Labor Department Does Not Track Illegal Aliens' Complaints Against Employers

September 27, 2010 - 4:05 AM
'We Can Help' won't release information on complaints against employers.

Labor Dept.'s 'We Can Help' Program

(Image courtesy of U.S. Department of Labor Web site)

(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Department of Labor unveiled its “We Can Help” campaign to protect workers “regardless of their immigration status” as part of a big event in Chicago seven months ago. But the department is not releasing information about complaints from illegal aliens made against employers since the outreach campaign began.

That’s according to Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group that announced a lawsuit against the Labor Department on Friday. Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the agency, but it has not received information on “records of complaints by undocumented workers under the Wage and Hour Davison’s ‘We Can Help’ program.”

The Labor Department does not keep data on who is undocumented or not, a Wage and Hour Division spokeswoman told CNSNews.com Friday. The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division stresses that this is not a new program, but rather an outreach campaign designed not just for illegal aliens but for all workers.

The “We Can Help” campaign targets such industries as construction, janitorial work, hotel/motel services, food services and home health care. The department released a number of public service announcements, one featuring Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, activists Dolores Huerta and actors Jimmy Smits and Esai Morales, all who advertise the hotline, 866-4US-WAGE.

“The department is renewing  its emphasis on reaching and assisting workers who often find themselves denied the pay legally guaranteed to them by law,” the Labor Department’s April 1 news release said. “The campaign also underscores that wage and hour laws apply to all workers in the United States, regardless of immigration status.”

In her public service announcement promoting the “We Can Help” campaign, Solis said,

“Remember, every worker in America has a right to be paid fairly whether documented or not.”

On the “We Can Help” Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page, one question is: “Not everyone on my job has a green card. If I complain about my pay, will workers be reported to Immigration? Is everyone who works entitled to the minimum wage?” The answer is, “WHD [Wage and Hour Division] will continue to enforce the FLSA [Fair Labor Standards Act] and MSPA [Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act] without regard to an employee’s immigration status. No employer should have an unfair advantage because he employs undocumented employees and doesn’t pay them.”

After requesting all information about illegal aliens from April 1 through July 9, the Labor Department has not responded to Judicial Watch within 20 working days as required by law, according to the lawsuit.”

The lack of transparency contrasts sharply with the publicity campaign when the campaign was introduced, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said.

“This is all too typical of the political spin of this administration,” Fitton told CNSNews.com. “When it comes to transparency and accountability for a program, they are downright hostile. I don’t want anyone to be taken advantage of. But my guess is the campaign isn’t doing anything.”

“This administration refuses to distinguish people who are here legally from people who are here illegally,” Fitton said.

But there are two ways of looking at the Labor Department’s outreach program, said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, an immigration think tank that supports border enforcement.

“I’m of two minds. On one hand, the fact that the Department of Labor’s program is helping illegal aliens legitimizes them and incorporates them into our institutions,” Krikorian told CNSNews.com. “On the other hand, anything that makes it more expensive for employers to hire illegal aliens is a good thing.”

“The thing that I would be more comfortable with is if illegal aliens get the money that employers stole from them – and send it home to them after they’re deported,” Krikorian said.