5 Tough Questions from America’s Voice
Washington, DC – On Thursday, the House Committee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing with U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff. Congressional leaders should demand answers from Secretary Chertoff to the following questions:
When Will the Administration Meet Basic Human Needs In Our Immigration Jails? Recent Congressional hearings and media reports have made it clear that DHS still has not learned its lesson following the Katrina recovery disaster: all people have basic human needs that must be addressed. As the Washington Post reported in May, internal government documents show a “massive crisis in detainee medical care” in the ICE-administered immigration detention system, and many people have died or suffered as a result. When will the Administration learn to prioritize all lives – even those of immigrant detainees in deportation proceedings-and provide them with basic medical care to prevent needless suffering and deaths?
When Will the Administration Stop Coddling Employers Who Violate Immigration Laws? Last year, Secretary Chertoff vowed to end the Bush Administration’s coddling of employers and bring the hammer down on law-breaking business owners. Since then, relatively few have been convicted of violating immigration laws, while hundreds of thousands of workers have been deported. In 2007, DHS fined a grand total of 17 employers for breaking immigration laws, and less than 2% of the Administration’s worksite arrests that year were of managers and employers (the rest were of immigrants). When will the Administration start going after the employers who are a large part of the problem, instead of focusing only on the workers?
When Will the Administration Prioritize Worker Protection Over Splashy Immigration Headlines? When it comes to worksite enforcement, the Bush Administration has clearly prioritized the enforcement of immigration laws against workers over the enforcement of labor laws against abusive employers. When will DHS decide to work with the Department of Labor to bring employers who violate workers’ rights to justice? When will the Administration get serious about protecting workers’ rights, and throw the book at bad employers who violate wage and hour laws, treat workers like slaves, and physically abuse their employees? When will the Administration stop enabling unscrupulous employers, who use our broken immigration system to keep workers from exercising their labor rights?
When Will the Administration Bring Agriprocessors to Justice? Case in point: last month DHS raided the Agiprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, IA and carted off nearly 400 undocumented workers. Over 300 were charged with crimes like using false papers to work, and all will be deported. But the owners and managers of Agriprocessors, who have been accused of much more serious offenses such as physically and sexually abusing their employees, remain free. When can the American people expect the Administration to take tough action against Agriprocessors’ owners and managers for breaking the law and abusing their employees?
When Will the Administration Stop Hiding the Facts About its Failed “Headlines First” Immigration Policy? Immigration is too important a policy issue to have much of the Administration’s performance data buried and unavailable to policymakers and the public. DHS statistics that are currently unavailable include basic information about the number of employers arrested and prosecuted for criminal violations of immigration law during President Bush’s tenure; the number of employers audited for compliance with federal immigration laws; the number of employers who paid fines for violating immigration law; and the number of worksite enforcement operations and the cost to the American taxpayer. Instead of smoke and mirrors, the American people need access to real data in order to evaluate the Administration’s performance.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Secretary Chertoff once fought for sensible immigration reform, but he now leads a Department that is recklessly using extreme tactics in the service of misguided priorities. The answer to illegal immigration is comprehensive immigration reform, not showy raids, poor treatment of workers, and amnesty for employers.”