On October 12, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security directed ICE, CBP, and USCIS to take actions to promote a fair labor market by supporting more effective enforcement of wage protections, workplace safety, labor rights, and other employment laws and standards.
“The Department of Homeland Security has a critical role to ensure our Nation’s workplaces comply with our laws,” said U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. “We will not tolerate unscrupulous employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities, or impose unsafe working conditions. Employers engaged in illegal acts compel the focus of our enforcement resources. By adopting policies that focus on the most unscrupulous employers, we will protect workers as well as legitimate American businesses.”
In accordance with a memorandum issued by Secretary Mayorkas on October 12, ICE, CBP, and USCIS will develop and update policies to enhance DHS’s enforcement of employment and labor standards. The agencies must also develop strategies for prioritizing workplace enforcement against unscrupulous employers and, through the exercise of prosecutorial discretion, facilitate the participation of vulnerable workers in labor standards investigations. Employers who shirk employment regulations not only harm workers, they also unfairly drive down business costs and disadvantage their business competitors who abide by the law.
The DHS memorandum also establishes an end to mass worksite enforcement operations. Under the previous administration, these resource-intensive operations resulted in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers and were used as a tool by exploitative employers to suppress and retaliate against workers’ asserting the protections of labor laws.
Finally, the memorandum signals that requests for prosecutorial discretion in ongoing workplace standards investigations may be considered on a case-by-case basis.