US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has urged Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to end the practice of deportation raids on worksites, claiming that such operations go against the department’s civil rights code.
In a memorandum released on Wednesday, Mayorkas described “the exploitative employers” as the real problem of his country, not unauthorized workers.
"The deployment of mass worksite operations, sometimes resulting in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers, was not focused on the most pernicious aspect of our country's unauthorized employment challenge: exploitative employers," Mayorkas claimed. "These highly visible operations misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a tool of retaliation for, worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations."
The practice of mass raids on workplaces where undocumented immigrants are employed began a year after former US President Donald Trump came to power in 2016.
One of the largest coordinated raid operations was conducted across multiple poultry plants in Mississippi in August 2019, resulting in the arrest of nearly 700 workers.
Meanwhile, House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson hailed the measure, saying the new strategy would put the focus on businesses and employers that violate labor laws.
"The previous administration too often carried out raids that tore apart communities but allowed employers to continue exploiting workers," Thompson said in a statement. "Refocusing resources to counter exploitative employers is a necessary step in protecting the American labor market and workers. I appreciate the department’s efforts to protect workers who sound the alarm on labor violations."
This is while, the influx of migrants, in particular undocumented workers, to the United States has intensified although US President Joe Biden allegedly rolled back Trump's "hardline immigration policies" immediately after he assumed office in January.
Biden issued a flurry of immigration-related executive decisions, including orders to end “extreme immigration enforcement”, and preserve and fortify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which gives work permits and protection from deportation to people brought illegally to the US as minors.
The US president reportedly halted construction of Trump’s Mexico border wall and ordered an end to the “Remain in Mexico” policy, under which tens of thousands of asylum applicants were awaiting rulings in Mexico.