the worker’s cooperation with the investigation and prosecution of the labor violation. If the agency agrees, it will submit the Statement of Interest to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, along with a copy to the worker, who can then request deferred action. The worker must provide evidence of satisfying the criteria for the program, biographic information, additional evidence, and an application for employment authorization.

The new policy is designed to instill confidence in immigrant workers who may be reluctant to report labor violations due to the fear of employer retaliation that could affect their immigration status. While this new process may create an administrative version of the U Visa, it is only temporary, and future administrations can terminate it. Despite the risk, the policy is a positive step towards aligning the interests of all workers and protecting vulnerable immigrant workers from labor exploitation.

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