Skip to main content
construction workers

Fighting exploitation: Innovative policy on Immigrant Workers’ Rights

Professor Shannon Gleason and Professor Kate Griffith

In October 2021 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security took an unprecedented move and signaled that immigration relief may be granted to those who help enforce labor rights. DHS Policy Statement 065-06, “Worksite Enforcement: The Strategy to Protect the American Labor Market, the Conditions of the American Worksite, and the Dignity of the Individual.”

Millions of unauthorized immigrants are working worldwide (an estimated 8 million in the U.S. alone). Given their precarious status under immigration laws, these workers often labor “in the shadows” for low wages and suffer unsafe and unsanitary working conditions. Unauthorized immigrants uncomfortably straddle two distinct fields of law and policy – immigration law and workplace-rights law. When unauthorized immigrants face violations of their workplace rights, courts, legal scholars and government actors often disagree over how, or even if, the protections accorded these workers should apply.

How, then, should these two legal regimes relate to each other, if we hope to ensure that both authorized and unauthorized workers do not suffer exploitative working conditions? Gleason and Griffiths will work with Dr. Youbin Kang to examine the efficacy of innovative regulatory efforts to disentangle worker rights from restrictive immigration policy.