Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Alejandro N. Mayorkas has issued a policy directive to immediately discontinue mass worksite enforcement operations.

These involve large-scale law enforcement operations resulting in the arrest of hundreds of unauthorized workers. They were a significant part of the Trump Administration’s worksite enforcement strategy.

Secretary Mayorkas criticized these large-scale operations targeting unauthorized workers as failing to target “exploitative employers” and having a chilling effect on employees working for “substandard wages” and in unsafe working conditions.

The Secretary directed that ICE, USCIS, and CBP undertake a policy review to help develop an overall Departmental strategy that will:

  • Reduce the demand for illegal employment by delivering more severe consequences to exploitative employers;
  • Increase the willingness of workers to report violations of law by exploitative employers, including making sure that employers do not threaten workers with E-Verify with the intent to prevent unauthorized workers from reporting unlawful labor practices such as substandard wages, unsafe working conditions, and other forms of worker exploitation; and
  • Broaden coordination between DHS and other federal and state agencies involved worksite enforcement, such as the Department of Labor, Department of Justice, EEOC, NLRB, and state labor agencies.

Reports on the policy reviews will be due in 60 days – by mid-December 2021.

During the interim period, ICE, USCIS, and CBP are directed to cease mass worksite operations that are not focused on exploitative employers. It is expected that DHS will continue to conduct I-9 audits which are administrative in nature.

While the full effect of this policy directive remains to be seen, employers can expect they will be the subject of further compliance efforts from both immigration and labor authorities.

Jackson Lewis attorneys will provide updates as the immigration enforcement agencies start acting on Secretary Mayorkas’ new policy.