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Government protection for immigrant victims of discrimination, violence and hate

How to file a complaint with the government if you are undocumented

The Department of Justice details the four types of discrimination for which the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section was founded in 2017.

This office is in charge of receiving complaints and investigating discriminatory conduct against immigrants. In this case we are talking about documented or legal immigrants or refugees or those who are under the protection of political asylum.

Protection of migrant workers

The law prohibits employers in places with fewer than 15 employees from treating these people “differently because of their citizenship or immigration status.” It also prohibits discrimination based on the immigrant’s nationality of origin, as well as their ancestry, mother tongue, accent or for appearing or sounding like foreigners.

It also prohibits employers from requesting additional or different documents than those required to verify employment eligibility.

Those who work in places with more than 15 employees are equally protected, but should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which has jurisdiction.

This is what the federal Department of Justice asks you to do before filing a complaint: call 1-800-255-7688, where they can help in these cases:

  • So that you are sure that the IER is the right office.
  • In case you have questions about what to do.
  • In case you want to know what happens after filing the complaint
  • And in case you need help from the IER right now.

That call will ensure that when filing an immigrant discrimination lawsuit, you are ready. Then, you can fill out the application online.

How to send the documents

If you are an immigrant, you cannot be discriminated against during hiring, dismissal or recruitment or recommendation. They cannot discriminate against you whether you are a citizen, a recent permanent resident, or a temporary resident, and they cannot discriminate against you if you are an asylee or refugee.

But beware: If you are a permanent resident and were already eligible for naturalization and you did not apply within six months of becoming eligible, you are not protected from discrimination.

Once completed – by typing or in legible handwriting – you must send the form by email to IER@usdoj.gov or by fax to the number (202) 616-5509

From the moment you were discriminated against, you have six months to file the complaint.

Additional documents that may be required

It is a good idea to have documents that prove what is in your complaint. For that, wait for an email confirmation of your complaint to arrive. Use the reference number on the confirmation and mail a copy (not the originals) of those documents to:

Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), Civil Rights Division, US Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW (4CON), Washington, DC 20530

Another option is to scan the documents and send them to the email that is on the confirmation, along with the reference number. You can also fax them to 202-616-5509.

The undocumented are also protected

The situation is different in the case of undocumented immigrants, but they also enjoy protections under the law, although less.

The problem is that many undocumented immigrants are afraid to admit that they have been the victim of a crime for fear of deportation if they report it. To overcome that doubt, the federal government has formulated specific protections for victims of domestic violence, victims of certain crimes, and victims of human trafficking.

It is frequent the case of undocumented women who are married or live with men who are citizens or permanent residents and who abuse them, threatening them with deportation if they complain. For them, the Violence Against Women Act or VAWA ensures a path to immigration legality regardless of their partner. They can apply for the Green Card themselves without the need for the abuser to apply for immigration benefits on their behalf. This allows them to report them without fear of retaliation.

These victims of cruelty of the person to whom they are related as husband, father or mother or son or daughter and with whom they live can apply by filling out the I 360 form

Visa U,  Visa T

For victims of general crimes who are undocumented, the government offers the U nonimmigrant visa, which provides immigration protection against deportation when the victim collaborates with law enforcement agencies. It requires police certification. There is a list of 27 crimes that make their victims eligible for a U Visa and the list can be found on this site.

Finally, the government offers T-Visas to victims of human trafficking, when victims are lured under the false pretense of good jobs and better lives, and then forced to work in brutal and dangerous conditions. Here, too, the main condition for victims to apply for and receive a visa is that they help the police in the investigation and prosecution of their case.


This article was supported in whole or in part by funds provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library and the Latino Media Collaborative.

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