13/11/09 a 12:45pm por Maribel Hastings
This week various sources reported on another “silent” raid conducted by the Obama administration, this time at a Minnesota company where 1,200 janitors were fired last month after an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audit.
The administration has abandoned traditional raids with agents and dogs, opting instead to audit businesses, determine discrepancies in employee documentation, and fire any employees who can’t resolve those discrepancies. Presumably, those businesses who are determined to have knowingly hired undocumented workers will be sanctioned. More than 650 businesses are under investigation at the moment.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) promises that it is focusing only on unscrupulous employers, even though the first raid under the new policy was on L.A.-based American Apparel-a company which has been praised for its labor conditions and which has been a vocal advocate for comprehensive immigration reform.
ICE indicated that the subject of the Minnesota audit, American Building Maintenance Co. (which is headquartered in San Francisco), is still under investigation. The fired janitors were not detained.
But the problem persists. These people will continue to seek employment without the necessary documents, possibly exposing themselves to a more exploitative working situation-not to mention the fact that they have families to feed, often including children born in the United States.
Minnesota Public Radio published an article on its website quoting one of the fired employees. He and his wife are both undocumented, but their children are United States citizens. He found part-time work at a smaller cleaning company after being fired by AMB, but for less pay and without benefits. And of course, he still has to pay taxes.
He also confessed that he lives in fear, feeling that ICE might be coming for him any day now.
On Friday, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano will deliver a speech about immigration at the Center for American Progress (CAP). Whether she will talk about these new enforcement strategies or about her progress in seeking support for comprehensive immigration reform remains to be seen.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents the janitors, issued the following statement:
“Enforcement without comprehensive reform is like redecorating when the house is on fire. Instead of solving problems, it only succeeds in pushing undocumented workers away from responsible employers and deeper into the shadows–benefitting the most unscrupulous off-the-books employers.In the end, we are nowhere closer to solving the broken immigration system: communities lose; responsible businesses lose; families lose.”
1,800 American Apparel employees were fired, 1,200 ABM employees.and there will be more audits to come. I don’t know if the Administration thinks that at this rate it can deal with the 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country without rounding them up in raids “a la Postville, Iowa,” or if it thinks that eventually there will be a massive exodus of the undocumented back to their countries of origin. Some, doubtless, will decide to leave. But the majority will remain here, in distress, hoping for a solution.
The worker interviewed by Minnesota Public Radio said that despite the uncertainty, he wasn’t planning to return to Mexico. He sent the following message to whoever would listen:
“I really want people to hear — and if possible even get to the ears of President Barack Obama — that we don’t come here for anything other than to work. And if anyone could see the places we come from and were in our shoes, they would do the same thing.”
Once more, amen.