On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas directed Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities to end the practice of workplace deportation raids.
In a memo to immigration agency officials, Mayorkas outlined new enforcement priorities that aim to target employers that exploit unauthorized immigrants.
“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 wrote in the memo. “These highly visible operations misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a tool of retaliation for, worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations.”
Mayorkas said his department will “develop agency 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.”
In a statement accompanying the announcement, Mayorkas said the agency “has a critical role to ensure our nation’s workplaces comply with our laws.”
“We will not tolerate unscrupulous employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities or impose unsafe working conditions,” he said. “Employers engaged in illegal acts compel the focus of our enforcement resources.”
House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., applauded the DHS move.
“The previous Administration too often carried out raids that tore apart communities but allowed employers to continue exploiting workers,” he 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.”
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., praised the administration’s decision in a tweet on Tuesday.
“I applaud [DHS]’s decisive action to realign worksite immigration enforcement priorities to improve workplace protections for undocumented workers, cease large worksite deportation raids and focus on prosecuting unscrupulous employers who take advantage of undocumented workers,” he wrote.