The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) continues to combat employer discriminatory practices in violation of U.S. immigration law. The most recent example came this week, when the Department of Justice announced a settlement agreement with Temple Beth El, a synagogue in Boca Raton, Florida. After receiving information from the public, the DOJ initiated the investigation to determine whether the synagogue was violating the Immigration and Nationality Act’s anti-discrimination provision. The investigation revealed the company discriminated on two separate occasions by asking lawful permanent residents to present specific documents to prove their permission to work in the United States, while making no such request of U.S. citizens.
Anti-Discrimination Under the Immigration & Nationality Act
The anti-discrimination provisions of the INA can be found at 8 U.S.C § 1324(b) and its associated regulations at 28 C.F.R. Part 44. These provisions prohibit discrimination based on citizenship status and national origin in the hiring, firing, recruitment, and referral of workers for a fee. The provisions also outlaw unfair documentary practices, such as the one involved in this case. Finally, these laws make it illegal to retaliate against or intimidate a protected person who files a discrimination-related complaint against the employer. Failure to comply with these laws can result in prosecution, leading to civil penalties and other sanctions.
The DOJ Civil Rights Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section enforces the anti-discrimination provisions of the INA, and under the Biden administration, enforcement has been steady. According to Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division, “Employers cannot discriminate against workers by asking them for specific documents to prove their permission to work based on their citizenship, immigration status or national origin.” In fact, employers must allow all employees, regardless of their citizenship status, to provide any valid, acceptable document of their choice to prove their permission to work.
DOJ Enforcement of Discrimination Claims
The Biden administration continues its focus on enforcement of the anti-discrimination provisions of the INA to protect vulnerable noncitizen employees from unfair and illegal practices. Accordingly, it is imperative that employers consider the legal consequences of their policies, exercise the utmost care in implementing their hiring practices, and ensure compliance with immigration law.