On February 13, 2023, the Department of Labor announced it has finally granted the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the authority to issue T and U Visa certifications. This long-awaited authority will increase opportunities for survivors of human trafficking to access the T Visa. The T Visa provides immigration status to non-citizen survivors, including a path to citizenship, providing immediate safety and access to services and benefits. The work authorization offered by the T Visa provides a path to safe and legal jobs for survivors.
Exploitative employers in the US often target non-citizen workers for forced labor and threaten them with deportation if they report it. Temporary worker visas are designed to give employers power over their immigrant workers, leading to the abuse of untold numbers of workers who are beholden to their abusive employers. The US government has been complicit in this form of trafficking by deporting workers who are being exploited or trafficked rather than providing assistance and relief to victims.
Trafficking can and does happen in many labor sectors, including agriculture, construction, retail, and manufacturing. OHSA is uniquely positioned to identify potential human trafficking during routine workplace inspections and investigations. This authority will improve OSHA’s ability to assist workers by giving them access to immigration relief and critical services. All workers deserve protections that make their jobs safer, and adding T and U Visa certifications to OSHA’s authority provides another option for protection for immigrant survivors.
FNUSA looks forward to seeing the Department of Labor finally take concrete steps to protect immigrant workers and hopes this new authority will be utilized fully.