Worksite Immigration Enforcement and No-Match

In poll after poll, the American public supports real immigration reform that brings undocumented workers out of the shadows. But public policy is pursuing an "enforcement only" approach - costly and disruptive worksite raids that separate families and criminalize workers. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activities disrupt organizing campaigns and undermine workers' exercise of their labor rights. Immigrants are penalized, rather than protected as victims of labor violations.

At the same time, attempts to require employers to verify workers' immigration status through flawed federal databases are on the rise. Twelve states now require employers to use the error-prone "E-Verify" system. The result is that law-abiding employers are confused by government rules and initiatives, which encourage them to use error-filled data systems to determine their employees' immigration status. And unscrupulous employers are finding ways to manipulate the system to deport workers who complain about labor violations.

NELP responds with the following strategies:

  • We work with U.S. citizens and immigrant workers to challenge proposals to turn Social Security "no-match" letters into an immigration enforcement tool -- by bringing workers' stories of abuse to the public eye, and by advising employers, unions and workers on the proper response to these letters.

  • We advise advocates on strategy when ICE enforcement follows assertion of workplace rights -- as in a recent court order in New Orleans, where day laborers detained after making a minimum wage complaint were certified for U-visas as victims of crime.

  • We work to ensure that the existing firewall between immigration enforcement and labor law enforcement, intended to keep ICE out of labor disputes, is honored.

  • We work with advocates and community groups to ensure that state policymakers understand that employer sanctions in general, and electronic verification in particular, are not a fix to our broken immigration system.

  • We highlight for policymakers the myriad studies that have documented the confusion, discrimination, and misuse that results from reliance on flawed databases to verify immigration status.

See also our work in the areas of Immigrant Workers' Rights and Remedies, State and Local Anti-Immigrant Legislation, and Enforcement of Workplace Standards. In addition to the resources listed here, NELP hosts the password-protected National Wage and Hour Clearinghouse at http://www.just-pay.org/.

For more information on our work in this area, please contact Rebecca Smith, rsmith@nelp.org.

Other key resources:

US Department of Labor and Immigration and Naturalization Service, Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Worksite Enforcement Sanctions and Labor Standards

California Immigrant Policy Center, Resources on Rapid Response

Low-Wage Immigrant Worker Coalition, Stop No-Match website

National Immigration Law Center, Social Security no-match letter toolkit

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Over-Raided, Under Siege: US Immigration Laws and Enforcement Destroy the Rights of Immigrants