Biden Administration Takes Action to Protect Immigrant Workers

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Biden Administration Takes Action to Protect Immigrant Workers

Biden Administration Takes Action to Protect Immigrant Workers

On January 13, 2023, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that effective immediately, noncitizen workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, the violation of labor rights can access a streamlined and expedited deferred action request process. Deferred action protects undocumented workers or workers on temporary work visas who engage in protected activities from threats of immigration-related actions by unscrupulous employers.

Noncitizen workers are often reluctant to report unlawful practices on the job or to participate in labor and employment investigations because they are afraid of deportation or other immigration-related reprisals by an exploitative employer. Agencies charged with enforcing labor and employment laws depend on the cooperation of these workers in their investigations. Reticence in reporting workplace abuses caused by a fear of immigration-based retaliation facilitates and perpetuates the commission of unlawful acts by employers, including nonpayment of wages, creating unsafe working conditions, and deterring workers from organizing and collectively bargaining to improve their working conditions.

While the California Legislature and courts, like the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Arias v. Raimondo, have determined that retaliation in the form of threats of immigration-related actions against workers for engaging in protected activities is unlawful, this action by the DHS conveys that the immigration system also recognizes the importance of worker’s rights and will not allow itself to be manipulated or subverted by abusive employers. With DHS’ institution of these process enhancements supporting labor enforcement investigations, noncitizen workers who speak up and report violations to federal or state labor agencies, can now, with the support of those agencies, safely exercise their labor rights and have easier access to protection against immigration-related retaliation. These crucial procedural changes advanced by DHS should make workplaces across the country better and safer for everyone.

If you are a noncitizen worker seeking to assert your legally protected rights in the workplace, or you are concerned about immigration-related or other forms of retaliation from your employer for doing so, please contact Bryan Schwartz Law, P.C.

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