Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit: Bureaucratic Incorporation of Immigrants in Federal Workplace Agencies

72 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2012 Last revised: 24 Feb 2015

See all articles by Ming Hsu Chen

Ming Hsu Chen

University of Colorado Law School; UC Hastings Law

Date Written: March 9, 2012


This article integrates social science theory about immigrant incorporation and administrative agencies with empirical data about immigrant-serving federal workplace agencies to illuminate the role of bureaucracies in the construction of rights. More specifically, it contends that immigrants’ rights can be protected when workplace agencies incorporate immigrants into labor law enforcement, in accordance with their professional ethos and organizational mandates. Building on Miles’ Law that “where you stand depends on where you sit,” I argue that agencies exercise discretion in the face of contested law and in contravention to a political climate hostile to undocumented immigrants for the purpose of protecting workers. The implication is that strongly pro-immigrant policies in the political branches are not necessary for the recovery of immigrants’ rights. Instead, entrenched institutional commitments to professional ethics and recognition of organizational mandates sometimes suffice. Empirical evidence of regulatory responses to immigrant workers after Hoffman Plastic v. NLRB in three federal agencies serve as comparative case studies: the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the National Labor Relations Board.

Keywords: immigration, labor and employment, administrative law, politics, regulation, social science, legal mobilization, rights, Hoffman Plastic

JEL Classification: H11, L28, J38, J71, L50

Suggested Citation

Chen, Ming Hsu, Where You Stand Depends on Where You Sit: Bureaucratic Incorporation of Immigrants in Federal Workplace Agencies (March 9, 2012). Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, 2012, U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-03, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2019181 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2019181

Ming Hsu Chen (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States

UC Hastings Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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