AFL-CIO: Threat of Deportation Preventing Immigrants from Reporting Bad Bosses, Unsafe Working Conditions

The AFL-CIO is calling on the Obama Administration to cease needless deportations in order to encourage immigrants to report unsafe workplace conditions and safety violations. The labor lobby recommends that the Department of Homeland Security grant low-priority immigrants affirmative relief from deportation and work authorization.  

The AFL-CIO wants to strip employers and landlords of the power to threaten deportation as a means of stopping immigrants from reporting incidents. In a statement, the AFL-CIO further explains its argument:

When undocumented individuals complain about workplace or housing violations, (their bosses and landlords) may report false or minor charges to the police, potentially leading to the individuals being placed in removal proceedings even if criminal charges are dropped.”

The AFL-CIO hopes immigrants will be allowed to “step out of the shadows without fear of government or employer retaliation.”  This practice is often used by unscrupulous contractors who hire immigrants partially because their residency status makes them easy to exploit.  The AFL-CIO touches on this in their release:

“Based on our experience, most workers will not take action to enforce their workplace rights if they know they can be fired or, worse, deported if they complain about non-payment of wages, dangerous working conditions, or sexual harassment.  The same is true when undocumented tenants face unsafe housing conditions, but fear reporting violations to housing authorities.”

Highlights of the AFL-CIO’s three policy recommendations include:

1. DHS should grant affirmative relief with work authorization to individuals who are low priorities for removal or eligible for prosecutorial discretion under existing DHS policies. This would stop employers from “playing the deportation card” that pits workers against each other.
2. DHS should reassert the primary role of the federal government in determining and implementing enforcement priorities by ending programs that effectively delegate those responsibilities to state and local law enforcement.
3. DHS should reform the enforcement and removal system to stop criminalizing immigrant communities and ensure that individuals who are low priorities for removal or eligible for prosecutorial discretion are not removed.

More information about the AFL-CIO’s immigration policy recommendations, including the legal basis for each, is available on their website.

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