Fear of Immigration Raids May Harm Workplace Rights

The Trump administration’s increased immigration enforcement could have an unintended consequence: reduced willingness to report workplace rights violations.

Getting workers to come forward about workplace rights violations has “always been an issue,” Adrienne DerVartanian, director of immigration and labor rights at Farmworker Justice, told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 23. But the “current environment, with a real focus on immigration enforcement and raids,” has created an “increase in the level of fear and concerns,” she said.

With the highest rates of wage and hour violations among undocumented immigrants—particularly women—employer threats of calls to Immigration and Customs Enforcement are “very strong,” Haeyoung Yoon, director of strategic partnerships at the National Employment Law Project, said Feb. 23.

“Even prior to Trump’s immigration policies, there was a culture of fear in our workplaces across the country,” Yoon said. Employers have been known to lob threats to call ICE if workers complain, Yoon said. And now that nearly every undocumented immigrant is subject to enforcement, “there’s greater fear,” she said.

NELP is working on pressuring state labor agencies to adopt policies to “act very swiftly when they hear of employers engaging in any kind of retaliatory actionֿ,” Yoon said. Reminding employers that there are consequences for retaliating by calling ICE is “an important step that state agencies should be taking,” she said.

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