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Additional Federal and State Agencies Should Also Take Action

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released new policy guidance for immigrant workers involved in worksite labor disputes on how to seek the DOL’s support to receive immigration-related prosecutorial discretion by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Immigrant workers often face abuse by unscrupulous employers who use their immigration status to threaten employees with abuse, wage theft and dangerous conditions.

The following is a statement from Victoria Mesa-Estrada, senior staff attorney for the Immigrant Justice Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center:

“We welcome the DOL's support for immigration-related prosecutorial discretion for workers involved in labor disputes. This is an important first step for immigrant workers to participate in the Department’s investigations and proceedings without fear of retaliation or immigration-related consequences.

“Immigrant workers with a precarious immigration status that work in low-paying industries face rampant workplace and civil rights violations. Given the severity, we urge immediate action by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state labor agencies to follow federal guidelines by the DOL and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that protect immigrant workers from claiming their rights, without fear of retaliation or deportation. In the Deep South, in particular, workplace and labor abuses against immigrant workers are pervasive and often happen with impunity.

“We urge DHS to take immediate action to facilitate the enforcement of labor standards by establishing a clear process for immigrant workers who seek to enforce their labor or civil rights, or serve as a witness, to request deferred action, parole and other forms of immigration relief. It is also high time for Congress to take action and provide a permanent path to relief and legalization for immigrant workers and victims of labor abuses.

“Employers that exploit, abuse and threaten immigrant workers are now on notice that federal protections are in place to help shield workers who speak up about unpaid wages or other workplace abuse.”

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