FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sarah Karpovich, Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM)
BALTIMORE, MD– Last night President Obama took important steps to keep immigrant families together and to uphold migrant workers’ rights. Following over a decade of advocacy by immigrant communities, workers’ rights organizations, and allies, up to five million undocumented immigrants will now be temporarily safe from deportation. People who have lived in the United States for five years and who are parents of United States citizens or lawful permanent residents will be eligible for relief. The President will also expand relief for immigrants who are victims of crimes and trafficking, and will create an interagency group to address protections for workers who stand up for their rights. Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM) applauds these reforms, yet urges policymakers to protect the rights of all workers in the United States and to create a path to citizenship for all aspiring Americans.
For over nine years CDM has worked closely with Mexican migrant communities to defend the rights of those who work in the United States both as undocumented workers and as seasonal low-wage workers. These workers, undocumented and with temporary work visas alike, are frequently left vulnerable to abuses by employers and labor recruiters due to their status. When workers are reluctant to report fraud, wage theft, unsafe conditions, discrimination and other abuses due to fear of deportation, wages and labor conditions for all workers decline. The President’s immigration action will allow workers to come out of the shadows and stand up for their rights without fear.
As a part of the immigration action, the President included several targeted initiatives for workers. The President created the Interagency Working Group for the Consistent Enforcement of Federal Labor, Employment and Immigration Laws. This Working Group will strengthen processes for staying the removal of, and providing temporary work authorization for, undocumented workers reporting workplace abuses. The group will tackle a myriad of labor and employment issues facing workers who are vulnerable because of their immigration status. The Department of Labor’s (DOL) authority to certify U visas has also been expanded to include crimes of extortion, fraud in foreign labor contracting and forced labor when they are uncovered during Wage and Hour investigations. DOL will also certify T visas for victims of human trafficking.
“Our broken immigration and labor recruitment system puts workers at risk of abuse on the job,” said Rachel Micah-Jones, CDM’s Executive Director. “The President’s executive action includes admirable and much-needed steps towards reform, including temporary initiatives to protect many undocumented workers from deportation and to provide them with work permits. We applaud the President for expanding U and T visas to provide extra protection for immigrant workers who are victims of crime, including labor abuses and human trafficking. We look forward to learning more about the interagency working group that will strengthen workers’ ability to defend their rights without fear of retaliation.
More work is needed, and we will continue to push for reforms for low-wage migrant workers,” said Micah-Jones. “We will continue to advocate for expanded immigration relief, for justice for workers in the international labor recruitment process and for improved wages and working conditions for low-wage migrant workers.”