NELP Welcomes New U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) FAQs on Supporting Immigration Relief and Retaliation Protections for Immigrant Workers 

The following is a statement from the National Employment Law Project, in response to the DOL’s FAQs and guidance on immigration relief for workers who witness workplace abuse. 

The U.S. Department of Labor has just announced new official policy to support requests for immigration relief by workers involved in labor disputes and in need of protection against retaliation. NELP applauds President Biden and Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh for this week’s announcement about its official policy affirming its commitment to protecting immigrant workers against employer retaliation.  The DOL outlined in a short FAQ the specific steps that workers and worker advocates should take to request DOL support of immigration relief from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as potential witnesses of workplace abuses support Immigration-Related Prosecutorial Discretion during labor disputes.  

This victory at the intersection of immigrant rights and labor rights, was led by workers and workers’ rights advocates demanding workplace rights and dignity. NELP proudly advocated for this relief in coalition with worker leaders and advocates from Jobs with Justice, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, SEIU, National Immigration Center, Unemployed Workers United, Farmworker Justice, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, and the AFL-CIO International Union.   

This new policy seeks to redress the harm caused by employers who silence workers by retaliating or threatening to retaliate against them on the basis of their immigration status.  NELP firmly believes that all workers must be able to organize and exercise their rights without fear tied to immigration status.   While comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for all is necessary to achieve justice for immigrants and workers in this country, this program is a step in the right direction – by providing DOL support for a path to immigration relief to those workers who raise workplace issues. 

The DOL’s official policy outlines clear guidelines about a broad and inclusive process for workers to request the Department’s support for a worker to petition for deferred action or parole, as well as employment authorization, from DHS.  “This announcement affirms immigrant workers’ rights to organize and fight for better workplace conditions, by taking steps to protect immigrant workers from employer retaliation,” said Charlotte Noss, NELP’s Worker Center Support Program Director.   

The DOL would certify that workers at a particular worksite are experiencing a labor dispute, such as raising complaints about workplace conditions, or that the worksite is the subject of a DOL investigation. To ensure the effective enforcement of federal labor and employment laws, the DOL would request that DHS act to protect all workers at the workplace from potential retaliation, ensuring that workers are able to exercise their rights.  The process will allow workers and advocates to request a letter supporting immigration relief for all workers at a particular worksite.   

DHS has yet to release its official policy about the Department’s Process and Relief. The immigration relief that will be available in the meantime will be considered on an individual basis, and could consist of either deferred action or parole, as well as employment authorization (similar to the status that DACA recipients have).  Advocates will continue to work to ensure that President Biden and Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas make good on their promise to immigrant workers and release their official policy soon.   

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