WASHINGTON – The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) intends to focus more enforcement resources on businesses that employ undocumented workers. In a memorandum addressed to the leaders of US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, US Citizenship and Immigration Services and US Customs and Border Protection, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas launched a review of policies and practices that facilitate enforcement of wage protections, workplace safety, labor rights and other laws.

Mayorkas said DHS will develop a department-wide approach to worksite enforcement based upon the plans and recommendations presented in response to the memorandum.

“Our worksite enforcement efforts can have a significant impact on the well-being of individuals and the fairness of the labor market,” Mayorkas said. “Our accomplishments in this area make clear that we can maximize the impact of our efforts by focusing on unscrupulous employers who exploit the vulnerability of undocumented workers.

“These employers engage in illegal acts ranging from the payment of substandard wages to imposing unsafe working conditions and facilitating human trafficking and child exploitation,” he said. “Their culpability compels the intense focus of our enforcement resources.”

During the policy review, interim guidance governing the agency’s worksite enforcement efforts will include ending raids on workplaces.

“The deployment of mass worksite operations, sometimes resulting in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers, was not focused on the most pernicious aspect of our country’s unauthorized employment challenge: exploitative employers,” Mayorkas said in the memorandum. “These highly visible operations misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a tool of retaliation for, worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations. Moreover, such operations are inconsistent with the Department’s September 30, 2021, Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law and the individualized assessment they require.

“Given these concerns, please ensure we no longer conduct mass worksite operations and instead refocus our workplace enforcement efforts to better accomplish the goals outlined above,” he said.

Additionally, DHS will consider, on a case-by-case basis, requests by the US Department of Labor to exercise prosecutorial discretion for workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, workplace exploitation.

“In evaluating these requests, the legitimate enforcement interests of a federal government agency should be weighed against any derogatory information to determine whether a favorable exercise of discretion is merited,” Mayorkas said.

Read the full memorandum.