WHD Ensuring Proper Wages in the Workplace

Return to Prior U and T Visa Certification Program

Description of Idea :

On behalf of our client New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, we submit the following response:

As the DOL itself recognizes, the agency "has an important role to play in combating trafficking in persons through our civil enforcement of federal labor laws." Yet on July 1, 2019, Administrator Stanton unlawfully changed a successful program in a manner that unnecessarily deters immigrant workers who are victims of labor trafficking and related crimes from assisting law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting the criminal actors. By making it harder for these workers to access U and T visa certifications — the visa that protects the legal status of exploited workers who report workplace abuses — this policy change makes all American workers more vulnerable.

Under the new U and T visa certification policy — titled Addendum 2 to Field Assistance Bulletin 2011-1 — WHD refers certification requests to criminal law enforcement agencies and often will not issue a certification unless those criminal law enforcement agencies agree WHD's assessment of potential underlying crimes. However, conditioning certification on criminal law enforcement referral and approval has a chilling effect on fearful workers who are already reluctant to come forward and speak publicly about crimes occurring in their workplaces.

Therefore, the new U and T visa certification policy is not a viable avenue for WHD to "ensure stronger enforcement of stronger anti-labor trafficking laws."

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Idea No. 210