DHS Unveils Enhancements to Support Labor Enforcement Investigations

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has introduced process improvements to assist noncitizen workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, labor rights violations. These changes include a streamlined and expedited deferred action request process aimed at safeguarding noncitizen workers from immigration-related retaliation by exploitative employers. This enhancement, effective immediately, builds upon DHS’s discretionary authority to consider labor and employment agency-related requests for deferred action on a case-by-case basis. 

Workers, whether citizens or noncitizens, now have access to an efficient process via DHS.gov to seek deferred action and protection from threats of immigration-related retaliation. The initiative aligns with the Biden-Harris Administration’s dedication to empowering workers and enhancing workplace conditions. 

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas emphasized, “Unscrupulous employers who exploit noncitizen workers harm all workers and disadvantage businesses that adhere to regulations. Holding these predatory actors accountable involves encouraging workers to assert their rights, report violations, and cooperate in labor standards investigations. Through these efforts, in collaboration with labor agency partners, we aim to protect the American labor market, worksite conditions, and the dignity of the workers fueling our economy.” 

Fear of immigration-based retaliation often deters workers from reporting violations by abusive employers or cooperating in investigations, hindering the enforcement of labor and employment laws. DHS’s discretionary protection on a case-by-case basis for noncitizen victims supports labor agencies in conducting thorough investigations, fostering fair labor market conditions, and combating unlawful employer practices. The streamlined process announced today contributes to improved workplace conditions for all workers, aligning with DHS’s commitment to U.S. workers and the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment. 

In addition to offering guidance to labor agencies on seeking deferred action for workers, DHS introduces a centralized intake process for deferred action requests from noncitizen workers supported by labor enforcement agencies. This approach facilitates efficient review, provides security to eligible workers on a case-by-case basis, and strengthens support for labor agency missions. These enhancements align with Secretary Mayorkas’ October 2021 memorandum, emphasizing DHS’s role in enforcing wage protections, workplace safety, labor rights, and other standards. 

Noncitizen workers can now submit deferred action requests to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through the established central intake point. USCIS will forward requests from noncitizens in removal proceedings or with a final removal order to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for case-by-case determinations. USCIS will assess all other deferred action requests on a case-by-case basis, along with related employment authorization applications. 

Requests submitted through this centralized process must include a Statement of Interest from a federal, state, or local labor agency, detailing its enforcement or jurisdictional interest, the covered workers, and why DHS’s prosecutorial discretion benefits the labor agency’s interest. 

Consistent with existing practice, discretionary grants of deferred action under this process will typically last for two years, subject to termination at any time. Individuals granted deferred action may be eligible for employment authorization, demonstrating economic necessity, and may receive subsequent grants if a labor agency maintains investigative or enforcement interest. 

For further details, individuals can refer to DHS’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). 

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