MALDEF files lawsuits, alleging discrimination based on DACA status

A new front in the fight surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is opening up, this time around employment.

When President Trump rescinded DACA last year, it appeared as though the program would end. DACA, which was implemented under the Obama administration, allows undocumented young immigrants who apply and qualify to work and study in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Yet the March 5th deadline for the program’s termination has come and gone, and DACA remains in place, thanks to several court rulings.

Most recently, in April, a federal judge ruled against the Trump administration efforts to end DACA, giving the DOJ 90 days to submit a legal justification for its rescission, and this week the state of Texas sued the administration, hoping to end the program.

Meanwhile, legal challenges are being brought on behalf of DACA grantees, alleging that they are the victims of discriminatory hiring practices.

In one case, Daniel Marques, a graduate of Kean University in New Jersey, applied for a job with Allied Wealth Partners in 2016. “As you go through the interview process, you can usually tell how people are receiving you. I could tell they were optimistic about working with me,” he told NBC News. But after Marques disclosed that he was a DACA beneficiary, he said he was informed that company policy disqualified him from employment with the firm.

“When it was explained to me, I felt just a combination of shock and confusion,” Marques said.

Another DACA recipient, David Rodriguez, applied for an internship with Procter and Gamble in 2013 while attending Florida International University. “I was really excited to possibly be working for a large company, because I am a first-generation immigrant without other family members whose career path I could follow,” he said, “and I more than fulfilled the academic requirements.”

Rodriguez was denied the internship and he believes it was because of his immigration status; he said that he was told that the company’s policy was that applicants had to be legally authorized to work in the U.S. without restraint on the type, duration, or nature of employment.

Currently Marques and Rodriguez are being represented by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), in conjunction with other firms, in two separate lawsuits against Allied Wealth and Procter and Gamble, respectively. These cases both turn on claims of discriminatory employment practices against non-citizens.

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MALDEF reached a settlement in a 2014 class action against Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance that involved a DACA recipient who was denied employment based on the company’s policy to hire only U.S. citizens and green card holders.

Saenz pointed out that, in the cases of both Marques and Rodriguez, their potential employers were interested in them, until they learned of their DACA status.

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Saenz of MALDEF acknowledged that Procter & Gamble may have changed their policies. Still, he said that it was important that the suit against the company proceed, to send a message to other companies that discrimination can be costly, and to establish further precedent against it. The lawsuits are important, too, because Saenz believes that there is a significant amount of hiring discrimination against DACA grantees that is never reported.

MALDEF filed suit against Allied Wealth in April, while the case against Procter and Gamble was recently cleared to move forward as a class action by a federal judge.

These lawsuits come at a time where discrimination in the workplace is a concern for DACA grantees as well as Latinos overall. A 2017 study by NPR found that one-third of Latinos said that they had been personally discriminated against based on their ethnicity when applying for jobs.

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