tags: Press Releases

AV’s Legal Advisor David Leopold: New Whistleblower DHS Rule Would Have Helped Undocumented Workers Fired By Donald Trump

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Read David Leopold’s Medium Post HERE

Washington, DC – In a new Medium post, David Leopold assesses why the recently announced DHS policy aimed at “protecting workers who have witnessed or are victim to labor rights violations by dishonest employers” is important for both non-citizen and American workers and reminds readers why such a policy would have been meaningful for the former undocumented workers who spotlighted Donald Trump and the Trump Organization’s hypocrisy and violation of immigration and labor laws. Leopold is Legal Advisor to America’s Voice, past president, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and Immigration Group Leader, Ulmer & Berne LLP.

Read David Leopold’s Medium post: “What DHS Just Announced Would Have Helped Undocumented Workers Fired By Donald Trump,” and find pasted below:

“Help is on the way for undocumented workers exploited by unscrupulous employers. It comes in the form of a new Department of Homeland Security policy aimed at protecting workers who have witnessed or are victim to labor rights violations by dishonest employers.

Noncitizen workers who are part of a local, state or federal labor agency investigation may request deferred action–protection from deportation–for a two year period. DHS is implementing the initiative because “workers are sometimes afraid to report violations of law by exploitative employers or to cooperate in employment and labor standards investigations because they fear removal or other immigration-related retaliation due to reports by an abusive employer.” Now they’ll be empowered to stand up to bad actor employers.

This initiative not only helps non-citizens stand up to abuse, but strengthens the rights of every American worker from being exploited by unscrupulous employers. This levels the playing field for all workers and for employers who are not engaged in exploitative or illegal labor practices. It prevents employers from using the immigration status of an employee as leverage to hide or avoid enforcement of clear labor violations.

It’s too bad the DHS policy wasn’t in place in 2019 when the Washington Post, in a damning series of exposes, reported that the Trump Organization illegally employed and abused at least 48 undocumented workers at 11 of its properties, including the Trump Bedminster Golf Club and Trump’s personal residence at Mar-A-Lago. Housekeepers, groundskeepers, cooks and brick masons employed by the Trump Organization told of decades of exploitation and abuse. Sandra Diaz and Victorina Morales worked at Trump’s Bedminster Club where they cleaned his home, set out his make-up and ironed his boxer shorts. They were among the former employees interviewed by Samantha Bee for an in depth segment of her program “Full Frontal” entitled “The Well-Documented Case of Trump’s Undocumented Employees,” which is must watch TV.

The workers’ shocking testimony made plain that Trump, who built his political brand by demonizing immigrants as criminals and rapists, was, at the same time, exploiting and abusing them for personal financial gain in clear violation of U.S. labor, employment and criminal law. The investigation revealed that not only was Trump a hypocrite, he was an unscrupulous employer who was gaming the very immigration law he so brazenly claimed others were violating. According to the workers, Trump Organization managers and executives knew of their undocumented status and, in some cases, even helped procure fake immigration documents. Clearly, it seemed, the Trump Organization should be held accountable for thumbing its nose at state and federal labor an immigration laws.

But that’s not what happened.

While the State of New York opened an investigation, the Trump-run U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Labor ignored the overwhelming evidence of the Trump Organization’s civil and criminal immigration and employment law violations. DHS never even acknowledged the evidence of Trump wrongdoing that was submitted via the Department’s ICE “Tip Line.” Predictably, the Trump Organization denied any wrongdoing, fired the whistleblowing workers, and, in a ridiculous effort to claim they were in compliance with the law, adopted the federal E-Verify worker verification system.

Clearly, the Trump Organization’s multi-state criminal conspiracy to violate immigration and labor laws screamed out for full enforcement action by the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice.

As for the undocumented workers, after going public with their stories of abuse at the hands of the Trump Organization, many lived in fear of deportation by ICE. Despite speaking truth to power at great risk to themselves and their families, none had easy access to whistleblower protection by the Department of Homeland Security. And, in the absence of a criminal investigation of the Trump Organization, none were able to take advantage of protective visa categories such as the T or U visas.

The Trump worker abuse scandal underscores why the DHS process for supporting employment and labor investigations is so important to all workers. If undocumented workers are empowered to come forward without fear of deportation, bad actor employers like Trump will lose their ability to force them to work for substandard wages and without benefits. The policy appropriately recognizes that the interests of all workers, documented and documented, are aligned when it comes to enforcement of U.S. labor and employment law. According to DHS the new policy “directly increases the ability of labor and employment agencies to more fully investigate worksite violations” and hold “abusive employers accountable, which protects all U.S. workers.” That’s because a corrupt employer like Donald Trump is more likely to pay lower wages in violation of state and federal wage laws if he can get away with it, thus depressing the wages of all workers.

If implemented effectively, the DHS initiative could lead to a much needed paradigm shift in immigration enforcement. For far too long, the federal government’s immigration enforcement apparatus has targeted undocumented workers for arrest and deportation often giving a pass to unscrupulous employers who violate the labor and immigration laws. Immigration enforcement should focus on employers who victimize undocumented workers, not on the undocumented workers who are victims of serious criminal and civil labor and employment violations.

The DHS labor enforcement policy should be championed by all who care about American workers regardless of party affiliation. But to state the obvious, it’s not just Trump who rails against immigrants while exploiting them to suit his interests. Republican hypocrisy on immigration is rampant. Trump’s main 2024 opponent, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, spews anti-immigrant rhetoric and engages in cruel publicity stunts but knows full well that his state’s agriculture economy will collapse without undocumented workers. And he knows they are critical to the rebuilding of Florida after last year’s hurricanes. Now, with the new DHS policy, undocumented workers in Florida who have witnessed and/or have been victimized by labor rights violations can openly seek protection too.

The DHS initiative, which requires a federal, state or local labor agency to send a detailed “Letter of Interest” to DHS, is imperfect to be sure. And there is much to be done to ensure the protection of U.S. workers, including enacting policies to broadly legalize long-term undocumented immigrant workers. But it’s a good first step toward shifting the focus of immigration enforcement from undocumented workers to bad actor employers–like the former President.”