Labor Department Pact for Aliens Raises Legal Questions

Thursday, 01 Sep 2011 03:56 PM

By Andra Varin

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The U.S. Labor Department’s determination to make sure all workers, including illegal immigrants, are paid legal wages may be a violation of federal law, according to a report at CNSNews.com.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis signed partnership agreements Monday with a group of Latin American nations that will require the U.S. government to protect the working conditions for both documented and undocumented workers.

“No matter how you got here or how long you plan to stay, you have certain rights. You have the right to be safe and in a healthy workplace and the right to a legal wage,” Solis said during the signing ceremony.

In a written statement Wednesday in answer to a question from CNSNews, the Labor Department confirmed that it would enforce wage laws to protect workers “regardless of their immigration status.”

The website’s report questioned whether that might violate an existing law, noting: “The Labor Department’s determination to make U.S. employers treat illegal aliens taking jobs in the United States as if they were U.S citizens or legal immigrants seems to contradict the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

“That act says ‘employers may hire only persons who may legally work in the United States [i.e., citizens and nationals of the U.S.] and aliens authorized to work in the U.S.’ and that the U.S. government ‘protects U.S. citizens and aliens authorized to accept employment in the U.S. from discrimination in hiring or discharge on the basis of national origin and citizenship status,’” CNSNews reported.

On Monday, Solis told CNSNews that her department was following the practice of previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican.

“All we’re doing is enforcing the law and we’re allowing for other individual groups and partnerships with other consulate offices to work with us in expanding our reach in information. What we’re trying to avoid is that vulnerable communities be abused and that there be an increase in more underground activity, economic activity that goes untapped, those moneys that are being paid to workers,” she said.

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