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Saturday, February 4th, 2023

DHS launches streamlined deferred action request process to support labor investigations

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a new process of deferred action requests for noncitizen workers victimized by or witnesses to the violation of labor rights, allowing them greater potential protections against exploitation.

The change in process will shift more scrutiny onto employers, protecting noncitizen workers from threats of immigration-related retaliation from said employers. In a statement, DHS emphasized that workers are often afraid to report such violations of law or cooperate with investigations of the abusive employers who use them for fear of revenge. This can, in turn, lead to greater unfairness in labor market conditions and allow unlawful acts to continue.

Some tactics used by the employers targeted here have included nonpayment of wages, unsafe working conditions, and repression of workers’ ability to organize and collectively bargain to improve those conditions. DHS has maintained a practice of discretionary protection on a case-by-case basis for these acts for many years, and this latest process builds off that.

“Unscrupulous employers who prey on the vulnerability of noncitizen workers harm all workers and disadvantage businesses who play by the rules,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said. “We will hold these predatory actors accountable by encouraging all workers to assert their rights, report violations they have suffered or observed, and cooperate in labor standards investigations. Through these efforts, and with our labor agency partners, we will effectively protect the American labor market, the conditions of the American worksite, and the dignity of the workers who power our economy.”

Noncitizens can now submit deferred action requests to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which will consider them on a case-by-case basis. Those submitting must provide a statement of interest from federal, state, or local labor agencies acting on their behalf. Grants of deferred action will typically last for two years, though they will be subject to termination at any time.

More information will be provided on DHS.gov in both English and Spanish. It can also be used for request submissions.