Mass raids on workplaces to detain undocumented immigrants will no longer occur as Immigration and Customs Enforcement focuses on “exploitative employers,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.
In a memorandum to Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson, USCIS Director Ur Jaddou, and Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller released Tuesday, Mayorkas said that worksite enforcement “can have a significant impact on the well-being of individuals and the fairness of the labor market” and DHS can “maximize the impact of our efforts by focusing on unscrupulous employers who exploit the vulnerability of undocumented workers,” pay substandard wages, maintain unsafe working conditions, facilitate human trafficking or child exploitation, and “harm each worker competing for a job.”
The goals of the department will now be to “reduce the demand for illegal employment by delivering more severe consequences to exploitative employers and their agents,” he said, encourage workers to report violations and participate in labor investigations, and increase inter-agency coordination.
Mayorkas ordered a policy review of ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy including a 2011 Memorandum of Understanding between DHS and the Labor Department as well as “policies that may impede non-citizens workers, including victims of forced labor, from asserting their workplace rights.” Agency heads are supposed to recommend any policy changes or introductions to Mayorkas within 60 days.
Agencies are asked to also develop and present plans “to alleviate or mitigate the fear that victims of, and witnesses to, labor trafficking and exploitation may have regarding their cooperation with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of unscrupulous employers,” including any “available relief” for witnesses such as deferred action, continued presence, or parole and “ways to ensure that noncitizen victims and witnesses generally are not placed in immigration proceedings during the pendency of an investigation or prosecution.”
E-Verify is also going to be reviewed to ensure that unauthorized workers are not dissuaded from reporting or punished for reporting labor violations, and that the work authorization mechanism “can be further strengthened to ensure it is not misused as a tool of exploitative labor practices.”
A full worksite enforcement plan will be created and released after reviewing the recommendations from agency heads. In the meantime, Mayorkas ordered an immediate to mass worksite enforcement raids — “highly visible operations” that “misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a tool of retaliation for, worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations.”
“Moreover, such operations are inconsistent with the Department’s September 30, 2021 Guidelines for the Enforcement ofCivil Immigration Law and the individualized assessment they require,” he added.
“I understand the Department of Labor has recently requested support in certain ongoing workplace standards investigations, including by asking that OHS consider whether to exercise prosecutorial discretion for workers who are victims of, or witnesses to, workplace exploitation,” Mayorkas’ memorandum continued. “These individual requests should be considered on a case-by-case basis, weighing all relevant facts and circumstances. In evaluating these requests, the legitimate enforcement interests of a federal government agency should be weighed against any derogatory information to determine whether a favorable exercise of discretion is merited.”
The halt to raids comes shortly after Mayorkas announced new Guidelines for the Enforcement of Civil Immigration Law that he said “will, in the pursuit of public safety, require an assessment of the individual and take into account the totality of the facts and circumstances.” DHS said Mayorkas announced the enforcement priorities after “multiple engagements” with ICE leadership and the workforce over the previous six months.