February 24, 2023

Amaury Pineda

New DHS Process Offers Streamlined Deferred Action for Noncitizen Workers Facing Labor Violations

On January 13, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security announced that noncitizen workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, labor rights violations can access a streamlined and expedited deferred action request process. This process will protect noncitizen workers from threats of immigration-related retaliation from exploitative employers. Workers will be able to visit DHS.gov for additional information in English and Spanish and to submit requests.  

This new process will improve DHS’s longstanding practice of using its discretionary authority to consider labor and employment agency-related requests for deferred action on a case-by-case basis. These improvements advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to empowering workers and improving workplace conditions. The centralized intake process will allow DHS to review these time-sensitive requests efficiently, provide additional security to eligible workers on a case-by-case basis, and more robustly support the mission of labor agencies. 

This victory resulted from the unwavering efforts and courageous whistleblowing of immigrant workers who risked their livelihoods to confront deceitful employers. Consider the example of Unforgettable Coatings, Inc., a commercial painting corporation that operates in multiple states. This company unlawfully took millions of dollars from its workers and even used their immigration status to discourage them from reporting the abuse and obstruct an official investigation. However, the Department of Labor (DOL) was able to pursue a federal case against the company for violating the minimum wage laws and ultimately settled the case for $3 million, thanks to the courageous immigrant workers who risked everything to expose the labor violations. 

The fact remains that workers’ vulnerability translates into an unfair competition that erodes our economy, a race to the bottom, where all workers lose. This announcement is a step forward in this fight. Workers can find a complete list of the documents and evidence required to take advantage of this tool at https://www.dhs.gov/enforcement-labor-and-employment-laws.  

However, it is important to note that Deferred Action is a temporary relief and does not provide a path to citizenship or permanent residency. In other words, this procedure offers solely momentary safeguards without an option to attain permanent status, which may be annulled by executive decision. The POWER Act is a necessary advancement to provide resolute, dependable security and assure consistent compliance with our labor regulations. 

Disclaimer: the author is not a licensed attorney and does not provide legal services. The information provided here is for general educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. If you require legal advice, consult a licensed attorney or a qualified non-profit organization providing legal services to immigrants. The information provided is based on the author’s knowledge as of Feb. 23, 2023, and may not reflect the most current legal developments. Therefore, you should not rely on the information provided here as a substitute for obtaining legal advice specific to your situation. 

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