Saturday, May 02, 2009

Good news for a change, part two

According to the Houston Chronicle,
[u]nder new enforcement guidelines, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents will now have to build a case against an employer suspected of hiring undocumented immigrants before rounding up workers.

The guidelines, issued by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday, represent a marked shift from the past administration’s work site enforcement strategy, which resulted in a series of high-profile raids across the country in recent years, including in Houston, but relatively few employer arrests.
Those sweeps resulted in numerous arrests of people who were (sometimes wrongly) suspected of being undocumented workers and frequently resulted in splitting up families, including separating mothers from their children. The arrests served to advance the cause of the right-wingnuts and assorted buffoons who wanted to make the phrase "undocumented worker" (or "illegal immigrant") into a synonym for "disease-spreading criminal invader stealing our great white nation" but did little if anything to address any real problems that might be involved. In short, great PR: be able to look like you're doing something while not actually doing anything, leaving you as free as before to crank up the fear factor.

The new guidelines are related to enforcement and so do not address the three central issues at hand: the exploitation of undocumented workers who fear being discovered, their difficulty in obtaining legal status, and the distortions and disparities of wealth internationally that lead to the poverty that drives people to leave their homes. Still, as enforcement guidelines, they seem to me to be an improvement over what was there before, from both a logical and a humanitarian point of view. For one thing,
[t]he guidelines require that field agents have either an arrest, indictment, search warrant - or at least a commitment from a U.S. Attorney’s Office to prosecute an employer - before arresting employees for civil violations at a work site, a DHS official confirmed on Thursday.
That is, ICE shouldn't go after the employees unless it is going after the employer. And
new guidelines instruct field agents to consider “humanitarian considerations,” which generally allow for the release of people who are the only caretakers of children, in raids involving more than 25 employees. The prior policy required at least 150 employees, a DHS official said.

The humanitarian exemptions also include pregnant women, nursing mothers or those with medical conditions or disabled or seriously ill relatives.
Not surprisingly, some employers don't like the new rules.
“The Obama administration doesn’t want to see any more employees walked out in handcuffs, but they want to see employers walked out in handcuffs,” said Norman Adams, a Houston businessman who founded Texans for a Sensible Immigration Policy, an organization made up largely of members of commercial construction companies.

“I’m not a bit happy about it,” said Adams....
Well, Mr. Adams, you are in an industry notorious for employing undocumented workers and until now you would have expected to walk away clean from any ICE raid, free to hire some more exploitable workers. So my reply to you is "tough noogies."

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