ENDING WORKSITE RAIDS… Immigration is one issue we haven’t heard much about in the Obama Administration, for various reasons. But advocates have not stopped their push to take the undocumented out of the shadows and provide them a path to citizenship. The President has said little publicly on the issue since Inauguration Day, though he promised the Congressional Hispanic Caucus a statement of support in the spring. However, today’s Washington Post reports on a policy shift toward punishing the businesses who hire the undocumented rather than the individual workers themselves.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has delayed a series of proposed immigration raids and other enforcement actions at U.S. workplaces in recent weeks, asking agents in her department to apply more scrutiny to the selection and investigation of targets as well as the timing of raids, federal officials said.
A senior department official said the delays signal a pending change in whom agents at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement choose to prosecute – increasing the focus on businesses and executives instead of ordinary workers.
“ICE is now scrutinizing these cases more thoroughly to ensure that [targets] are being taken down when they should be taken down, and that the employer is being targeted and the surveillance and the investigation is being done how it should be done,” said the official, discussing Napolitano’s views about sensitive law enforcement matters on the condition of anonymity.
“There will be a change in policy, but in the interim, you’ve got to scrutinize the cases coming up,” the senior DHS official said, noting Napolitano’s expectations as a former federal prosecutor and state attorney general.
Worksite raids, particularly as they were used in the Bush Administration, were unnecessarily harsh, separated families and in some cases violated due process and other civil liberties. The employers are just as responsible for breaking the law, yet during the Bush years they were almost never charged. This shift in operations at DHS and ICE not only makes sense on a moral and ethical level, but is likely to be more successful in deterring companies from hiring and exploiting undocumented labor.
I know immigration isn’t a front-burner issue right now, but there are better priorities than the government operating like commandos and taking workers away from their families, while recognizing that the only way to truly solve the problem is through comprehensive reform.