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Campaigning for Protections for Immigrant Whistleblowers and Undocumented Workers engaged in labor disputes and cooperating with enforcement agencies
We are campaigning for more robust and effective enforcement of federal, state, and local labor laws and to increase the organizing power of all workers by urging the Biden Administration and it's Department of Homeland Security to provide temporary protection from deportation to immigrant workers involved in labor disputes and to those who step forward to report labor law violations and cooperate in the investigation of labor law violations. The exploitation of vulnerable immigrant workers harms all workers, including U.S. workers, their families, and their communities. Immigrant workers not provided temporary protection from arrest and deportation are highly unlikely to report or cooperate in the investigation of labor law violations. To measurably increase the effectiveness of labor law enforcement in industries that routinely exploit workers and discourage them from organizing to protect their rights, the Biden Administration and it's DHS should grant immigrant workers confidentiality in applications submitted for deferred action status and temporary employment authorization with appropriate documentation issued by a labor enforcement agency regarding an ongoing labor dispute. Immigrant workers very often do not report labor law violations because they are afraid it may lead to their arrest and placement in deportation proceedings. The same immigrant workers are more afraid of providing personal data to DHS to obtain temporary protection during a labor dispute, if DHS is then free to use the information the worker provided to arrest and deport the worker. Effective labor law enforcement policy must provide assurances to immigrant workers seeking temporary protection that the information they provide will not be used when their temporary protection ends to arrest them and place them in removal proceedings.
We are also campaigning to end immigrant child labor that universally violates federal, state, and local laws and impacts tens of thousands of immigrant youth every year.
Our Call for Action
On January 13, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finally responded to demands to increase the availability of immigration protection for workers engaged in labor disputes by issuing new DHS guidelines that may increase the ability of some workers to obtain temporary protection from arrest and deportation by way of “deferred action status” and temporary work permits.
Overall, the January announcement by DHS is a step forward but falls short in protecting immigrant workers and enforcing labor laws. Although the announcement strengthens existing policies, it does not go far enough. Workers have gained some protections, but there is still more to be won. For workers to have the ability to address unlawful labor practices and act collectively, protection should be available to a significant number of workers, temporary protection information should not be used for deportation, and temporary work permits should be promptly issued. Requiring workers to work illegally while cooperating with government agencies discourages witness cooperation and invites exploitation.
DHS Policy Highlights
Ongoing Advocacy to Strengthen DHS Policy
LA Model Municipal Program Proposal
Currently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policy does not prohibit municipal agencies from assisting immigrant workers who have experienced violations of local labor codes in applying for DHS deferred action status and work permits. Many cities, including Los Angeles, have established local laws that protect workers by setting wage and hour standards and prohibiting workplace discrimination.
Local departments or agencies may receive complaints from exploited immigrant workers and investigate the claims, after which they may issue letters to DHS requesting that the complaining worker be granted deferred action status and the ability to apply for employment authorization. The Immigrant Whistleblower Project can provide template request letters and support to departments or agencies in Los Angeles, helping immigrant workers receive deferred action status and employment authorization by investigating their claims and submitting letters to DHS.
The Immigrant Whistleblower Project can also provide technical support and template materials to unions, worker organizations, and community-based service providers assisting exploited workers, submitting labor complaints to the city of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is home to the largest immigrant population of any major city in the United States and has the highest number of immigrant workers. As a result, it has a strong interest in preventing workplace exploitation of both its residents and non-residents. To achieve this, effective enforcement of relevant laws at the local, state, and federal levels is essential. However, many exploited immigrant workers fear cooperating with authorities, which hinders enforcement efforts.
To address this issue, Los Angeles' elected leaders can play a crucial role in advocating for more robust DHS policies that extend protection to immigrant workers who cooperate with agencies enforcing workplace rules. A resolution from the Los Angeles city council urging President Biden and DHS Secretary Mayorkas to strengthen federal protection for immigrant whistleblowers would be appropriate given the large number of low-wage immigrants working in the city. A proposed draft resolution is available at this link.
Worker Disputes Toolkit
We have created a toolkit that provides valuable resources and information to immigrants who may be experiencing work-related conflicts or injustices. Our toolkit includes step-by-step guides on how to report disputes, a list of organizations that can provide assistance and support, and tips on how to protect your rights as an immigrant worker. We are committed to empowering immigrants to take action and advocate for their rights in the workplace.
Stop Immigrant Child Labor
Child labor is a persistent issue in the US, affecting tens of thousands of immigrant children due to their lack of work permits and fear of reporting labor violations. ORR's placement of unaccompanied minors with unrelated adults forcing children into exploitative labor situations is rare, but thousands of immigrant youth released to family members are exploited by unscrupulous employers. USCIS routinely fails to comply with the 180-day mandate to adjudicate SIJ petitions, delaying young immigrant workers' ability to apply for employment authorization. To decrease exploitation, DHS/USCIS must adjudicate SIJ petitions within 180 days and grant applicants who file prima facia approvable petitions the right to apply for employment authorization before their petitions are fully adjudicated.
Timeline and Resources
July 2022 - CHRCL, elected officials, and several organizations forward a detailed letter to the secretaries of DHS and DOL regarding developing stronger policies.
January 2023 - DHS responds to demands with updated DHS guidelines.
January 2023 - CHRCL's analysis of DHS's January guidelines and call to action.
February 2023 - New York Times article on the severity of immigrant children workers.
April 2023 - New York Times article on changes being made, but lack of oversight from the government regarding child labor.
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