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This week, U.S. Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA) criticized the Bush Administration for letting businesses who hire undocumented workers off the hook. The Congressman from Waterloo, IA, representing an area recently rocked by the largest worksite immigration raid in U.S. history, also called on Congress to fix our nation’s broken immigration system.
In a guest column published by the Des Moines Register, Rep. Braley highlighted the way the Bush Administration selectively enforces immigration laws by targeting undocumented workers and giving their employers a free pass. During the recent raid of a meatpacking plant in Postville, IA, nearly 400 workers were arrested for violating civil immigration laws, and more than 300 were charged with crimes like using false documents to work. Still, no charges have been filed against the employer for breaking immigration, labor, and other laws. Rep. Braley writes: “[A]s each day passes without even a hint of a probe into Agriprocessors’ actions, Iowans grow more anxious that an employer who apparently has violated laws concerning workplace safety, child labor, food safety, the environment and immigration is going to get away without even a slap on the wrist.”
The Agriprocessors case is consistent with the Bush Administration’s lopsided approach to worksite enforcement. In 2007, for example, 98% of worksite arrests were of undocumented workers, not their employers, and only 17 employers received fines for breaking immigration laws.
Rep. Braley, who last week asked federal officials to divulge how much taxpayer money was spent on the Agriprocessors raid, also called for Congressional action in light of our current failed approach: “Without question, the immigration system is broken. Congress needs to think boldly and act confidently for a change to get something done. As I learned earlier this year on my trip to our border with Mexico, we need to invest in technology and personnel to beef up border security. We need to debate the feasibility of an effective, affordable employment-verification system, and we need to agree on what to do with the undocumented immigrants who are already here. These debates may be painful politically, but they’re debates that need to happen.”
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Congressman Braley is right. The Bush Administration cannot say it is cracking down on illegal immigration while giving employers who exploit workers a free pass. He is also right that Congress has to fix our broken immigration system, and dealing with the 12 million undocumented immigrants in our country is the crux of the issue. The American people want Members of Congress to solve tough problems, and Rep. Braley’s leadership in challenging the Administration and Congress to step up to the plate and get serious about immigration reform is refreshing. We need more policymakers to follow his example of advancing practical solutions and dialogue instead of sound bites and demagoguery.”