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News Release

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.


Employment Standards Administration

ESA Press Release: Labor Department and INS Sign Memorandum of Understanding to Enhance Labor Standards Enforcement to Aid U.S. Workers [11/23/1998]

For more information call: (202) 693-0023

The Labor Department's Employment Standards Administration (ESA) and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) today signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) aimed at promoting job opportunities and better working conditions for legal U.S. workers through strengthened enforcement of fair labor standards and employer sanctions. A key goal of the agreement, which clarifies the roles of the two agencies and establishes how and when they will coordinate operations, is to allay fears in the immigrant community that prevent complaints about labor abuses by unscrupulous employers from being filed.

"Commissioner Meissner and I believe this MOU will enhance our respective agencies' missions to achieve compliance with our immigration law and basic employment standards, whether it be the minimum wage, overtime, non-discrimination or other standards for legal workers in the United States," said Bernard E. Anderson, Assistant Secretary for the Employment Standards Administration.

"The Administration is committed to ensuring that workers in abusive situations can file complaints with the Department of Labor without fear of repercussions, regardless of their immigration status," said INS Commissioner Doris Meissner. "In addition, the MOU will sharpen our focus on businesses that flout U.S. immigration laws by hiring undocumented workers for substandard wages and employing them under conditions that range from improper to inhumane."

"With this MOU, ESA will be able to focus its efforts on the source of illegal immigration, that is, those employers who lure illegal workers into this country, pay them less than legal workers, and maintain substandard, often intimidating working environments."

The MOU requires both agencies to appropriately coordinate enforcement. Labor investigators, when responding to workers' complaints alleging labor violations will no longer refer suspected violations of immigrations laws to INS. This action should increase the willingness of undocumented workers to step forward and report violations. The MOU will also enhance the exchange of information between the two agencies.

"What we are saying to all workers in the United States through this MOU is that your rights will be protected," said Anderson. "What we are saying to employers who hire illegal workers is that you will find no bargain and risk prosecution."

ESA's Wage and Hour Division is responsible for enforcing laws which maintain workplace employment standards including the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. ESA's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs enforces laws protecting employees of federal contractors against all forms of discrimination.

INS is responsible for enforcing Section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the provisions commonly referred to as "employer sanctions." These provisions are an integral part of INS' enforcement mission. While strengthened border enforcement prevents significant numbers of illegal aliens from entering the country, worksite enforcement is the primary means of reducing the job magnet to draw illegal aliens to the United States.

Archived News Release — Caution: Information may be out of date.

Employment Standards Administration
November 23, 1998
Media Contact: David Roberts
Phone Number