February 07, 2019

US Attorney General proposes tighter legislation against workplace immigration discrimination

US Attorney General proposes tighter legislation against workplace immigration discrimination

In the last three years, the labor department in New York has investigated 30 cases involving employers threatening to expose the illegal status of immigrant employees when they complained about missing wages. Under the risk of deportation, workers are thereby being exploited for cheap, and even free, labor.

IZA World of Labor author Pia Orrenius explains: “Unauthorized workers make up more than 5% of the US labor force; a majority of these workers are long-time US residents and many of them have children who are US citizens.”

In her article Enforcement and illegal migration, she argues: “In many countries, comprehensive immigration reform that combines efforts to create legal pathways for migration with improvements in enforcement methods can ease pressure at the border and in the interior, while increasing the net economic benefits of immigration to the destination country.”

In an effort to prevent further exploitation, Attorney General Letitia James is proposing legislation to update an existing law which stops employers from discriminating against workers who report wage violations. The change would expand the law’s definition of “retaliatory conduct” to include threats regarding a person’s immigration status. Potential penalties could involve up to three months in jail and a $20,000 fine.

“New York State was built by immigrants and it has always stood proudly as a beacon of hope and opportunity no matter where you were born,” said James. “If President Trump is going to demonize immigrants and unscrupulous employers are going to exploit them, we’re ready to fight back against them.”

The proposal follows a maid at President Trump’s New Jersey gold club speaking out against her supervisor who she claims threatened her with deportation when she complained about abusive working conditions. The Trump organization say the claim is “absolutely false.”

Over $250,000 in penalties has been paid in the last three years by employers in such cases. According to Jim Rogers, the deputy commissioner for worker protection, the majority of businesses involved are in the service, agriculture, and construction industries. “We protect every single worker who works in New York, regardless of their citizenship or their documentation status. Everybody gets the same protections. But people don’t know that, and they live under a lot of fear,” said Rogers.

Read more articles about employment protection and migration policy.