Posted October 12, 2021
Washington, D.C.—The following is a statement from Rebecca Dixon, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, in response to the Department of Homeland Security’s memo announcing efforts to better support immigrant workers’ exercise of their workplace rights:
“Today, Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo outlining efforts to adopt policies and practices at the agency that will better support immigrant workers exercising their workplace rights.
“DHS will consider existing policies and make recommendations to support the enforcement of labor standards. Importantly, the new memo acknowledges that unscrupulous employers take advantage of workers’ immigration status to drive down wages and conditions for all workers. NELP welcomes the agency’s announcement and will carefully evaluate DHS’s upcoming recommendations against the urgent need to ensure that all immigrant workers can report violations and organize without risking deportation.
“By design, the current immigration system pushes our nation’s approximately seven million undocumented workers into a second-class status in the workplace. Employers routinely use workers’ immigration status to chill worker organizing and silence workers. Employers, for example, often threaten to report workers and/or their families to immigration authorities when workers exercise their rights. Employers also abuse the I-9 work authorization process to retaliate against workers, and they report workers who organize or report violations to the police, which can subject a worker to immigration detention and deportation in many jurisdictions. In addition, immigrant workers who want to exercise their rights know that, at any point, an encounter with ICE or other immigration enforcement can derail their ability to pursue their cases or organizing efforts.
“The U.S. needs just and moral immigration policies. Until a new immigration framework is in place, DHS must not undermine the work of labor agencies like the U.S. Department of Labor and its state and local counterparts. One critical component of any effort to ensure workers can exercise their rights is a transparent process for workers to request immigration protection when they exercise their workplace rights, along with strong assurance from DHS that individuals defending their workplace rights will not be subject to immigration enforcement actions.”