On January 13, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) announced a new streamlined process for immigrant workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, labor violations. Those individuals can now access an expedited deferred action process. Per DHS, deferred action “protects noncitizen workers from threats of immigration-related retaliation from the exploitive employers.” This includes protection against removal (deportation). DHS will use its discretionary authority to “consider labor and employment agency-related requests for deferred action on a case-by-case basis.”
Immigrant workers are often afraid to report labor violations or cooperate in investigations for fear of reprisal or retaliation by abusive employers. Investigating agencies rely on the cooperation of workers to succeed in their investigations. Fear of immigration-related reprisals perpetuates continued labor abuses against immigrant workers, “including nonpayment of wages, the imposition of unsafe working conditions, and chilling workers’ ability to organize and collectively bargain to improve such conditions.”
Undocumented workers who report work-related violations to a federal, state, or local labor agency, or assist with such investigations, can request deferred action by submitting their request directly to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). If a worker is already in removal proceedings, USCIS will forward the request to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).
Required documents include a “statement of interest” from the investigating agency, which should provide details about the investigation, the need for the worker to participate in the investigation, and how the use of immigration-related prosecutorial discretion would further the agency’s enforcement interests.
Discretionary grants of deferred action under this process will be valid for up to 2 years and can be terminated at any time. Renewal is available on a case-by-case basis and depending on the continued need for an investigation. Those granted deferred action may be eligible for employment authorization.
See the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement here.
If you have any questions about this new streamlined process, do not hesitate to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys at (312) 427-6163.