According to the Department of Homeland Security, they ended a Trump-era policy of raiding businesses in search of undocumented workers. Instead, DHS will focus its energy on finding “unscrupulous employers who exploit the vulnerability” of workers who are undocumented.
Alejandro Mayorkas, DHS Secretary announced on October 12, 2021, that the raids done by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents ended up missing “the most pernicious aspect of our country’s unauthorized employment challenge: exploitative employers.” Mayorkas also stated that DHS would begin trying to find ways to help undocumented workers feel more comfortable reporting safety violations in their workplaces.
Many labor advocates are encouraged by this announcement of the end of the controversial raid policy, as well as by the changes that will go a long way toward making employers follow the rules.
During the course of the workplace raids, it’s estimated that more than 1,800 undocumented workers were arrested by ICE agents.
These raids took place all across the country, but they were concentrated in Southeast and Midwest—including the following states:
- North Carolina
The biggest targets of the raid were workers employed in the manufacturing and meat/poultry processing industries.
Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), feels that this shift is in the right direction as these unscrupulous employers are the ones that are “truly responsible for depressing working conditions and wages in our country.”
Mayorkas also suggested that the raids on undocumented workers kept ICE from being able to utilize resources to protect workers. Rather than protecting workers, the raids that ICE agents carried out were used as a way to retaliate against investigations into workplace standards.
The DHS memo stated that this type of raid would be stopped immediately, and the agency asked directors to consider requests from the Labor Department to offer protections for undocumented immigrants working with the Labor Department to investigate workplace standards.
Additionally, the new agreement calls for improving protocols that currently keep those forced into labor from speaking out against workplace violations.
Federal law requires that employers know the identity and immigration status of their employees by verifying their identity upon hiring them. Businesses found in violation of this federal law are subject to various penalties, including civil penalties, criminal charges and fines.
In Arizona, state law requires that employers use the E-Verify system, which is a web-based system that allows employers easy access to check the immigration status of those applying for employment.
That said, there are still many companies, in industries such as construction, hospitality and agriculture, that are notorious for intentionally misclassifying workers in order to avoid paying for workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits, as well as other state requirements. In these cases, undocumented workers are at risk for exploitation.
Arizona undocumented workers and workers’ compensation laws
According to the most recent numbers (2016) from Pew Research, there were approximately 10.7 million in the United States and 275,000 in Arizona. The most common industries that employed undocumented workers in Arizona are agriculture and construction. Both of these industries are among the most dangerous industries for workers.
What’s more, in the case of undocumented workers, there is also likely less access to affordable healthcare options, not to mention language barriers and a lack of understanding about legal rights. This means that in the event that an undocumented worker is injured on the job, they’re more likely to suffer through the injury rather than seek medical treatment or compensation for their injuries.
Misinformation is also a big problem.
While in many states undocumented workers may not be eligible for workers’ compensation, this isn’t true in Arizona. As long as an immigrant or undocumented worker was hurt at work, they are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits regardless of their immigration status.
Workers’ compensation is a complex system with rules that are easy to misunderstand, especially if you’re a non-native speaker. If English isn’t your first language, it’s essential that you hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can help you fully understand your rights and fight to get the compensation you need and deserve.
Hablamos español. We have bilingual, Spanish-speaking workers’ comp attorneys standing by to help you.