November 23, 1998
INS and Labor Department Sign Memorandum of Understanding
To Enhance Labor Standards Enforcement to Aid U.S. Workers
WASHINGTON - The Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) and the Labor Department's Employment
Standards Administration (ESA) today signed a memorandum of understanding
(MOU) aimed at promoting job opportunities and better working
conditions for legal U.S. workers through strengthened enforcement
of fair labor standards and employer sanctions. A key goal of
the agreement, which clarifies the roles of the two agencies and
establishes how and when they will coordinate operations, is to
allay fears in the immigrant community that prevent complaints
about labor abuses by unscrupulous employers from being filed.
"The Administration is committed
to ensuring that workers in abusive situations can file complaints
with the Department of Labor without fear of repercussions, regardless
of their immigration status," said INS Commissioner Doris
Meissner. "In addition, the MOU will sharpen our focus on
businesses that flout U.S. immigration laws by hiring undocumented
workers for substandard wages and employing them under conditions
that range from improper to inhumane."
Bernard E. Anderson, Assistant Secretary
for the Employment Standards Administration, said "Commissioner
Meissner and I believe this MOU will enhance our respective agencies'
missions to achieve compliance with our immigration laws and basic
employment standards, whether it be the minimum wage, overtime,
non-discrimination or other standards for legal workers in the
With this MOU, ESA will be able
to focus its efforts on the source of illegal immigration, that
is, those employers who lure illegal workers into this country,
pay them less than legal workers, and maintain substandard, often
intimidating working environments.
The MOU requires both agencies to
appropriately coordinate enforcement. Labor Department investigators,
when responding to workers' complaints alleging labor violations
will no longer refer suspected violations of immigration laws
to INS. This action should increase the willingness of undocumented
workers to step forward and report violations. The MOU will also
enhance the exchange of information between the two agencies.
"What we are saying to all
workers in the United States through this MOU is that your rights
will be protected," said Anderson. "What we are saying
to employers who hire illegal workers is that you will find no
bargain and risk prosecution."
ESA's Wage and Hour Division is
responsible for enforcing workplace employment standards including
the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards
Act. ESA's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs enforces
laws protecting employees of federal contractors against all forms
INS is responsible for enforcing
Section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the provisions
commonly referred to as "employer sanctions." These
provisions are an integral part of INS' enforcement mission.
While strengthened border enforcement prevents significant numbers
of illegal aliens from entering the country, worksite enforcement
is the primary means of reducing the job magnet to draw illegal
aliens to the United States.
- INS -