The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it will not conduct mass arrests of undocumented workers during law enforcement operations at U.S. factories, a departure from Trump administration policies and the latest signal to millions of immigrants that they are not a priority for deportation.
Such arrests, known as workplace raids, have long been criticized by immigration advocates for instilling fear and discouraging workers from reporting labor misconduct for fear of being arrested. So far, these raids have not been a regular occurrence during the Biden administration.
Alejandro N. Mallorcas, Minister of Homeland Security, said in a statement that workplace compliance measures would instead focus on “unscrupulous employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities, or impose unsafe working conditions.” He also sought guidance from the department’s immigration agencies over the next 60 days to identify policies and agreements that affected labor compliance and how to “mitigate or mitigate” concerns and concerns that workers have undocumented about exploitative employers.
The new policy, in place at a time of critical labor shortages in the United States caused by the coronavirus pandemic, provides assurances that undocumented workers will not face mass deportation. The new strategy also reflects President Biden’s promises of a softer approach to immigration policy than his predecessor.
Some companies that rely on undocumented workers pay them for jobs below market rates, exploiting immigrants and undermining competitors.
“Reorienting resources to combat exploitative employers is a necessary step in protecting the American labor market and workers,” said spokesman Benny Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee.
Republicans criticized the new policy. “This makes our country LESS SAFE and LESS SAFE,” said the research department of the National Committee of the Republican Party. tweeted…
Workplace raids, which Mr Mallorcas described as “resource-intensive,” were a priority during the Trump administration, targeting both employers and undocumented workers. The goal was to dissuade immigrants from illegally crossing the border to work in the United States. The George W. Bush administration launched high-profile job raids in an attempt to push Congress to overhaul the immigration service, but lawmakers were unable to reach a consensus.
The Obama administration has sought to focus workplace compliance efforts on employers who hire undocumented workers rather than the workers themselves, prioritizing employee file checks. However, this policy has resulted in the layoff of thousands of undocumented workers.
Employers are required by law to check whether they are allowed to work in the United States. Several administrations have pushed for a nationwide requirement to use a program known as E-Verify to confirm that employees are authorized to work in the country. But it remains a voluntary program for most employers today.
Immigration advocates endorsed a new workplace compliance strategy, but they said it does not replace creating a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.
“While we welcome the administration’s announcement today to end workplace raids, we need a greater commitment from this administration to protect all 11 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, not just their workplaces.” – Nicole Melacou, executive director of the National Partnership for new Americans, it said in a statement Tuesday. “We need constant protection now.”
Democrats have tried to include in the multi-trillion-dollar spending package a measure that would open the door to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, but their efforts have failed.
The workplace enforcement policy also echoes new guidelines on immigration enforcement priorities, which were partly designed to end the indiscriminate arrests that became commonplace during the Trump administration.
Miriam Jordan made reporting.