December 16, 2013

Statement on Senate Confirmation of DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson

Ori Korin, 202-393-1044 x126

Washington, D.C. – Following the U.S. Senate’s vote to confirm Jeh Johnson as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Jobs With Justice issued the following statement:

“We commend the Senate for confirming Jeh Johnson, a competent leader to oversee the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

As the agency responsible for enforcing federal immigration law, DHS regularly interacts with immigrant workers both on and off job sites, and its policies have a significant impact on workplace standards. Unfortunately, for far too long, corrupt employers and recruiting firms have used our broken immigration system to exploit these workers and retaliate against them when they exercise their labor and civil rights. Together with Congress, Mr. Johnson must act now to fix this broken system.

In the meantime, we urge Mr. Johnson to refocus immigration enforcement policies and procedures, and end the agency’s role as a de-facto, taxpayer-funded service for employers who commit workplace crimes. DHS can do so by taking extra precautions not to enter a worksite where there is an active labor dispute, and providing appropriate agencies access to workers who may be victims of labor and employment law violations. It should also make clear to employers that the agency will not interfere with the right of immigrant workers to engage in collective action or blow the whistle on law-breaking employers. Finally, DHS should more thoroughly follow through on implementation of its own Prosecutorial Discretion Memorandum from June 2011 to stop the deportation of workers whose rights have been violated, and strengthen relationships with agencies like the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board.

While ultimately, Mr. Johnson’s choice for director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement will implement the agency’s immigration enforcement policies, Mr. Johnson has the power to set the tone for how ICE and DHS’ other departments approach their roles. Mr. Johnson should make clear that DHS does not exist so that bad employers can deport away their “problems” at the expense of taxpayers. He should recognize that when workers can blow the whistle on employers who violate labor and civil rights, they reduce the incentive of employers who also violate U.S. immigration law.”

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