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INS/DOL Agreement Signed

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 98112359 (posted Nov. 23, 1998)"

U.S. Department of Justice

Immigration and Naturalization Service

BACKGROUNDER

11/23/98

Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance

Worksite Enforcement Sanctions and Labor Standards

The Administration has long recognized that a comprehensive strategy for controlling and deterring illegal immigration must include effective enforcement of both employer sanctions and basic fair labor standards. Effective worksite enforcement requires the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Immigrationand Naturalization Service (INS) to coordinate activities anddefine clearly appropriate roles and responsibilities.

The Department of Justice, INS and the DOL Employment Standards Administration (ESA) have entered into an agreement to enhance worksite enforcement sanctions and labor standards. This agreement details how the two agencies will work together, share information, increase training, refer cases to each other and conduct appropriate investigations.

INS and ESA have complementary goals. INS' enforcement of U.S. immigration laws can deter violations of labor standards by preventing the employment of unauthorized workers who become victims to sub-standard wages and working conditions. Illegal employment practices artificially suppress wages, lead to the degradation of overall conditions in the workplace, and deprive authorized U.S. workers of decent job opportunities. By focusing on employers in industries and locations with a history of reliance on unauthorized labor, worksite enforcement initiatives can deter illegal employment, remove unauthorized workers from he workplace, disrupt alien smuggling and harboring operations,and make decent jobs available for authorized workers.

ESA's primary responsibility is the enforcement of labor statutes with the goal of ensuring that all covered workers, regardless of their immigration status, are afforded the full benefits and protections of U.S. labor laws. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides DOL a role in the enforcement of employer sanctions because targeted enforcement of labor standards can serve as a meaningful deterrent to illegal immigration. Labor law enforcement not only helps ensure fairness and acceptable workplace standards, but also helps level the playing field for employers who seek to comply with the law.

To develop strong cases against unscrupulous employers, DOL needs the cooperation of workers. All workers, including those who are undocumented, must be able to report violations of labor standards or provide other information without fear. This MOU contains several provisions, built on lessons the two agencies have learned over the past decade, that will allay worker fears and achieve more effective enforcement of fair labor standards and employer sanctions.

These include:

  • A clear statement of the goalsof the agencies' relationship which will guide detailed interagency planning and cooperation.
  • The DOL agencies will only inspect employer compliance with verification requirements in "directed" investigations-that is, in cases that do not arise from a complaint alleging violations. While this will result in a substantial reduction in the number of verification inspections conducted by the DOL agencies, it will help avoid discouraging workers-bothlegal and illegal-from complaining about exploitative working conditions out of fear of the consequences for themselves or thei rworkers.
  • The enforcement staff in both agencies will work together to better ensure that employers whohire unauthorized workers will not benefit from attempting to misuse the agencies' enforcement powers to intimidate or coerce their workers, or from not having to pay for the work performed by unauthorized workers who are apprehended and deported through INS' worksite enforcement initiatives.

INS and ESA will work to develop procedures for handling suspected worksite violations. INS and ESA field personnel will identify opportunities to coordinate enforcement activities, and to the extent that resources permit, conduct joint investigations. Coordinated enforcement will maximizethe effective use of limited resources while having the greatest impact on employers who violate immigration and labor laws.

- INS -

 
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