AFL-CIO demands deportation exemption to promote worker safety

The AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, is calling on the Obama administration to give illegal immigrants a repreive from deportation proceedings, in order to encourage these immigrants to report unsafe working conditions and other workplace violations.

In a series of immigration policy recommendations released Monday, the group said many illegal immigrants do not report dangerous working conditions and unpaid wages because they are afraid they will be deported. To remedy this, the AFL-CIO called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant low-priority illegal immigrants affirmative relief from deportation and work authorization, so they will not be afraid to report misconduct.

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The labor organization said this would stop employers and landlords from playing the so-called "deportation card," where they threaten to report illegal immigrants to Homeland Security if they complain about poor working or living conditions. 

"When undocumented individuals complain about workplace or housing violations, (their bosses and landlords) may report false or minor charges to the police, potentially leading to the individuals being placed in removal proceedings even if criminal charges are dropped," the AFL-CIO said in a statement.

The AFL-CIO said illegal immigrants should be allowed to "step out of the shadows without fear of government or employer retaliation."

"Based on our experience, most workers will not take action to enforce their workplace rights if they know they can be fired or, worse, deported if they complain about non-payment of wages, dangerous working conditions, or sexual harassment," the AFL-CIO continued. "The same is true when undocumented tenants face unsafe housing conditions, but fear reporting violations to housing authorities."

The AFL-CIO said the Obama administration should also take back power from the states to enforce immigration laws as it sees fit.

"DHS needs to reassert federal control over immigration enforcement priority decision-making and implementation by ending programs that effectively delegate these responsibilities to state and local law enforcement, many of whom do not share DHS's enforcement priorities," the AFL-CIO wrote.