- Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Meyercas on Tuesday instructed US immigration officials to halt mass arrests of undocumented immigrants.
- He also said enforcement efforts should focus on holding “dishonest” employers accountable.
- Tuesday’s action is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to narrow the scope of people being arrested and detained by US immigration officials.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Meyercas on Tuesday instructed US immigration officials to halt mass arrests of undocumented immigrants.
He also said enforcement efforts should focus on holding “dishonest” employers accountable.
In a memorandum to immigration agency officials, Mayerkas outlined the new enforcement priorities, aimed at targeting employers who exploit unauthorized immigrants. Such employers often pay substandard wages, place immigrants in unsafe working conditions and facilitate human trafficking and child abuse, he said.
He directed immigration agency officials to develop policies within the next 60 days that alter enforcement priorities and lead to “more dire” consequences for exploitative employers.
Mayerkas wrote in a memo to several immigration agency officials, “The deployment of large-scale workplace operations, resulting in the simultaneous arrests of hundreds of workers, did not focus on the most dangerous aspect of our nation’s unauthorized employment challenge: exploitative employer.”
Tuesday’s action is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to narrow the scope of people being arrested and detained by US immigration officials. Last month, for example, the administration announced that immigration officials would no longer deport people simply because they were undocumented.
According to one, there are more than 7 million undocumented immigrants working in the US report good Released in December 2020 by the Center for American Progress.
The report said undocumented immigrants make up 13% of all construction workers and about 8.4% of all workers in the housing and food service industry. They are also responsible for 10% of workers in the administrative and support and waste management industries and 25% of workers in the farming, fishing and forestry occupations.
Meyerkas’s announcement marks a departure from former President Donald Trump’s approach to immigration raids at his workplace. In 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested nearly 700 undocumented workers at food processing plants in Mississippi. It was the largest single-state immigration enforcement operation in US history.
In addition to ending workplace raids, Meyerkas outlined efforts to protect unauthorized immigrants who witness or are victims of labor exploitation and abuse.
He directed the immigration agency officials to refrain from placing such immigrants in deportation proceedings and consider granting them temporary legal status. Meyerkas said such actions would encourage unauthorized immigrants to cooperate with federal law enforcement.
Mayerkas also directed immigration agency officials to ensure that e-Verify, an online government program that allows employers to check the immigration status of potential employees, is used to retaliate against those workers. who illegally report low wages or unsafe working conditions.
By targeting employers rather than unauthorized workers, Meyerkas said the US could establish a better labor market and benefit businesses that compete with employers who exploit unauthorized immigrants.
“We can most effectively protect the American labor market, American workplace conditions, and the dignity of the individual by focusing our workplace enforcement efforts on unscrupulous employers,” Mayorkus wrote in the memo. “That’s how we will proceed.”
Some immigration advocates welcomed the policy update.
The National Immigration Law Center said in a statement that Meyerkas’ announcement “signals further significant changes that will make workplaces across the country safer and more equitable for all workers and ultimately end deeply harmful workplace raids.”
“The move will also ensure immigrants who are working in schools, factories, meatpacking plants, hospitals, construction sites and other essential industries can do their jobs safely and without fear of employer threats, arrest or deportation. can speak out against unjust treatment without it,” the organization said in the statement.
However, Meyerkas’ announcement is likely to spark a reaction from congressional Republicans, who see the Biden administration’s limits on immigration arrests as a factor that has prompted a 20-year high surge in migrant encounters at the US-Mexico border .
To address the surge, the administration continues to use Title 42, a Trump-era public health policy that deports migrants without a chance to apply for asylum. Unaccompanied children are exempted.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decided in August that Title 42 would remain in place until it was determined that there was no longer any risk of Covid-19 being brought into the US across the border.