BIDEN ADMIN: Federal Agents to No Longer Enforce, Undertake Workplace Arrests of Illegal Immigrant Employees


3-page memo directs U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, Customs & Border Protection Agency, and Citizenship & Immigration Services to draw up plans

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Texas Insider Report) — According to a new memo released by President Joe Biden's Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on Tuesday, Federal Immigration Agents will no longer be undertaking and enforcing workplace arrests of illegal immigrant employees suspected of living in the U.S. without legal permission. The focus will instead shift to pursuing “unscrupulous employers who exploit the vulnerability of undocumented workers” and emphasize fighting worker abuse including paying substandard wages, unsafe working conditions and human trafficking.

Along with ending worksite arrests, Mayorkas (at right with President Biden earlier this year signing Exec. Orders reversing many of President Donald Trump's previous Immigration Policies,) said immigration authorities should immediately start using “prosecutorial discretion” when it comes to encouraging workers to speak up about workplace exploitation, and preventing employers from using retaliatory threats of deportation.

Workers rights groups applauded the move, saying immigrant workers – particularly those without legal permission to live in the U.S. – are especially vulnerable. Industries such as meatpacking and chicken processing are particularly reliant on immigrant labor for backbreaking work often set in rural areas with limited access to attorneys.
 
The three-page memo directs the heads of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Customs & Border Protection Agency, and U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services to draw up a plan within two months to increase employer penalties, encourage workers to report unscrupulous practices without fear, and coordinate with other agencies such as the U.S. Department of Labor.

Mass worksite raids were common under former President Donald Trump, including the largest such operation in over a decade which took place in 2019 and targeted Mississippi chicken plants.

Trump and other Republican presidents undertook such raids to send a strong message of deterrent against illegal immigration, while workers groups called them unfair and discriminatory. For instance, most of the 680 workers arrested at chicken plants run by companies, including Illinois-based Koch Foods, were Latino.

Biden’s move away from raids more closely resembles the approach taken by former President Barack Obama, who largely avoided such sting operations and limited his workplace immigration efforts to low-profile audits.

“The deployment of mass worksite operations, sometimes resulting in the simultaneous arrest of 100s of workers, was not focused on the most pernicious aspect of our country’s unauthorized employment challenge – exploitative employers,” Mayorkas wrote.

“These highly visible operations misallocated enforcement resources – while chilling and even serving as a tool of retaliation for worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations.”

During the initial weeks of the pandemic, Trump ordered meatpacking plants to remain open amid concerns about the nation’s food supply, even as COVID-19 outbreaks were closing plants.
 
“It is long past time for DHS to stop enabling employers who use the threat of deportation as a tool to facilitate exploitation and evade accountability,” said Nadia Marin-Molina, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

“Immigrant workers kept the lights on in this country during a pandemic, and they were essentially told by the government they should work to death without basic rights so that others could live," she said.

Common under former President George W. Bush, the largest single-worksite raid in U.S. history was conducted in 2006 when immigration agents swept Swift & Co. plants, netting about 1,300 immigrant worker arrests.
 
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