Domestic workers filled with fear over Trump’s threat of deportation

A poster representing the Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights greets visitors to the A​lliance of ​F​ilipinos ​for I​mmigrant ​R​ights and ​E​mpowerment​ in Chicago.

By Jiayan (Jenny) Shi

O’lola Ann Olib, a Philippine caregiver in Chicago, says she was excited about the Illinois domestic workers’ rights bill; however, she expresses a sense of uncertainty for her friends who remain undocumented as President Donald Trump continues to push his deportation agenda.

“I was happy that there’s domestic rights, very excited. …. We have rights now, then my [undocumented] co-workers said, ‘Where will we go after this? We have no document to show. …’ ” said Olib, 66, who received documented status in 2012. “There’s nothing in place like implementation orders.”

Olib is among the thousands of immigrant workers who are concerned about the Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which went into effect Jan. 1. Since Trump assumed office, he has taken steps to fulfill his campaign promise of deporting those immigrants who are illegally in the United States. On Wednesday, Trump delayed signing his revised travel ban in the wake of the positive reaction to his Tuesday address to Congress.

“There are undocumented people from all over the world, and under the executive order and now the new memo, basically anybody who was undocumented will be enforcement priority,” said Fred Tsao, the senior policy counsel at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “Filipinos, Chinese or Koreans, other Asians and other people from other countries are going to be affected by all of these. So it’s just not Mexicans or Latinos.”

According to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, or NDWA, the bill protects workers’ basic rights, ensuring they’re paid at least a state minimum wage, are given one day off a week and guaranteed freedom from sexual harassment.

“Most employment laws, including state laws, have to be enforced regardless of the immigration status, whether they are documented or undocumented. It’s applicable,” said Wendy Pollack, the director of the Women’s Law and Policy Project at the Shriver Center.

However, during the first month of Trump’s administration, the sudden overturn of American immigrant policy and other potential changes deteriorated the unstable status of undocumented immigrant domestic workers.

“I know how the undocumented feel now, because I have the same feel for a long time,” Olib said. “Now they are hiding in the residencies of patients. They are safer there. They are no longer hiding where their addresses are.”

Linda Burnham, senior adviser of NDWA, said, “[Trump] has created a much more hostile political environment affecting domestic workers’ rights.”

According to professor Jack C Doppelt at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, undocumented immigrant domestic workers cannot benefit from the bill directly as it’s designed.

“The bill doesn’t protect undocumented specifically, so I don’t think it will do any good to domestic workers who are undocumented in Illinois,” said Doppelt, who specializes in reporting of legal and immigrant affairs. “I think for them to try to get it enforced in their work setting, they won’t be able to, because there’s always a possibility that they can be reported for being undocumented.”

In terms of protecting undocumented workers who suffered employers’ abuse, U visa, a type of visa for victims of crimes, might work in these cases, according to Margaret O’Donoghue, the associate attorney at Law Office of Robert D. Ahlgren and Associates in Chicago.

“They can complain, and if they do get fired for doing so, they’re retaliated against, they might not guarantee, but they might have a strong case for a U visa so that’s one immigration right they can sort of exercise with immigration — remedy one positive of a negative situation,” O’Donoghue said.

Photo at top: A poster representing the Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights greets visitors to the A​lliance of ​F​ilipinos ​for I​mmigrant ​R​ights and ​E​mpowerment​ in Chicago. (Jiayan Shi/MEDILL)