On April 30, after months of activism and advocacy by OneAmerica and other immigrant right groups nationwide, the Department of Homeland Security decided to release sweeping new guidelines to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on workplace enforcement of immigration law.
The new guidelines, as reported in The New York Times, came as a result of the Feb. 24 ICE raid in Bellingham, Wash., where 28 women and men were arrested and detained at the Yamato Engine Specialists Ltd. The organization expressed dismay over how aggressively ICE handled the situation.
Following intense and immediate organizing from immigrant rights organizations, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano pledged an investigation into the raids.
“The new guidelines are an important step in the right direction,” said Pramila Jayapal, executive director of OneAmerica. “They raise the standards of evidence needed to conduct raids and focus on unscrupulous employers rather than vulnerable workers. This should help rein in chaotic and often heartless past actions by ICE agents that do not address the real problems of a broken system.”
The new guidelines include:
ICE will target employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers rather than targeting workers in blanket raids. The guidelines state, “ICE must prioritize the criminal prosecution of actual employers who knowingly hire illegal workers because such employers are not sufficiently punished or deterred by the arrest of their illegal work force.”
Cases against employers will be made through carefully built criminal investigations. Agents are instructed to “obtain indictments, criminal arrest or search warrants, or a commitment from a U.S. attorney’s office to prosecute the targeted employer, before arresting employees for civil immigration violations at a work site.”
Humanitarian concerns — such as a sickness or being the primary caregiver for a child — must be considered in raids of companies with 25 employees or more, in contrast to previous rules requiring it to be with 150 employees or more. ♦