What is deferred action and how can it help you?
Here at Eagan we know just how hard it is to live and work in the USA without your documentation. That’s why we are always keeping track of changes in the United States’ immigration laws that might benefit you if you are currently struggling without papers. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security introduced changes to the Deferred Action process that could allow you to get a work permit within 30 days if you have been a victim of workplace abuse. Read on to see if you might apply.
First off, what is Deferred Action? Deferred Action is a temporary protection from deportation that is granted by programs created by the president of the United States. One form of Deferred Action you may have heard about is DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a 2012 program created by Barack Obama which protects undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as children (applications for DACA were accepted between 2012 and 2017). If you apply for deferred action, and you are approved, you will receive a work permit, which will allow you to live and work in the US without fear of deportation. However, there are drawbacks. After you get your work permit you will have to get it renewed, usually every two years. It is also not currently a pathway to long-term residency or citizenship.
Next, how has the program changed this year? On January 13, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new Deferred Action process for noncitizen workers who have been victims or witnesses of workplace abuse. The new process is intended to protect workers without papers who are especially vulnerable to exploitation. Here is what Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, had to say about that:
“Unscrupulous employers who prey on the vulnerability of noncitizen workers harm all workers and disadvantage businesses who play by the rules. We will hold these predatory actors accountable by encouraging all workers to assert their rights, report violations they have suffered or observed, and cooperate in labor standards investigations.”
Now, here’s where the exciting news comes in. USCIS will process all applications for the new Deferred Action program within 30 days. That means you could have the protection you need to live without fear within a month of applying. Let’s see if you might be eligible:
To qualify for a work permit under the new program you will have to meet the following conditions:
- Your boss abused you in some way. For instance:
- Wage and hour violations: they did not pay you enough money or did not pay you for the time that you worked.
- Workplace safety issues: they told you to do something unsafe or they did not give you training to complete a dangerous task.
- Threats: your boss threatened to report you to immigration or the police if you spoke out about the way they treated you.
- Sexual harassment: they made you feel uncomfortable by making inappropriate jokes or unwanted advances.
- Discrimination: they insulted you for your race or immigration status.
- Denied job-protected leave: they told you that you would be fired if you missed work because of the birth of a child or to attend the funeral of a close family member.
- Denied safe-leave: your boss told you that you could not take time off work to attend to your needs after you were the victim of domestic violence or stalking.
- Other examples of workplace abuse: this list does not cover every possible abuse that may qualify you for Deferred Action.
You or your attorney must report the abuse to one or more of the following government agencies:
- DOL – Department of Labor
- EEOC – Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Association
- NLRB – National Labor Relations Board
- WHD – Wage and Hour Division of DOL
The state and local labor agencies where you live.
The government agency must issue you a letter of support or “statement of interest” (a letter stating that the government is interested in investigating the abuse that you have reported)
You or your attorney requests to receive Deferred Action with USCIS
If you meet these conditions, there are a few other considerations to take into account:
- Do you have a Removal Order or are you in Removal Proceedings? If this is the case, USCIS will forward your request for Deferred Action to Immigrations and Custom Enforcement (ICE). They will decide whether or not to terminate the Removal Order or close Removal Proceedings on a case-by-case basis
- Do you have any criminal history? Although arrests do not mean your application will be automatically denied, you will have to explain what happened and why you still deserve to be approved.
- Were you a guest worker on a temporary visa when the abuse occurred and are now outside the United States? At the moment no process exists for people in this situation to apply for Deferred Action, however, the Department of Homeland Security has stated they are working to create a new process for guest workers.
For anyone who is working today in the United States without papers this is great news. Undocumented immigrants are especially vulnerable to abuse from their employers, but now there is a new, efficient way for them to get the justice they deserve. Although, as we explained, Deferred Action may not be a perfect solution, it is definitely a step in the right direction. Plus, if you are currently stuck waiting for USCIS to approve another application you have filed, Deferred Action can give you immediate protection.
Has your boss abused you at work? Do you think you might be eligible for Deferred Action? Then please reach out to Eagan Immigration. We would love to hear your story, answer any questions you might have, and, if you qualify, help you with your application. Talk to an Eagan Immigration specialist today at 202-709-6439.
Want to read more about Deferred Action? Here is a link to the Department of Homeland Security news release in Spanish: DHS anuncia mejoras en los procesos para apoyar las investigaciones de cumplimiento laboral | Homeland Security