The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it would not make mass arrests of undocumented workers in execution operations at U.S. companies, a reversal of Trump administration policies and the latest signal to millions of people. ‘immigrants that they did not have priority for deportation.
Known as workplace raids, these arrests have long been criticized by immigration advocates for spreading fear and deterring workers from reporting labor violations for fear of arrest. So far, these raids have not been a staple under the Biden administration.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement that enforcement efforts at construction sites would instead focus on “unscrupulous employers who exploit unauthorized workers, carry out illegal activities or impose conditions. dangerous work ”. He also asked for recommendations from the department’s immigration agencies over the next 60 days to identify policies and agreements that affected labor law enforcement and how to “alleviate or alleviate” the concerns and fear that workers undocumented had about exploitative employers.
The new policy comes amid a critical labor shortage in the United States, precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic, and offers assurance that undocumented workers do not risk being deported en masse. The new strategy also reflects promises made by President Biden to take a softer approach to immigration policy than his predecessor.
Some companies that depend on undocumented workers pay them below the market rate for jobs, exploiting immigrants and undermining their competitors.
“Refocusing resources to fight exploitative employers is a necessary step to protect the American labor market and workers,” said Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
Republicans criticized the new policy. “This makes our country LESS SR and LESS SECURE,” the research arm of the Republican National Committee wrote on Twitter.
Workplace raids, which Mr Mayorkas described as “resource intensive”, were a priority during the Trump administration, which targeted employers as well as undocumented workers. The goal was to deter immigrants from illegally crossing the border to work in the United States. The George W. Bush administration has launched high-profile workplace raids in an attempt to push Congress to pass an immigration overhaul, but lawmakers have failed to reach consensus.
The Obama administration has sought to focus workplace enforcement efforts on employers who hire undocumented workers rather than the workers themselves, prioritizing audits of employee records. Yet the policy has led to the dismissal of thousands of undocumented workers.
Employers are required by law to verify whether the people they hire are legally authorized to work in the United States. Several jurisdictions have called for a national requirement to use a program known as E-Verify to confirm that employees are authorized to work in the country. But there is currently a voluntary program for most employers.
Immigration advocates hailed the new workplace enforcement strategy, but said it did not replace creating a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
“While we applaud the administration’s announcement today to end the raids on workplaces, we need more engagement from this administration to protect the 11 million undocumented immigrants from the ‘deportation, not just at their workplace, “Nicole Melaku, executive director of the National Partnership for New Americans, said in a statement Tuesday. “We need permanent protections now. “
Democrats tried to include a measure in a multibillion-dollar spending program that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to access citizenship, but their efforts failed.
The workplace enforcement policy also echoes new directions on immigration enforcement priorities that were in part designed to end indiscriminate arrests that became commonplace under the Trump administration.
Myriam Jordan contributed report.