U.S. Rep. Judy Chu today issued the following statement on the Department of Labor's announcement that it will begin to consider requests to certify U Visa applications for immigrant victims willing to assist in the investigation and prosecution of qualifying crimes. This will allow immigrants who testify against employers for labor violations to get a temporary U visa. U visas also go to immigrants who are victims of crime or domestic violence and who help law enforcement punish those who break the law. Individuals who receive U visas may remain in the United States for up to four years and may eventually apply for permanent residency.
"Today's decision by the U.S. Department of Labor is a bold step in addressing our nation's immigration challenge as it relates to unscrupulous employers illegally taking advantage of immigrant workers. This practice is far too common and it hurts immigrant workers and it undercuts American workers . No longer will immigrant workers be enslaved out of fear of deportation by abusive employers who refuse to treat them by the standard that the law requires. This decision will allow immigrant workers to come out of the shadows, leave cruel working conditions behind and find jobs where they are treated with the dignity and respect every worker in America deserves," said Chu.
A recent survey of over 4,000 workers in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles found that 43 percent of workers who made a complaint to their employer or attempted to form a union experienced one or more forms of illegal retaliation, including threats to call immigration authorities. Workers' complaints may lead to immigration threats, to threats of firing, or to actual retaliatory firing.
The same three city survey found that 26 percent of workers had not been paid the minimum wage in the workweek preceding the survey. Of those who had worked over 40 hours in the prior week, 76 percent were not paid the legally mandated overtime pay. Researchers estimated that workers in these three cities alone were losing more than $56.4 million per week as a result of labor law violations allowing the companies with illegal practices to undercut companies that follow the law.