US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Justice Department published a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) last week to announce their joint effort to identify and eliminate fraud, abuse, and discrimination among employers that hire immigrant workers. Both agencies are set to make changes geared towards improving communication and cooperation in handling such cases.
The partnership expands on existing efforts to crack down on immigration-related labor abuses. At present, USCIS and the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division have the Protecting US Workers Initiative, which investigates and prosecutes employer discrimination and misuse of E-Verify. Both projects emerge from President Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” anti-immigrant agenda.
“In the spirit of President Trump’s Executive Order on Buy American and Hire American, today’s partnership adds to the Civil Rights Division’s tools to stop employers from discriminating against US workers by favoring foreign visa workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John M. Gore of the Civil Rights Division. “The Division looks forward to expanding its partnerships with USCIS to hold accountable employers that discriminate against US workers based on their citizenship status.”
Under the MOU, the agencies are required to share information including, but not limited to:
- Employer name
- Employer address
- type of immigration benefit associated with the employer
According to USCIS Director Francis Cissna, the memorandum is only the latest addition to a continued effort to protect the integrity of the country’s immigration system. He adds that the agreement with the DOJ improves the level of coordination between investors who often work on similar issues but from within different agencies. It’s a partnership that he believes will break down silos and encourage federal agencies to fight employment discrimination and ensure U.S. workers have an advocated at the highest level of the system.
Last October, the State Department and the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) announced a similar partnership that encourages both agencies to share information about employers potentially engaging in illegal discrimination, fraud, and making other misrepresentations in their use of foreign-worker visas such as the H-1B, H-2A, and H-2B. This collaboration resulted in a raid at a meatpacking plant in Tennessee, one of the largest immigration enforcement actions of the Trump administration.
If anything, these partnerships between agencies responsible for granting immigration benefits and enforcing immigration policies are part of a larger effort to ensure employers are following the rules of regulations of employment-based immigration programs.
Immigrant rights activists, however, believe these initiatives are designed to dissuade employers from hiring foreign workers altogether, as this kind of information sharing is predicted to lead to more audits, investigations, and worksite visits.
If you have questions about how to prepare your company for this scrutiny, talk to Austin-based immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle. Contact the Lyttle Law Firm at (512) 215-5225 to schedule a consultation.