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US DOL's Expanded U and T Visa Certifications for Victims of Workplace Crime

Dear friends,

The Obama administration has included two important changes with respect to U and T visas for victims of crime in the workplace and trafficking as part of its administrative reform, by expanding the DOL's U visa certification protocol to include three additional qualifying criminal activities, and committing to certification of T visas. It has also established an interagency task force to protect immigrant workers from employers who exploit their immigration status when they seek to exercise their workplace rights.

The DOL has posted a fact sheet here: http://www.dol.gov/dol/fact-sheet/immigration/u-t-visa.htm. The fact sheet specifies that these changes will be enacted in 2015.

Among the DOL's changes include:

* Expand its existing U visa certification program by certifying requests that include: extortion, fraud in foreign labor contracting, and forced labor. (Although forced labor is not specifically enumerated in the U visa statute, it should be considered substantially similar to involuntary servitude. See, e.g. United States v. Bradley, 390 F.3d 145 (1st Cir. 2004)).

* Certify applications for trafficking victims seeking T visas when human trafficking activity is detected in the course of the Wage and Hour Division's workplace investigations. The DOL will publish a Federal Register notice delegating authority to issue T visa certifications and will amend procedures and protocol to reflect these changes.

The Obama administration has also announced the establishment of an interagency working group addressing consistent enforcement of federal labor, employment, and labor laws, which will seek to ensure that federal enforcement authorities are not used to undermine worker protections through the use of immigration authorities in labor disputes, and strengthening processes for staying the removal and providing temporary work authorization for undocumented workers asserting workplace claims. See: http://www.dol.gov/dol/fact-sheet/immigration/interagency-working-group.htm.

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