The U.S. Department of Labor recently posted a Frequently Asked Questions document to provide workers experiencing a worksite labor dispute with guidance on how to seek the department’s support for their requests to the Department of Homeland Security for immigration-related prosecutorial discretion.
For the Department of Labor to carry out the laws its enforces, workers must feel free to participate in its investigations and proceedings without fear of retaliation or consequences related to their immigration status. The department has long supported DHS’ use of prosecutorial discretion – on a case-by-case basis – for certain workers subjected to abusive and exploitative labor practices.
For decades, the department has memorialized this relationship through agreements with immigration officials. The most recent 2011 Memorandum of Understanding between the departments of Labor and Homeland Security set forth ways in which the departments will work together to ensure that their respective civil worksite enforcement activities do not conflict, and ultimately advance each department’s mission. The MOU recognizes that effective enforcement of labor law is essential to ensure proper wages and working conditions for all covered workers regardless of immigration status, and that effective enforcement of immigration law is essential to protect the employment rights of lawful U.S. workers.
In response to the announcement of a new workers rights policy by the US Department of Labor, groups from the Blue Ribbon Commission on Immigrant Work released the following statements below workers and members of the Blue Ribbon Commission: “For over a year, we have fought to win these protections for workers in Las Vegas. Today we lift up DOL’s announcement, that many more workers across the nation can access the same much-needed and long-awaited protections,” said Rosario Ortiz, worker and member of the Arriba Las Vegas Workers Center. “We are grateful for the courage of workers across Mississippi who have helped make this possible, speaking out, denouncing workplace abuse. But today, our question remains, how and when will Mississippi workers benefit from this policy?” said Lorena Quiroz, Executive Director of the Immigrant Alliance for Justice & Equity of Mississippi. “After losing six of our community members last year in a preventable nitrogen leak, we are happy DOL has listened to the advocacy of worker groups in the Blue Ribbon Commission. We will continue to push as formerly undocumented workers and their children in GAFU for the protection of workers who have made places like Gainesville, GA the poultry capitol of the world. I eagerly await President Biden to further this initiative so our hardworking manufacturing community can step out of the shadows,” said Maria del Rosario Palacios, Co-founder GA Familias Unidas.
On behalf of the full Blue Ribbon Commission: “If there is progress today it is because immigrant workers in Mississippi, Nevada, Georgia, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, NY, and across the country have been ringing the alarm, and demanding respect and recognition for their labor. Today, our work has only just begun to turn the tide on the crisis of exploitation in the US. “This policy will only be effective if workers are aware that it exists and if they are able to understand and engage in the process that it lays out. We will evaluate this policy based on the results for the many day laborers, poultry workers, and others who face workplace abuse every day. We expect President Biden and his administration knows this, and we welcome DHS Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Marty Walsh to meet directly with workers to tell them about this policy.”