Head of the Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta Delivers Remarks at the Signing Ceremony for MOU Between the Justice Department and the Republic of Ecuador
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you, Ambassador [Francisco José] Borja Cevallos, for your kind words, for your support in hosting this historic ceremony and for your outstanding service to the people of Ecuador. In a history that spans more than five decades, today marks the Civil Rights Division’s first ever Memorandum of Understanding with a foreign country. We are delighted to stand with you and your colleagues to advance our nations’ shared commitment to empowering workers, to combating unlawful discrimination and to protecting the rights of our people.
Since its founding, America has stood as a beacon of promise and a land of opportunity for immigrants from around the world. Our nation draws its strength, identity and resiliency from the diversity of our people. As the daughter of immigrants and as a civil rights lawyer, I have seen firsthand the inspiring stories that result when we provide all people – regardless of where they come from or what they look like – with the opportunity to succeed. But I have also seen the barriers and roadblocks that can develop when discrimination gets in the way.
Through our Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, the Civil Rights Division protects the rights of lawful, authorized U.S. workers to be free from discrimination. Time and again, we find that companies discriminate against immigrants by refusing to hire foreign-born workers, or requiring immigrant workers to show unnecessary work-authorization documents and even firing those who cannot. Through our enforcement of the Immigration and Nationality Act, we continue to achieve tangible results. Last fiscal year, the Civil Rights Division obtained more than $1.5 million from employers in the form of civil penalties and back pay for workers. In the last month alone, we’ve reached settlements with a major fast food chain and three Nevada taxicab companies. In both of these agreements, employers agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in civil penalties and victim compensation, undergo extensive monitoring and provide employees with anti-discrimination training.
The Ecuadorean Embassy and consulates play a critical role in these efforts. Not only do you help immigrant workers seeking assistance, but you also proactively engage with your communities to educate workers about their rights, provide them with guidance and direct them to the necessary resources.
Today’s agreement builds on the vital work already underway between our offices by establishing a referral process for potential complaints, by providing training for consular staff and by assisting with joint public outreach efforts. Together, we will continue to strengthen this collaborative partnership between our countries to combat unlawful discrimination in the workplace. I am grateful for your steadfast efforts so far. I am inspired by your commitment to the ideal of equal justice for all. And with great anticipation, I look forward to the progress we will continue to achieve together in the days to come.
Updated August 19, 2016