Noncitizen workers who witness labor violations can now report them without fear of their immigration status being held against them, the Department of Homeland Security announced Friday.
"Individuals should feel free to come forward to complain about labor conditions, because they have certain rights, and their vulnerabilities will not be exploited," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told ABC News in an interview. "Exploitative employers better beware because we are using our investigative and prosecuting authorities to hold them accountable."
DHS will use the authority they have from deferred action, which gives non-citizens the ability to work in the United States, according to the agency. Deferred action protects noncitizen workers from threats of immigration-related retaliation from the exploitive employers, according to DHS.
"When they come forward and complain about unsafe or unfair labor conditions, they are cooperating in a labor investigation," Mayorkas explained. "They should know that they are free from retaliation."
DHS said that often times noncitizen workers don't report labor violations or cooperate in employment and labor standards investigations "because they fear removal or other immigration-related retaliation by an abusive employer."
"We have to address the exploitative employers, the unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of individuals by reason of their vulnerability whether that be because they are unlawfully present in the United States or otherwise," Mayorkas said.
"Refraining from reporting violations due to a fear of immigration-based retaliation creates unfair labor market conditions and perpetuates the commission of unlawful and inhumane acts by employers, including nonpayment of wages, the imposition of unsafe working conditions, and chilling workers’ ability to organize and collectively bargain to improve such conditions," DHS said.
"My hope is that we create a fair and equitable work environment for individuals regardless of their stature," Mayorkas said.