Expanding Protections and Combatting Exploitation in the Workplace

Dr. Amaury Pineda, JWJ Policy Analyst, Congressional POWER Act Briefing, April 27, 2023.

2023 began with a major Department of Homeland Security announcement and victory. Noncitizen workers who are victims of – or witnesses to – labor rights violations can access a streamlined and expedited deferred action request process for the first time. 

DHS has previously recognized that immigration should not be a barrier to enforcing workers’ rights. Still, for too many workers, the fundamental tenet that all workers’ rights should be protected regardless of immigration status has not been the reality. This policy shift will help change this situation. 

The new deferred action process will make it harder for bosses to threaten workers with immigration enforcement consequences if they report abuse, give evidence of mistreatment, or try to assert their rights on the job. Workers who witness or endure abuse on the job can now also apply for immediate protection from DHS and a pathway to temporary immigration status.

“This shift is significant for all workers subject to abuses and injustices in the workplace. Knowing that we can report our employers’ exploitative behavior without fear of reprisals is the best news they could give us. Out of fear of retaliation or losing my job, I’d work 10-to-12-hour shifts, 6 to 7 days a week, without paid overtime. Working in a hostile environment caused by management, I was misclassified as an independent contractor, which left my coworkers and me without the opportunity to organize.”

Adrian Ramirez, a leader in the construction industry in the non-union paint division and a prominent voice on behalf of workers exploited by irresponsible contractors. Jan. 13, 2023.

This victory resulted from the unwavering efforts and courageous whistleblowing of immigrant workers who risked their livelihoods to confront deceitful employers.

Jobs With Justice is proud to have played a key role, dating back to our support of the brave workers at Tito Contractors who fought for a union and exposed clear, cruel gaps in our immigration and labor law.

It is important to note that deferred action is a temporary relief, and JWJ will continue to fight for a more streamlined process and permanent solution through the POWER Act in 2024.