Monday, July 7, 2008

Leading Mayors Decry Immigration Raids

Thanks to Prof. Steve Bender for this information:

Conference of Mayors Calls on ICE to Limit
Raids to Businesses That Exploit Workers   

The U.S. Conference of Mayors June 23 passed a resolution calling upon
Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus worksite raids on employers
with a history of exploiting workers rather than "responsible" employers.

The resolution was sponsored by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
(D), Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums (D), and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels (D)
and was passed during the 76th annual meeting in Miami.

"Immigration reform is one of the most pressing issues facing the U.S.
Conference of Mayors," the resolution stated.

According to the resolution, ICE has increased worksite enforcement
activities and taken enforcement actions against companies that have no
record or suspicion of exploitative practices, actions that "will
negatively impact local economies and may drive employers to locate
manufacturing facilities overseas."

The resolution asks ICE to develop a national policy for its worksite
enforcement activities that focuses on employers with a "demonstrated
history or reasonable suspicion of engaging in exploitative practices,
such as violation of wage, hour or occupational safety laws."

In addition, the resolution asks ICE to cease raiding "responsible"
employers until accurate verification systems are available or
comprehensive immigration legislation regularizes the status of workers
on whom the businesses rely.

Resolution Says E-Verify Unreliable

According to the resolution, a "lack of workable immigration policy" has
resulted in 12 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States,
many of whom work in "well-established businesses that contribute
significantly to the local economy."
The resolution also states that E-Verify, the federal government's
electronic employment verification system, "has not been reliable in
ascertaining a prospective employee's right to work."

Responsible employers rely on documentation that appears facially valid
in order to determine work authorized status, according to the resolution.

Villaraigosa Cites Economic Impact of Raids

Jazmin Ortega, spokeswoman for Mayor Villaraigosa, told BNA June 23 that
the mayor worked on the resolution for some time, and felt that it was
important because Los Angeles and other communities face economic
consequences following raids because some businesses choose to relocate.
Villaraigosa based part of his decision to introduce the resolution on a
Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation study released in
February that analyzed the impact of increased immigration enforcement
in the county, Ortega said.

The LAEDC report found that increased federal enforcement focused on
undocumented workers "poses a significant threat to large segments of
the Los Angeles economy." The economic impact is due in part to the
estimated large numbers of undocumented workers in the area, which LAEDC
said could be as much as 50 percent of workers in certain industries
such as food processing, furniture production, and clothing manufacturing.

Ortega said Villaraigosa believes that "ICE should focus on undocumented
immigrants with a criminal history."

"ICE's focuses on worksite raids that target legitimate employers who
believe they are hiring legal workers," Ortega said. "Meanwhile,
criminal immigrants are slipping through the cracks."

ICE Defends Worksite Actions

Worksite enforcement actions are a "crucial element of our interior
enforcement strategy" because "the employment magnet is one of the key
forces fueling illegal immigration," ICE spokeswoman Kelly Nantel told
BNA June 25.
Nantel explained that when conducting worksite enforcement actions ICE
specifically targets "egregious employers" or those that have built
their business model on hiring an illegal workforce. Egregious employers
are targeted because a practice of hiring illegal workers "undercuts
legal, law abiding companies and can create an environment where
employee welfare and labor standards are not enforced."

It is "unacceptable" that illegal alien workers often are exploited by
the businesses that hire them, Nantel said. "Sometimes we find employers
with their illegal workforce in deplorable, substandard conditions," she
said.

While ICE focuses on immigration violations, the agency often works in
coordination with other federal or state law enforcement agencies that
may decide to investigate the other workplace violations uncovered
during a worksite enforcement action, she said.

According to Nantel, ICE's worksite enforcement operations are the
result of "long and careful" criminal investigations. "Often people
think that the operation they see played out on TV or read about in the
paper marks the end of the investigation--in fact, it often represents
just the beginning," she said.

Executing criminal search warrants at worksites often is important to
collect additional evidence in furtherance of an ongoing criminal
investigation, Nantel said.

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