This article was prepared with the assistance of ABIL, the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers, of which Loan Huynh, Fredrikson Immigration Department Chair, is a member.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on January 13, 2023, that noncitizen workers who are victims of or witnesses to the violation of labor rights can now access a streamlined and expedited deferred action request process. DHS explained that deferred action “protects noncitizen workers from threats of immigration-related retaliation from the exploitive employers.” Effective immediately, DHS said, the process “will improve DHS’s longstanding practice of using its discretionary authority to consider labor and employment agency-related requests for deferred action on a case-by-case basis.”
A centralized intake process “will allow DHS to efficiently review these time-sensitive requests, provide additional security to eligible workers on a case-by-case basis, and more robustly support the mission of labor agencies,” DHS said. Noncitizens can submit such requests to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) through a central intake point established to support labor agency investigative and enforcement efforts. In addition to satisfying individual criteria to facilitate case-by-case determinations, requests for deferred action submitted through this centralized process must include a letter from a federal, state or local labor agency asking DHS to consider exercising its discretion on behalf of workers employed by companies identified by the agency as having labor disputes related to laws that fall under its jurisdiction.
DHS said that for a deferred action request from a noncitizen who is in removal proceedings or has a final order of removal, upon reviewing the submission for completeness, USCIS will forward it to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to make a final determination on a case-by-case basis. USCIS will consider all other deferred action requests on a case-by-case basis, and will consider all related employment authorization applications, including those related to deferred action requests decided by ICE.
Discretionary grants of deferred action under this process “will typically last for a period of two years, subject to termination at any time,” DHS said. Individuals granted deferred action may be eligible for employment authorization, which requires that they demonstrate an economic necessity for employment. They may also be eligible for subsequent grants of deferred action if a labor agency has a continuing investigative or enforcement interest in the matter identified in their original letter supporting DHS’s use of prosecutorial discretion, the agency said.
Workers can visit DHS.gov for additional information in English and Spanish and to submit requests.