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Jayapal Leads Lawmakers in Calling on DHS to Protect Immigrant Workers’ Rights in the Workplace

WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) led members of Congress in a letter calling on Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to issue guidance empowering workers, regardless of immigration status, to seek protection in the workplace should their rights be violated. The letter comes after the Department of Labor (DOL) clarified the process by which immigrant workers can assert their rights in the workplace. This request was included in the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Executive Action Agenda released earlier this spring.  

In the letter, the signers urge the Department “to act quickly to protect labor and civil rights by establishing an effective process to provide immigration protections and work authorization for witnesses and victims of labor and civil rights violations, thereby ensuring all workers, regardless of immigration status, can exercise their rights.” As the lawmakers emphasized, “without a clear process to provide immigration protections and work authorization for immigrant workers who defend their labor and civil rights, exploitation ‘drive[s] down wages, discourage[s] organizing, and create[s] unsafe working conditions for all workers.’” 

The lawmakers outlined specific components DHS should consider when issuing this guidance, including:

  • Consistent processing by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • (USCIS), where immigrants in civil rights or labor disputes can affirmatively request parole and deferred action (where eligible);
  • Concurrent processing of employment authorization applications by USCIS;
  • A commitment to using the full range of prosecutorial discretion, including stays of removal and release from detention where applicable;
  • An expedited process timeline for adjudicating applications in a timely manner;
  • The re-establishment of an interagency working group including DHS, DOL, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and other relevant federal agencies to avoid communication delays and ensure timely protections for workers; and
  • Guidance on handling requests for immigration protections supported by state and local agencies enforcing civil rights and workplace laws. 

“The Biden-Harris Administration has promised to ‘ensure that every worker is protected, can join a union, and can exercise their labor rights—regardless of immigration status—for the safety of all workers,’” the lawmakers wrote. “Establishing a clear, effective process to provide immigration protections and work authorization to immigrants who assert their civil and labor rights is an essential step in achieving this vision.”

Co-signers include U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), and Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03). 

A copy of the letter is available here.