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Rep. Chu and Sen. Menendez Introduce Bicameral POWER Act to Protect Immigrant Workers

May 22, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Judy Chu and Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) introduced the Protecting Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation (POWER) Act in the House and Senate. The legislation will provide U Visa eligibility for immigrant workers who report unsafe or unfair labor practices. The bill will also strengthen labor agencies’ investigative powers and allow a stay of removal and work authorization for workers who file a workplace claim. At a time of increasing workplace raids, discrimination, and threats against immigrants, these reforms will protect workers from employers who use illegal business practices and threaten workers with deportation if they go to the authorities. Along with Rep. Chu, the bill is also sponsored by Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03), and Reps. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), David Cicilline (RI-01), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.). Senator Menendez and Reps. Chu, Scott, and Lofgren released the following statements:

“As President Trump declares war on immigrants, calling them animals, rapists, and criminals, many unscrupulous employers are hearing an invitation to dehumanize the immigrants who work for them, knowing that, being undocumented, the workers risk deportation if they go to the authorities. We’re already seeing the impact of this in California, where worker complaints over immigration-related threats of retaliation are skyrocketing. Workers are even being denied pay and told that if they complain, their employer will call ICE. Clearly, they are responding to Trump’s message that the government has declared open season on the most vulnerable,” said Rep. Chu. “Through his words and actions, Trump has made it clear the government is more interested in protecting abusers and leaving victims without recourse. But despite the ignorant and xenophobic rhetoric from our President and his Republican allies, immigrants are still a vital part of our country and economy at every level, including agriculture, services, and manufacturing industries. And they deserve to be treated humanely and justly. That is what this bill is meant to address. The U visa provides temporary status for immigrants who are the victims of crimes.  The POWER Act builds on the U visa by ensuring that this visa protection is also provided to these workers who risk everything by reporting to authorities the employers who break the law by committing serious labor violations. Furthermore, it protects these workers who report illegal labor practices by preventing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from deporting workers before a full and fair investigation has been completed. As it stands, those who abuse workers are protected by the fear their workers’ fear of being deported. It’s an abuse of power that will end with this Act.”

“At a time when immigrants are facing an unprecedented assault from President Trump and his administration, we need to do all we can to protect immigrant workers from the threat of deportation and retaliation by their employers for reporting labor violations, including unsafe work environments and wage theft,” said Sen. Menendez.  “We are introducing this legislation as the administration’s dangerous rhetoric and policies have made immigrants less likely to report workplace violations and have emboldened unscrupulous employers to use the threat of deportation to silence them.  Furthermore, when the most vulnerable workers are able to freely report employer abuses, all workers are given more rights.”

“Employers should not be able to use the threat of deportation to retaliate against, intimidate, or punish an employee for exercising their rights,” said Ranking Member Scott. “The POWER Act will strengthen protections for all workers and help ensure that unscrupulous employers are brought to justice for labor violations. This bill also represents an important step forward in making sure that workers can fully realize their rights on the job and do not have to live in fear while trying to make a living.”

“Immigrant workers, particularly immigrant women, are among our nation’s most at-risk populations for abuse by their employers,” said Rep. Lofgren. “As we are now faced with the most anti-immigrant Administration in recent American history, Congress should be doing all it can to protect immigrant workers from exploitation and mistreatment.  The POWER Act would provide all workers with the guarantee that they can speak up against illegal treatment without fear of retaliation.”

The POWER Act is endorsed by: American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Church World Service, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Farmworker Justice, First Focus Campaign for Children, Immigration Hub, Indivisible, Jobs With Justice, NAACP, National Education Association, National Organization for Women, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, Service Employees Internationl Union (SEIU), United We Dream, UndocuBlack Network, and others.

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