WASHINGTON – Congressional investigators say they’ve uncovered another attempt by the Obama administration to aid illegal immigrants in the U.S. – this time, by teaching foreign workers lessons on union organizing.
The National Labor Relations Board has entered into agreements with Mexico, Ecuador and the Philippines to teach workers from those countries in the United States their rights when it comes to union activity.
The agreements reportedly don’t distinguish between illegal and legal immigrants. But lawmakers are worried it’s part of an effort to shield illegal immigrants specifically, by encouraging them to join a union and get protection.
NLRB spokeswoman Jessica Kahanek explained to Fox News that under the National Labor Relations Act, “employees, whether documented or undocumented, are protected from retaliation due to union or other protected concerted activity."
That means employers could be charged for dismissing an illegal immigrant worker – if the firing is determined to be tied to the worker’s union activity
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, argued illegal immigrant workers could soon learn to exploit the system, creating a catch-22 for businesses.
“They could instead be charged with violating the National Labor Relations Act because someone will claim that they're doing it because the individual is engaged in unionization activities," Goodlatte said.
He also claimed the Obama administration was trying to keep the NLRB union education agreements, which were originally signed in 2013 and 2014, quiet.
"This is the first we've learned of this and it's the first that news organizations have learned of this -- and they didn't learn it because the administration came out and told them,” Goodlatte told Fox News.
“They learned about it because of leaked materials, and again, that is not the kind of transparency the American people expect of their government."
An NLRB official, though, disputed the notion that the agreement was a "new development or something that was intentionally being kept out of the news."
Yet it isn’t just the NLRB that could view union activity as a shield for illegal immigrants.
In June 2011, then-Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton issued a memo saying: “ICE officers, special agents and attorneys are reminded to exercise all appropriate discretion on a case-by-case basis when making detention and enforcement decisions in the cases . . . [of] individuals engaging in a protected activity related to civil or other rights (for example, union organizing).”
While this may serve as a way to boost union membership at a time when their numbers are trending downward, one activist said it will likely hurt U.S. citizen union members in the end.
"It seems that the union is almost selling out the interests of American workers and legal immigrant workers in order to boost its membership by appealing to illegal workers and getting the assistance of other countries in doing that,” Jessica Vaughan, of the Center for Immigration Studies, told Fox News.
Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.