Bicameral group of Democrats introduces bill to protect immigrant laborers

Bicameral group of Democrats introduces bill to protect immigrant laborers
© Stefani Reynolds

A bicameral group of Democrats led by Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezGovernment watchdog: 'No evidence' Pompeo violated Hatch Act with Kansas trips No time to be selling arms to the Philippines Senate panel approves Trump nominee under investigation MORE (D-N.J.) introduced a bill Wednesday to protect immigrant workers who file labor claims against their employers.

The bill, dubbed the Protect Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation Act, would expand a visa program targeted toward victims and whistleblowers, and provide protection from deportation for workers involved in a labor dispute.

“As the Trump Administration continues their attacks on immigrant communities, vulnerable immigrant workers who experience unsafe working conditions or fear retaliation by their abusive employers need to be protected by law,” said Menendez in a statement.

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“Our legislation will help ensure workers have a path to report unlawful or unfair labor practices and that they don’t fall through the cracks of a broken immigration system just because they stand up for their rights," he added.

The bill would expand the U visa program by removing the 10,000 visa per year cap and lowering application expenses and adding victims of serious labor violations to the program's eligibility list.

The U visa grants the right to work and live in the United States to some victims of crimes such as domestic violence, rape, abusive sexual contact, abduction, blackmail and felony assault.

Under Menedez's bill, state, local and federal agencies would also be empowered to apply to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant temporary legal immigration status to undocumented immigrants who have filed a labor claim or are material witnesses in a claim.

It would also force DHS agencies that conduct immigration raids on workplaces to involve labor authorities before deporting any detainees, in order to determine whether labor rights were infringed by employers.

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Rep. Judy ChuJudy May ChuHouse Democrats press Treasury on debit cards used for coronavirus relief payments Democrats blast CDC report on minorities and COVID-19 Minority lawmakers gain unprecedented clout amid pandemic MORE (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said, “immigrants make up 17.4 percent of the labor force in the United States and are important contributors in the healthcare, manufacturing, construction and agriculture industries."

"But, despite how much we depend on immigrants, some unscrupulous employers seek to exploit them, making them work extreme hours in difficult and dangerous conditions. They do this knowing that, being undocumented, the workers will be too afraid to report this abuse to the authorities," she added.

The bill has so far received significant support from labor unions, whose role in the immigration debate has grown on par with the demographic diversification of their affiliate pools.

"Our system relies on workers to take action to keep workplaces safe and fair, but it takes real courage to come forward because the risks are so great,” said Shannon Lederer, director of immigration policy for the AFL-CIO.

Menendez was joined on the legislation in the House by Chu and Rep. Bobby ScottRobert (Bobby) Cortez ScottLack of child care poses major hurdle as businesses reopen Unions worry Congress is one step closer to a liability shield Victim advocacy groups, Democratic lawmakers slam new campus sexual assault policies MORE (D-Va.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

The bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSchumer calls on McConnell to schedule vote on law enforcement reform bill before July 4 This week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic City leaders, Democratic lawmakers urge Trump to tamp down rhetoric as protests rage across US MORE (D-N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoThe Hill's Campaign Report: Minneapolis protests rock the nation Cortez Masto says she's not interested in being Biden VP The Memo: Activists press Biden on VP choice MORE (D-Nev.), Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive things to watch in Tuesday's primaries Nina Turner responds to Cornel West's remarks about George Floyd COVID-19 pandemic will shrink economy by trillion in next decade: CBO MORE (I-Vt.) and Reps. Grace NapolitanoGraciela (Grace) Flores NapolitanoHispanic Democrats demand funding for multilingual coronavirus messaging Bicameral group of Democrats introduces bill to protect immigrant laborers Latina leaders: 'It's a women's world more than anything' MORE (D-Calif.), Lucille Roybal-AllardLucille Roybal-AllardThe Hill's Campaign Report: Democrat concedes in California House race Hispanic Caucus pushes McConnell on 'Dreamer' bill California Rep. Costa endorses Biden MORE (D-Calif.), Sylvia GarciaSylvia GarciaThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House returns to DC for coronavirus relief Minority caucuses endorse Texas Afro-Latina for Congress Texas House Dems ask governor to issue stay-at-home order MORE (D-Texas), Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinHouse holds first-ever proxy votes during pandemic Dozens of Democrats plan to vote remotely in a first for the House House members race to prepare for first-ever remote votes MORE (D-Md.), David TroneDavid John TroneBicameral group of Democrats introduces bill to protect immigrant laborers Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Buttigieg targets Warren, Sanders on health care ahead of debate | Judge overturns ObamaCare transgender protections | Poll sees support drop for 'Medicare for All' Maryland lawmakers slam 'despicable' Trump remark about journalists on newsroom shooting anniversary MORE (D-Md.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate Democrats press OSHA official on issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard MORE (D-Wash.), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-Calif.), and Washington, D.C., Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonShadowy protesters inflame, muddle George Floyd debate DC delegate calls for closure of Lincoln and Jefferson memorials DC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill MORE (D).