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ICE to stop mass raids at workplaces

Getty Images meatpacking plant worker
Homeland Security plans enforcement efforts to crack down on employers.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently issued a memorandum to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement asking the agency to halt mass worksite raids where undocumented workers are employed. Instead, Mayorkas suggested worksite enforcement actions need to be focused on “unscrupulous employers.”

Under the Trump administration, ICE conducted several high-profile workplace raids, with mass arrests of undocumented workers, including at more than a dozen meatpacking plants.

“The deployment of mass worksite operations, sometimes resulting in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers, was not focused on the most pernicious aspect of our country's unauthorized employment challenge: exploitative employers. These highly visible operations misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a tool of retaliation for, worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations,” Mayorkas noted in the memorandum.

Additionally, he said such operations are now inconsistent with the department's September 30, 2021 “Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law” and the individualized assessment they require.

“Given these concerns, please ensure we no longer conduct mass worksite operations and instead refocus our workplace enforcement efforts to better accomplish the goals outlined above,” the memo stated.

Mayorkus said employers of undocumented workers engage in illegal acts ranging from the payment of substandard wages to imposing unsafe working conditions and facilitating human trafficking and child exploitation.

“Their culpability compels the intense focus of our enforcement resources. In addition, unscrupulous employers harm each worker competing for a job.”

By exploiting undocumented workers and paying substandard wages, “the unscrupulous employers create an unfair labor market.”

They also unfairly drive down their costs and disadvantage their business competitors who abide by the law, he added.

Moving forward, DHS will focus on adopting policies and practices that achieve the following:

  • Reduce the demand for illegal employment by delivering more severe consequences to exploitative employers and their agents;
  • Increase the willingness of workers to report violations of law by exploitative employers and cooperate in employment and labor standards investigations; and,
  • Broaden and deepen mechanisms for coordination between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, and state labor agencies.
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