Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta recently announced actions “to increase protections of American workers while more aggressively confronting entities committing visa program fraud and abuse,” according to a Department of Labor (DOL) press release. Secretary Acosta said these measures will include “heightened use of criminal referrals. The U.S. Department of Labor will focus on preventing visa program abuse and take every available legal action against those who abuse these programs.”
The announcement states that “it is now the policy of the department to enforce vigorously all laws within its jurisdiction governing the administration and enforcement of non-immigrant visa programs,” including:
- Directing the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to use all its tools in conducting civil investigations to enforce labor protections provided by the visa programs.
- Directing the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) to develop proposed changes to the Labor Condition Application, and directing the WHD to review its investigatory forms, to better identify systematic violations and potential fraud, and to provide greater transparency for agency personnel, U.S. workers, and the general public.
- Directing the WHD, ETA, and Office of the DOL Solicitor to coordinate the administration and enforcement activities of the visa programs and make referrals of criminal fraud to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
- Establishing a working group made up of senior leadership from ETA, WHD, and the Solicitor’s office to supervise these efforts and coordinate enforcement. The working group will invite OIG to send representatives to participate in its efforts.
DOL will continue to work with the departments of Justice and Homeland Security to further investigate and detect visa program fraud and abuse, the announcement states.
In addition, DOL said it has begun “to prioritize and publicize the investigation and prosecution of entities in violation of visa programs.” For example, the agency announced that it obtained a preliminary injunction under the H-2A visa program from the U.S. District Court for Arizona against G Farms for “illegal and life-threatening housing provided to agricultural workers.” DOL said it “continues to investigate the violations at G Farms and has also been in contact with the OIG on this matter.”
This announcement comes on the heels of President Trump’s April 18, 2017, executive order ordering several agencies to suggest H-1B reforms. The Department of Homeland Security said it plans to issue new rules and guidance on the H-1B program. According to reports, the White House is also working with the Department of Justice to consider measures such as reducing the numerical limit on, and duration of, H-1B visas, among other actions.
The announcement is at https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/opa/opa20170606.