Federal law requires U.S. employers only to employ workers who have legal work authorization. Still, according to the Pew Research Center, as many as 23% of immigrants lack documentation. Many of these individuals work, with some even using fake paperwork.
Undocumented workers are present in many different workplaces, including offices, restaurants, shops, factories and fields. In an effort both to keep their jobs and to avoid deportation, many of these workers have had little choice but to put up with shady business practices or other types of mistreatment.
A new Department of Homeland Security policy
Recently, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the federal department that is responsible for immigration and immigration enforcement, announced a whistleblower policy to protect undocumented workers.
According to DHS, the policy provides deferred deportation benefits to undocumented workers who report unsafe working conditions, wage theft and other labor violations. This policy is beneficial to workers, of course, as it encourages them to report mistreatment without worrying about the consequences of deportation.
An incentive to blow the whistle
Undocumented workers include individuals who entered the country without authorization and those who overstayed visas. Now, these workers have an incentive to blow the whistle. Indeed, those that do might be eligible for work permits that allow them to work legally.
Because unscrupulous employers that engage in shady business practices harm all workers, the DHS policy change is welcome news. Ultimately, by helping mistreated undocumented workers come out of the shadows, the policy is likely to lead to better working conditions for everyone who works in the U.S.